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.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Five Pillars of Change

While I thoroughly enjoyed writing the last few posts as part of the Virtual Book Club, I'm now feeling the need to get super practical.  So, my next set of posts will focus on the actual activities that make up a Change Management program.  I won't be able to include every activity (it's a very long list), but I will provide a fairly comprehensive set of check lists that will get you started in creating your Change Management plan.

I'll be breaking the check lists down based on what I call the "Pillars of Change."  They are:

  • Sponsorship (about which I have very strong feelings)
  • Stakeholder Management
  • Communication
  • Training
  • Organization Design
As far as I'm concerned, all Change Management activities fall into one of these five pillars.  When you create your plan, you pick and choose a set of activities from each pillar based on the needs of your project and organization.  You then create a timeline based on when each activity is due (based on the larger  project plan) and how long it will take to complete, and voila!  You have the beginning of a Change Management plan.

Coming up first: Sponsorship activities

Let Me Know: Do you think these five pillars cover all Change Management activities?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

And Then a Miracle Happened

Welcome to the last installment of Practical Change Management's Virtual Book Club (VBC).  The discussion question I posed in my last post was:

The Question
On page 36, Chip and Dan discuss solution-focused therapy and begin to talk about the Miracle Question: "Suppose that you go to bed tonight and sleep well.  Sometime, in the middle of the night, while you are sleeping, a miracle happens and all the troubles that brought you here are resolved.  When you wake up in the morning, what's the first small sign you'd see that would make you think, 'Well, something must have happened - the problem is gone!'?"  How can the Miracle Question be used to improve overall projects and Change Management programs?

My Answer
Have you ever seen a presentation where someone describes the problem in great detail, lays out all of the wonderful benefits you'll see when they solve the problem, then in the middle where the actual solution should be they just have a big cloud with the words, "And then a miracle happened?"

I certainly have, and I find that people typically aren't very impressed with this image.  I think, though, that this slide relates back to the Miracle Question posed in solution-focused therapy, and I believe there is a legitimate place for it in projects.

I have seen so many projects grind to a halt because of "Analysis Paralysis."  The team faces a complex, overwhelming problem.  They want to make sure they develop a comprehensive, well-designed solution that will completely resolve the problem in a way that makes everyone happy.  To do this, they start doing research.  They begin to design the solution, but they aren't sure it's the best solution.  So, they do more research.  They tweak their design.  They're still not sure it's perfect.  So, they do more research.  They make some more updates.  They still have some doubts about the solution.  So, they do more research...

The cycle can continue indefinitely.  Eventually, they just give up, and instead of at least having a good solution, they're just left with the original problem.

This is where miracles come into play.

By posing the Miracle Question, "What's the first small sign you'd see that would make you think...'The  problem is gone!'?", the team can move from trying to solve a complex problem in one fell blow to focusing on the most visible, important part of the solution that they want to achieve.  All they have to do is create a solution that will bring about that "first small sign."

Focusing on this one piece of the solution will:

  • Narrow the scope of the problem they're addressing
  • Reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed, increasing their confidence in their ability to successfully tackle the problem
  • Focus their research and development efforts
  • Break the Analysis Paralysis cycle
Once the team has achieved the "first small sign," they can go back and ask the Miracle Question again, deciding what the next "small sign" would be.  

They are once again in a cycle, but now, instead of being in a research cycle that leads to the ultimate demise of their project, they have entered a "doing" cycle that will lead them step-by-step to a full and successful solution.


Let Me Know: How would you use the Miracle Question to make your project successful?  Do you think it could help your team break out of the Analysis Paralysis trap?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Looking for Bright Spots: A Case Study

Welcome back to Practical Change Management's Virtual Book Club (VBC).  The discussion question I posed in my last post was:

The Question
Beginning on page 27, Chip and Dan use the story of fighting malnutrition in Vietnam to highlight the concept of bright spots, defined as "successful efforts worth emulating."  How would you use "bright spots" in a difficult situation or project to help bring about change?

My Answer

I promised you a real-life case study from one of my past projects.  To protect the innocent (and myself), I have changed all names and will not be disclosing any details that might identify the client.

The Situation
Many years ago, I was working on a software implementation at a large company.  Over the years, this company had acquired smaller companies that they now considered "business units."  Each business unit (BU) kept it's unique software, business processes, and culture.  Perhaps just as important, each BU kept its own budget, and the parent company was not in the habit of telling them how to spend their money, or forcing changes on them.

The project I was on was implementing new software across seven of the BUs.  Because each BU was so unique, we had set up Change teams at each BU made up of employees who could help us navigate the culture and implement the change.  It quickly became apparent, however, that not all of the BUs were equally committed to the change.  Their commitment ranged from full, enthusiastic support to grudging participation.  Because they had so much independence in deciding whether to participate in and provide budget to the project, we had to find a way to get and keep everyone on board.

What We Did
We appealed to their riders: One of the first things we did was an analysis of how the new system would impact each BU.  What we found was that some BUs were getting a huge benefit from the implementation, while some were breaking even and others were actually losing some functionality and autonomy.  Using this information, we created charts and graphs, did some data analysis, and basically explained that the organization as a whole would see a net gain in benefits, even if some BUs were feeling a bit of a loss.

We appealed to their elephants: In an effort to build some positive peer pressure and appeal to everyone's competitive nature, we set up a competition.  Each BU could earn points by implementing Change activities and by sharing success stories that could be scaled and used to help other BUs achieve success.

We cleared the path: We recognized that many people weren't sure how to support a change effort, so we produced a monthly toolkit that explained what needed to be done that month, provided step-by-step directions on how to do it, and included any necessary templates.

Doing It Differently with Bright Spots
While all of our efforts certainly helped drive the change, we still found ourselves faced with a BU that really resisted the implementation.  Looking back, I would have spent less time focusing on why that BU was so negative about the change (they told us on a regular basis - it wasn't a secret), and spent more time focusing on why one of the BUs was so positive and so proactive in supporting the change.  This BU was our bright spot.  I think that if we had better understood why our main change agent there was putting so much effort into driving the change, and understood how he was in turn spreading this positive attitude throughout his BU, we could have used this information to help turn around our resistor.

As it was, despite the success of our change program, I think I missed an opportunity to learn from this bright spot and gain a better understanding of why some people support change.  This understanding could have informed all of my future change programs.

Let Me Know:  In the comments section, tell me about a time that you were able to identify a bright spot and use it to improve your change program.  Or, if your story is more like mine, tell me how you would better harness the power of bright spots if you could do it again.

Next Discussion Question:  On page 36, Chip and Dan discuss solutions-focused therapy and begin to talk about the Miracle Question: "Suppose that you go to bed tonight and sleep well.  Sometime, in the middle of the night, while you are sleeping, a miracle happens and all the troubles that brought you here are resolved.  When you wake up in the morning, what's the first small sign you'd see that would make you think, 'Well, something must have happened - the problem is gone!'?"  How can the Miracle Question be used to improve overall projects and Change Management programs?