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, January 31, 2013

Change Management in the Project Lifecycle: Post-Project Phase

The system has been implemented, your changes have gone live, and you give a sigh of relief.  You're done.


Although many companies skip it, there is still one phase left: the post-project phase.  This is the time when you kick-off sustainable activities, evaluate the success of the project, and complete any shut-down activities.  Luckily, this phase is typically less frantic than those leading up to the implementation, but it is no less important.

Sustainable Activities
There are a number of activities that should continue to occur after a project has gone live.  The one you need to focus on as a change manager is on-going training.  In the short term, there will be people who missed the training roll out and need to receive training in order to use the new system.  There will also be people who need supplemental training.  A day, a week, a month after Go Live, people will discover new areas of training that they need, as well as existing areas that they've forgotten.

In the long term, you need to have a sustainable plan in place to:

  • Provide training to new hires and people who switch positions
  • Update training materials as the system evolves (and it will, I guarantee it)
  • Offer refresher training on activities that only occur occasionally (e.g., year-end close activities for the finance department)
Whether on-going training is an activity that is handled by a company-wide training department or the project run team, your job isn't done until you have a plan in place to address these needs.

Adoption Evaluation
I have been at a number of clients where they tell me that their past projects have failed.  When I ask them what failed, they admit it wasn't the technology.  The new system was put in place without a hitch.  The real problem is that people simply refused to use it.  Once the system has gone live, you need to evaluate whether the organization has adopted it.  Are they using it when they should?  Are they using it the way they should?  Is there an influential group that refuses to use it, thus causing other groups to avoid it as well (ahem, I'm talking about you, Management)?

If the change has been adopted, congratulations!  Now, put in place a plan to ensure the organization continues to use it.  If the change has not been adopted, start doing some analysis on why this has occurred, and put a plan in place to address the issues.

Key Performance Indicators and Achieving Business Objectives
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) may or may not be part of the Change Management team's responsibilities.  Even if it isn't, this is an area where you may want to partner with the responsible team.  If the organization is not meeting its KPIs and achieving the business objectives that were part of the project, the Change Management team will likely need to be part of the solution.  Whether there's a need for additional training, more communication, or other Change activities, you can help provide the "people perspective" that goes with the statistics.

Project shut down
Finally, when you have completed the last of your responsibilities, developed plans for sustainable activities, and handed over on-going tasks to the run team, you need to shut down the project Change Management team.  If your company has a system for knowledge transfer, ensure that you have submitted relevant work materials and feedback.  Make sure your consultants and contractors are paid and have had their access to the company shut down.  Check off the last boxes on your work plan.  Celebrate with your team.  This is the time to make sure your "t"s are crossed and your "i"s are dotted.

Congratulations!  The project is complete and you're ready to move on to your next Change Management adventure.

Let me know: How many projects have you been on that had a "Post-Project" or "Shut-Down" phase?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Change Management in the Project Lifecycle: Implement Phase

I love the Implement phase.  This is the phase where all of your hard work comes to fruition.  Training is delivered.  Exciting communications are sent.  The change/new system goes live and everyone celebrates.

This can also be a very stressful time, so remember to follow the plan, be prepared to put in some extra hours, and keep an eye on your team's morale.

In the last phase, you put together a Go-live communications plan.  Now is the time to implement it.  A few items you'll need to communicate:

  • Cut-off dates and black-out periods: Often when implementing an new system, there is a period of time where new data cannot be entered into the existing system.  It is important to communicate all black-out periods well in advance of the actual event.  You will also need to communicate detailed instructions on alternative actions people should take to capture data during the black-out period.  I have found that these system-free times, whether they last weeks, days, or hours, can cause significant panic.  Communicate early and communicate often.
  • Go-live success: Don't forget to let everyone know that the change was successfully implemented!  This is exciting news.  Play it up.  Have someone important communicate it.  And remind people what this implementation means to them and their day-to-day activities.
  • Help and support: No matter how good your training was, people will have questions about the new system.  Make it easy for them to get help by communicating support information, such as help desk phone numbers and e-mail addresses, the names of Super Users in each department, and any special support services, such as a short-term project-staffed "war room."
  • Thank you: A lot of hard work went in to implementing the change.  Don't forget to thank everyone who was involved in making the project a success.  This message should come from someone meaningful to the recipient.  

