Take a technology implementation or enhancement, for example. The tech change is the brief. It is a thing – obvious, tangible (almost – in the virtual world we live in), and therefore the deliverable is easier to understand and manage. However, throughout the project life cycle there are other invisible, perception or emotional changes taking place: awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, reinforcement, that will ultimately drive the success (or otherwise) of the project. Some of these will be direct responses to the project itself but others could be impacted by external factors far removed from the project’s activities. These invisible changes will occur organically to some extent, but by actively driving and owning these changes, a project team can better control the changes and thus their own project outcome.
Change Management as a discipline complements Project Management and exists to address people-oriented changes. Good Change Management will deepen and quicken adoption, maximise sustainability and therefore enable better return on investment. For less complex projects, Change Management may be owned by the Project Manager. More complex projects may be assigned a dedicated Change Manager. However, no matter the size or complexity of your project, Change Management should be ‘a thing’.
Typically, there are six components of Change Management: Leadership Alignment, Stakeholder Engagement, Communication, Change Impact and Readiness, Training, and Organisation Design.
- You may think that Leadership Alignment shouldn’t require too much work. Usually, the project sponsor provides the original brief and explains the benefits case, so they should be already sold. That said, keeping them engaged and supportive throughout the project can require extra effort due to pressures and changing priorities in a dynamic environment. Don’t assume that other senior leaders with an interest in the project are aligned with the sponsor’s thought process or are bought into the project objectives. If they aren’t, then it is important to get their support because they will influence other stakeholder groups associated with the project.
- Completing a stakeholder analysis exercise at project initiation is imperative. It allows you to identify and understand project stakeholders, group them and devise engagement plans for each. Stakeholder Engagement is an enabler for change and should be maintained throughout the course of a project – and afterwards to support embedding of a change. Stakeholder groupings and engagement plans are fluid and should be updated and adapted at various intervals through the project.
- It’s an obvious one but Communication is key. Identify available communications channels and initiate the processes required to use them. You want to actively build awareness of the project. If there is no communication, people will conjure up their own truths. So, if there’s something to say, say it, and if there’s nothing to say (i.e. no new information), say so, because you want to maintain momentum. Be as transparent as you are able to be and be careful not to over-promise, in order to foster healthy relationships with stakeholders and encourage respect. Communication is not just a one-way means of transferring information – It is important that your audience has a way of responding via feedback loops so that they know they are important and can be collaborative with the project about ideas. The feedback received will help shape your communications approach going forward.
- Change Impact and Readiness is about how much of an impact the change has on stakeholders and how ready they are to make the change. Readiness activity, which may include a Readiness Checklist and a Readiness Status Tracker, looks at the ability of a group to make the change and minimises risk to delivery. You need to ensure that groups required to make a change are equipped to answer your readiness questions accurately, because if they think they’re ready but in fact they’re not, then you’ll run into issues further into the delivery. Where planned readiness levels are not achieved, mitigation plans should be put into action in order to limit impact to the project.
- Where you have identified knowledge gaps, Training is required to enable adoption and embedding. This could be behavioural as well as technical. The nature of the change, as well as the size of the impacted population, will determine the most appropriate methods of training; one to one, group sessions, ‘train the trainer’, training guides, remote or controlled setting learning.
- It may be necessary to design new, or changes to, organisational structures within impacted businesses or teams in support of the change. ‘As is’ and ‘to be’ analyses should be completed, associated processes designed and supporting role descriptions produced. Organisation Design might not be owned by the project, but it is a dependency, therefore activity needs to occur in tandem with the main project activities and changes implemented either before or at the same time as the project’s delivery.
Change Management touches all project workstreams and every type of stakeholder is responsible for it at some level. Current ways of working present both challenges and opportunities to a project’s approach to Change Management – while face to face meetings aren’t possible, there is now little resistance to virtual alternatives. Leveraging these opportunities will evolve Change Management disciplines.
Written by Aimee Carracher, r10’s Associate