Ask 100 people to define Change Management, and you'll get 100 different definitions. At the end of the day, the definition is just semantics. What really matters is whether you can implement a Change Management program in a practical way that allows you to support your organization in successfully achieving its goals. Whether you're a Change Manager, a consultant, or the tech. guy who was told to "figure out some Change Management stuff," this blog will help address common issues and topics you're likely to run into along the way.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Real Insights, Real Actions: What It Means to You

Reminder: The facts and figures used in this post come from IBM's 2008 Global Making Change Work Study.

Now that you're completely scared that your project will be part of the 59% that fail, let's take a look at the factors that typically cause it to fail, as well as IBM's first finding on how to succeed: Real Insights, Real Actions.

IBM's study found that the three most significant implementation challenges are:
  1. Changing Mindsets and Attitudes (58%)
  2. Corporate Culture (49%)
  3. Complexity is Underestimated (35%)
These are all "soft" people-oriented challenges that can be addressed through a strong Change Management program.

In contrast, the three challenges at the bottom of the list are:
  1. Change of Process (15%)
  2. Change of IT Systems (12%)
  3. Technology Barriers (8%)
These all fall into the "hard" category.  Despite being seen as less of a challenge to success, I have found that these are the areas that people spend the most time and money addressing.

How do we stop focusing all of our resources on the least challenging factors and start addressing the challenges most likely to cause our projects to fail?  IBM's first suggestion is "Real Insights, Real Actions," which they describe as getting a "full, realistic understanding of the upcoming challenges and complexities, followed by specific actions to address them."

Let's Get Practical
"Real Insights, Real Actions" is a great suggestion, but how do you take it from theory to practice?  Here are
five suggestions on how to build this insight into your project plan:
  1. Don't wait until it's too late: Many projects don't have a Change Manager join the team until they are finished with the plan and design phases.  The reasoning behind this is that the Change Manager won't have enough work to keep them busy during these phases, so their presence is a waste of time and money.  I've also heard people say that the work a Change Manager does during this phase will just distract the other team members from focusing on their primary work.  Bringing the Change Manger on early, however, allows you to capitalize on the "Real Insights" IBM advocates.  It also ensures that the Change Program is integrated into the overall project plan, reducing future conflicts around resource delegation.  Can't afford to have a full-time Change Manager this early in the project?  Consider bringing them on part time.  A little integration now goes a long way toward ensuring the future success of the project.
  2. Conduct an Impact Assessment: Impact Assessments allow you to discover how people, processes, and tools will be impacted (i.e., changed) by your project.  I've often heard clients say they don't need to complete this activity - they already know what the impacts will be.  Maybe they do, but this knowledge doesn't help the project if it only resides in their heads.  Gather this information and put it on paper.  It's also good to remember that what employees at one level of the organization "know" is often very different from what employees at another level of the organization "know."
  3. Conduct an Executive Change Readiness Assessment: Executive Sponsorship is one of the most important factors in a project's success.  Just because an Executive sits on the project Steering Committee, however, doesn't mean he or she is ready to support and drive the change.  Interview, survey, chat at the water cooler, but somehow find out how ready the Executives are to make this project a success.  I find that guaranteeing anonymity is often very helpful in making this activity a reality.  I've also found that Executives are more likely to really believe in the anonymity if you have an outside consultant conduct the interviews and surveys.
  4. Plan, Plan, Plan: Here's where the "Real Actions" come in.  Now that you've gathered all of this information, it's important to use it.  Change Management isn't about creating pretty PowerPoint presentations.  Take the data you've collected and start building a strong Change Management program.  How will the impacts you've uncovered influence the training and communications you need to create?  If your Executive Sponsors don't really support the project, what actions can you take to help them fulfill their roles?  What unexpected findings could derail the project, and what plans can you put in place to mitigate their impact?  Some consultants will tell you that Change Management is an art that doesn't require planning.  I disagree.  It's like SCUBA diving.  Gather the facts.  Plan the dive.  Dive the plan.
  5. Integrate: Integration needs to occur in two forms.  First, once you've created your Change Management Program, make sure that your plan is integrated into the overall project plan.  Change Managers can't work in a vacuum, and if you want time from SMEs (Subject Matter Experts), Business Analysts, Executives, etc., you need to lay claim to that time now.  This is especially important when planning for training development and delivery.  Second, Change Managers need to integrate with other team leads early and often.  Project members often don't understand the role of a Change Manager, so they ignore them.  This leads to duplicated work, missed opportunities, and a Change Program that isn't rooted in the most up-to-date information.  Although functional leads who are heads-down working on design documents may think that helping the Change Manager identify project impacts is a waste of time that distracts them from their primary focus, having integration among the teams is the only way to ensure the Change Program addresses the full range of client needs.
Coming up next: How to put "Solid Methods, Solid Benefits" into practice.

1 comment:

  1. Yesterday, I received an e-mail from Brian Fox, who reminded me of a video by Michael Hammer (well-known author of "Reengineering the Corporation: A Manifesto for Business Revolution")that discusses barriers and success factors for successful system implementations.

    In the video, Hammer states that top barriers to success are:
    * Insufficient executive leadership
    * Lack of organizational readiness
    * Organizational resistance to change

    And success factors include:
    * It must be a strategic initiative
    * Committed executive leadership
    * Leadership must do whatever it takes to make it happen
    * Rapid decision making
    * Process owners are the key decision makers
    * Make the necessary investments
    * Don’t stint on change management: "the soft stuff is the hard stuff"

    Thanks for the great information, Brian!