The Change Management case for constancy amid change

Whether you want to upgrade to a new technology or improve efficiency in the business processes, or restructure an organization, change management (CM) is the process that can help deliver successful organizational transitions. Yet it is surprising that, in most enterprise organizations, the programs they decide to move forwards with often have well-defined visions to inspire the key stakeholders alongside clear go-no-go decision criteria, but so few have empowered and constant change management in place to see this vision through into reality.  

The purpose of Change Management is to reiterate this vision & goal through the project, across multiple channels, and consistently to the many stakeholders involved. The CM team is there to evaluate the outcomes at the end and make it meaningful that to all involved, so they go beyond understanding the nature of the transformation to believing it is in their (and the company’s) best interest.  

But sadly, all too often Change Management is sized incorrectly, lacking empowerment, and subject to changing direction and leadership through the project.  

In this insight piece we explore the early signs of trouble in Change Management programs, what approaches should be taken, and how to course correct if you are experiencing these in your project.   

 

 

 

Picture the scene… 

Imagine a scenario where a project has progressed through initial stages of vision alignment, goal setting, budgeting, resource allocation, and stakeholder communication. It appears primed for successful delivery. However, upon assessment of the adoption of the new technology or ways of working (WoW), the core Project/Program team and sponsors recognize deviations from expected impact and adoption rates. Seeing this and wanting to deliver the business case that was sold in, a parallel workstream is initiated to measure project success post-implementation. This workstream aims to monitor performance and adoption, provide additional support through user-friendly guides and checklists etc. 

But here so often is the problem. Adoption is behind expectation… typically as a result of incomplete or insufficient adoption by the internal system users, and a rapid change management solution is required to bridge the gap. Whilst ‘better late than never’, this development signals an opportune moment for the introduction of change management (CM). And with authorization from the sponsors, the Change Management team is engaged to address the evolving needs of the project and ensure its successful outcome. 

Making a splash but not swimming very far 

As the Change Management team gets to work, it adopts the standard CM process framework, albeit without fully assessing the requirements, either due to time constraints or a time-restricted understanding of the business context. Despite best efforts, this inadvertently adds time and causes stakeholders to step back into onboarding/educating these new team members. Internal concern swells and can lead to the creation of overly intricate next steps, adding complexity to an already challenging landscape. 

Distrust begins to brew among stakeholders towards the Change Management team. The core project team exhibits early signs of dissent, becoming less engaged in the process. Meanwhile, end-users, grappling with increased workloads stemming from project activities and adjusting to new Ways of Working (WoW), find themselves burdened with additional time-consuming interviews, fueling frustration. 

The problem is that, at this point, high effort and high impact have the opposite effect. The ambitious scope of change management results in an over-sized level of deliverables, activities, and meetings within an already constrained timeline.  

Consequently, the efficacy of Change Management diminishes as it becomes overly focused on procedural aspects rather than its primary objective of managing stakeholders’ expectations. The change managers jumped two feet into the water making a great splash… but in reality, they didn’t swim very far.  

 

 

 

Right-sizing the effort, and focusing on the end-game goal 

Agility lies at the core of effective change management. It is crucial that experienced Change Managers can balance both the ultimate ambition of the project with the judgement to determine what the key steps to unlock success are. They need to be able to pivot the process based on feedback from the project team whilst using their judgement, rather than imposing preconceived checklists, or mandatory stages. They need to actively listen, think on the job, and tailor the approach based on what they are hearing.   

The problem is, however, too often business leaders see Change Management as a means to change things (rather than deliver transformation programs), and the large consultancies brought it size a change program as an opportunity to hit the proverbial reset button.  

Instead, practicality should guide the design of Change Management phases. A standardized, one-size-fits-all approach may be the start point, but it is not the end point. Instead, emphasis should be placed on crafting tailored deliverables within the time and budget constraints, keeping the overall eye on the established vision, and defined business case. 

Bringing in Change Management mid project: How to win 

It almost goes without saying that Change Management should not merely be a supplementary workstream but a crucial component, designed and incorporated from the start. Key for large, complex global programs, the project team must actively engage with the CM team to ensure that the support provided aligns with project needs – from start to finish.  

When bringing CM into a project mid-way, here are our tips for effective impact:  

  1. Focus knowledge-transfer and onboarding on the core project team only. Only go to the broader stakeholder team once the CM team are fully aligned to the goals, ambitions, and project status 
  1. Bring a goal-oriented approach with clearly defined deliverables and milestones. Right size this to the situation on the ground, not the ‘Change Management 101 handbook’ 
  1. Regular feedback loops are invaluable, especially in the initial stages, to steer the workstream toward its objectives effectively. 
  1. Focus stakeholder engagement on a pathway towards the end vision. Whilst being open to the challenges being faced, solutioning needs to be in the context of the endgame… not in reconsidering the direction of travel 
  1. Reassert senior stakeholder endorsement of the pathway ahead 
  1. Show and show again the progress business teams are making towards the aligned endgame.  

 

 

 

Finding a constant in change  

One bad experience with Change Management can result in the creation of a perception that pervades an organization, and established it is a bureaucratic and non-effective process. Second time round, teams will resist CM involvement further. And it is this cycle that leads so many organizations to undervalue Change Management now. 

Based on the point of entry, size & priorities of a project team, CM should plan and execute based on the key pain points & goals to meet to successful delivery of the transformation. It is about delivering to a plan, being relevantly flexible where possible, but bringing constant positive direction towards change. And for all Change Managers out there, above all else, showcase the business impact of change is critical, to turn around detractors who consider is just a “buzzword” and to ensure the next Change Management project starts at the beginning, not the middle. 

If you are having challenge with a transformation program, or want to know more about how we have successfully delivered Change Management for complex and small-to-large programs, please get in touch.