It is finally time to deliver all of the training your team developed.  Once again, I could write an entire book on this topic alone, but for now, here are a few key tips:

  • Be organized: There are a lot of moving parts in training delivery.  You have rooms to arrange, trainers to support, materials to deliver, and completion to track.  The more organized you are, the smoother delivery will go.  Pick the method that works best for you, but make sure everyone involved understands what they need to do, where they need to be, and how to get help if they need it.
  • Use the buddy system: Very few organizations do this, but I always recommend the buddy system.  This involves partnering your trainers so that in every classroom you have one person who is an expert in the system, and one person who is an expert in the business process.  Too often, the trainer has a deep understanding of one, and only a superficial understanding of the other.  This has two major consequences: 1) your trainer will inevitably be asked questions he cannot answer, reducing end-user confidence in the training, and 2) the trainer will be nervous anticipating difficult questions and will not perform at his best.
  • Be flexible: Unexpected things will happen during training delivery.  Trainers will get sick.  Technology will fail.  The system will change at the last minute.  It is important to be flexible enough to deal with these kinds of surprises on the fly.
  • Provide support: Having delivered hundreds of hours of training myself, I can tell you that there are few things more frustrating than trying to get support during a training course, and not being able to reach anyone.  Ensure that there is always someone on standby ready to support your trainers.  Whether it's technical support when the conference call stops working, administrative support to print more materials when extra people show up, or simple moral support when a participant is especially difficult, your responsiveness to a call for help can greatly impact the success of training.

Super User Network
Now is the time to deploy your Super User Network in force.  What activities they participate in will vary based on their role, but consider having them do some of the following: deliver training, walk the floor providing front-line support, sit with the help desk to deliver second-tier support, and funnel information about how people are using the system back to the project.

This time can be especially stressful for Super Users.  Don't forget to thank them.

War Room/Help Desk Support - FAQ Capture and Dissemination
The initial period after the system is implemented can be extremely difficult on end users.  Often, no matter how much information is available to them on line and in supplemental materials, they will want to talk to a real person if they have questions.  To address this need, I recommend setting up a war room or providing additional help desk support.  The war room can be staffed with project team members, Super Users, trainers, and anyone else with in-depth knowledge of the new system.  They have two parts to their job:

  1. First, they are responsible for answering end-user questions via the phone, e-mail, instant message, or any other means available to the end users.
  2. Second, they are responsible for logging the topics of the questions.  This will allow you to compile and disseminate a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs).  Creating FAQs will help you determine what information needs to be sent to end users to improve their use of the system.

Evaluate and address issues
Be sure to leave time in your day to evaluate and address issues that arise.  You may need to send out communications to address questions and clarify items the end users find unclear.  You may need to hold quick re-training sessions if a group is having an especially difficult time with the system.  You may find yourself filling in for trainers, Super Users, and other roles on the projects that need help.  If you can arrange a team meeting at the beginning of each day, around mid-day, and again in the evening to discuss status with the team and identify issues, that will help you stay on top of issues before they create serious problems.  Even with these meetings, though, you will still need to be prepared to address new issues immediately as they arise.

Develop post-Go live plans for run team
One area that often gets neglected is the development of a run team.  Remember that once the project is complete, most of the project team members will either move on to new projects or go back to their normal day jobs.  It is important to think about who will support the system on a day-to-day basis after the system is live.  Who will make updates to the system?  Who will address technical issues and support standard maintenance?  Who will update business process and training materials when the system changes?  Who will be responsible for help desk support?  These are just a few of the questions you need to think about while determining whether you have people who can be re-purposed to address these needs, or whether you need to hire new employees.  If you do not have a run team in place, the system and its supporting documentation can quickly fall into disarray.

Let me know: Have you participated in a system Go-live?  What was the most difficult part of the implementation?