Over the past 10 years, change management has boomed in popularity. Project professionals have realised that people are the key to success and consequently are beginning to put them first when delivering change.
But whether you’re overseeing a programme, managing a project office or leading an individual project, making change management a reality can still feel like an uphill struggle.
If you’re new to change management, this article is for you. We’ll cover six easy-to-implement tips to help you begin unlocking the benefits of change management for your next delivery.
1. Enhance your knowledge
Start by exploring the ins and outs of change management. This is especially relevant if your project management qualifications are a few years old, as you won’t have covered change management in detail, so take the time to refresh your knowledge.
I’d recommend two things: first, read up on change management on the APM website and spend some time studying chapter four of the APM Body of Knowledge. Second, to diversify your knowledge further, pick up a copy of The Effective Change Manager's Handbook and head over to the Change Management Institute’s website.
2. Get involved with APM’s Enabling Change SIG
The Enabling Change SIG is there to support and improve the change capability of organisations, teams and individuals. Here’s what Donna Unitt, chair of the SIG, told me about the group’s core work: “Our aim is to develop and sustain individual practitioner, team and organisational change capability by facilitating access to and exploration of change methods, standards, case studies and good practices.”
3. Align change and project frameworks
The most successful projects follow a defined framework, taking an initial idea right through to delivery. Change management is no different and, in fact, follows many of the same principles as a traditional project framework.
Whether it’s the ADKAR, Kotter or McKinsey framework, start aligning it with your existing project methodology. Getting your project and change management processes in sync will help you set the right foundation to maximise your benefits.
A great example from the Prosci website shows how its change management framework aligns against traditional project management phases.
4. Rethink your team roles
Putting an extra focus on the people involved in your change takes time, and for projects more time means more resources. When introducing change management, reconsider your team roles to ensure the extra work gets done.
Many project managers believe they can simply pick up the change management tasks themselves, but that’s not best practice. Whether inside the project team itself or supporting from outside, projects that nail change management have dedicated resources focusing on the change deliverables.
There are pros and cons to either setup, but the important thing is that someone takes ownership of the role to maximise the chance of success.
5. Set joint targets and success criteria
The best way to get skin in the game when it comes to change management is to incorporate it into your objectives. Projects typically focus on tasks and processes to achieve defined outputs, whereas change management focuses on a business’s ability to accept change, customer/employee satisfaction and workforce productivity.
When setting up your next initiative, incorporate change-focused objectives such as company culture, employee satisfaction and organisational risk. Aligning project and change objectives eliminates any murmurings of a ‘them v us’ culture and reinforces the synergies between project and change management.
Statistics from Prosci back this up too. Of the projects that effectively applied change management practice, 94 per cent met or exceeded objectives and 81 per cent were at or under budget.
6. Test, learn and adapt
As project professionals, we often have to embody a test-and-learn mindset, and merging change and project management is no different. Your change management knowledge will naturally go on a maturity journey, so don’t be afraid to try new ideas to enhance the effectiveness of your change.
Remember that compared to the black and white of project management, there are many shades of grey when it comes to people change. You won’t get it right first time, so go easy on yourself when embarking on your change management journey.
It pays to get on board with change management if you’re looking to take your deliveries to the next level. Businesses now expect change to be fully embraced by customers and employees, so make sure you have the knowledge and skills to deliver change management effectively.