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.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Change Management in the Project Lifecycle: Design Phase

The Design Phase is where things really start to get fun.  As the functional teams work with end users to determine how to translate the requirements gathered during the Analyze Phase into useable system functionality, it's time for the Change Management team to ramp up.  If you've been a team of one up until now, Design Phase is an excellent time to bring on another team member.

Practical Design Phase Activities

Once again, the activities in this phase can be broken down by which team you partner with.  This time around, we'll add another team: Human Resources.

Activities Conducted by Change Management
Executive Change Readiness Assessment (ECRA):  The ECRA is designed for top-level Executives.  This will typically include your Sponsors, the Directors and/or Vice Presidents of impacted business units, and, depending on the organization, C-level Executives.  The focus of this assessment isn't whether the Executives are ready to change, but whether they are ready to direct and support the change.  You should plan on conducting this assessment multiple times throughout the project, depending on the project's length.  Use the first assessment during the Design Phase as a baseline against which to measure future iterations.

Change Readiness Assessment (CRA):  The CRA is designed for the future system end users.  Unlike the ECRA, the CRA does focus on whether end users are ready to adopt the change.  The assessment asks end users whether they feel they are receiving enough communications, adequate training, and sufficient management support.  Once again, plan on conducting the assessment multiple times during the project.  And remember that this first one is a baseline...your results will not be good, and that is to be expected.  You haven't rolled out any training, yet.  How can they give it high marks?

Super User/Change Agent Network:  There are many different names for this type of network, and many different uses.  Essentially, it is a group of future end users who are not full-time members of the project, but who are asked to participate in project activities.  Their role may be to act as Super Users who know the system better than your average end user and are expected to eventually serve as trainers and front-line support.  They may simply be Change Agents who are asked to vocally support the change among their peers and help others embrace the new way of doing things.  Or they may be some combination of the two.  Whatever their role, they are an integral part of helping the change be adopted throughout the organization, and should be selected with care.  Once you've created the network, manage them with care, show them lots of love, and you will see great returns on your investment.

Communications:  There still isn't a lot to communicate to the general end user population at this point, but you should be actively communicating with your Change Agent Network and Sponsors.

Training: The functional teams will likely be holding a large number of design workshops during this phase.  If at all possible, you should have your training developers attend as many of these workshops as possible.  This will help them develop a solid understanding of the system design that will help them build the training in future phases.

Partnering with the Functional Teams: If you have more than one person on the Change Management team, I recommend assigning each person to one or more functional teams.  This does two things.  First, this provides one point of contact for each functional team.  This way, they don't need to try to guess who on the Change team to contact when they have questions.  It also reduces the number of e-mails and phone calls the Change lead has to deal with each day.  Second, it helps ensure at least one person on the Change team will have a deep understanding of each functional area, which will come in very handy for developing communications and training.

Design Feedback Workshops: If the functional teams haven't planned these on their own, recommend they be added to the plan.  If they have planned these, volunteer to help.  Design Feedback Workshops are conducted with the end users who provided input into the system design.  Once the functional teams have incorporated these design suggestions into the system, hold a workshop where you show the completed design to the end users.  This gives them an opportunity to tell the team if the design meets their expectations.  You may also find that once they see the design, it helps them better understand the system and helps them identify new or better refined design points.

Partnering with Project Management
Phase Kick-off/Lessons Learned: In the Analyze Phase, I talked about the need for a project kick-off.  As the project continues, it's important to conduct phase kick-offs, as well.  These help ensure that everyone on the project team understands the timeline, objectives, and activities for the upcoming phase.  The kick-off is also a good time to conduct a lessons learned session.  For more details on connecting an effective lessons learned session, read this earlier post.

Sponsorship:  How involved Project Management wants to be in Sponsorship is something you'll need to work out on each project.  I have typically found, however, that working with the Sponsors tends to be a joint effort.  If your Sponsors haven't been overly involved up to this point, now is the time to help them become active.  Work with the Sponsors to determine how much direction they want/need, their expectations of their role as a Sponsor, and the project's expectations of their role.  It is important for them to understand that their commitment to providing active, visible sponsorship directly impacts the success of the project.

Partnering with Human Resources: Throughout the project, there will be activities that are best completed in partnership with Human Resources (HR).  These are activities that impact people's job descriptions, compensation, or team structures.  If you are ever in doubt, it's a wise idea to find out who is the project's HR representative and have a quick chat with them.

Rewards and Recognition:  If there are people on the project team who are not consultants, chances are that being on the project is requiring them to learn new skills, work longer hours, and take on additional responsibilities.  These are things that should be recognized and rewarded.  Work with HR to determine how the project team can do this within the appropriate guidelines of the organization.  I've seen programs as simple as a Thank You Box, and as complex as a new bonus structure.  Whichever path you take, make sure that you are rewarding behaviors you want to perpetuate, and providing rewards that are meaningful to the recipients and in-line with company policy.

The Design Phase is a busy one, but it's also very satisfying.  Don't forget to evaluate how successful the Change program is in achieving its goals, and don't be afraid to tweak the plan as you go to improve your results.

Let me know:  How many people have you typically had on the Change Management team during the Design Phase?


  1. Change management is a structured approach to shifting/transitioning individuals, teams, and organizations from a current state to a desired future state. It is an organizational process aimed at helping employees to accept and embrace changes in their current business environment.

  2. Thanks for sharing. The right organizational change management strategy is an “essential component” to achieve on-going performance, realize change goals, and retain key talent.

  3. Cultivating better labour-management system included in Change Management Approach that can contribute to employees becoming more committed to their organization and its goals.

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