Get Your Arms Around Change: 12 Factors You Need to Consider
Picture this: you’ve just been given the task of managing a large-scale change project.
It can be daunting to deal with a change project, and can take some time to get your arms around it.
To help speed up the process, I’ve pulled together a list to use in just such a situation. Not every item relates to every change effort, but the list provides a thought-starter and prompt – a checklist for change.
Here it is…
- Executive/senior management sponsor. This one is non-negotiable: the number one cause of project failure is absence of senior management support. There must be a senior sponsor who champions the project and gives it profile, corporate airtime, and a sense of priority. The change must be seen as serious and sanctioned, rather than something that staff can opt in or out of (‘This too shall pass’).
- There must be a clearly defined, well-understood and clearly communicated case for change. A change must have a well-understood rationale if it is to be accepted and implemented. This factor is also non-negotiable.
- The new outcome or result must be clearly understood and communicated. Put another way, there must be a goal or objective which the change effort aims to accomplish. This is comparatively easy to define in the case of a new IT system being implemented – the result is that the new system will be implemented with (say) only a defined number of defects, with all staff trained in the new system and competently able to perform all major tasks. For a culture change the end-result is trickier to define – but more important for that reason: is it improved teamwork? A greater sense of ownership by the organisation at large? More tightly-knit processes and ways of working?
- Metrics/KPIs should be defined, measured and reported – both for the change effort itself, and for BAU operations that are impacted by the change: will the new IT system lead to a reduction in turnaround times and processing costs? Will an improvement in culture be evident in a reduced number of grievances, less sick leave, or higher staff engagement scores?
- Define all the players: who is impacted? which staff are affected? All stakeholders – those internally and externally who have skin in the game – whether or not they are supporters (especially if they are not!) must be identified and their existing level of support or opposition taken to book. Incentives and forces for and against the change should be identified, and strategies devised and effected to move all necessary players from where they are to where they need to be (if they’re not already there). Again, this is mandatory – any change project is courting failure (or worse) if stakeholders are not identified and mobilised. Mechanisms for communicating with and engaging stakeholders, such as roundtables or workshops, need to be devised and utilised.
- Governance arrangements and mechanisms for management oversight must be put in place. There need to be lines of accountability, delegated levels of decision-making and budget spending, and regimes of reporting and meeting. Typically the highest level of governance of a change effort is a Steering Committee composed of Executives or senior managers, with project managers and working groups reporting to that Steering Committee.
- New practices and processes which make the change operational should be defined and communicated. What will be done differently? These are the day-to-day ‘arms and legs’ of the change. Note that collaboratively defining how things will be done differently is a powerful means of engaging stakeholders and gaining their ‘buy-in’ (refer point 5 above) since, as Robert Levasseur rightly observes, people support what they help to create. New policies and procedures should be developed which capture the change; business plans and performance agreements should likewise ‘bake in’ the changes.
- Training and learning and development may need to be put in place to upskill staff and stakeholders in the new processes (point 7 above) or the new behaviours associated with the culture change.
- A network of change champions or experts who exemplify the skills or desired behaviours associated with the change should be established. These people embody the change and can train or coach people in situ and quickly rectify problems that arise in implementation.
- Day-to-day logistics considerations for the change effort must be dealt with: have staff been dedicated to the change project (or at least had time carved out of their other responsibilities)? Staff accountabilities need to be defined; facilities (office space etc.) and budgets for the change team all need to be worked out.
- Mechanisms to communicate with staff and stakeholders must be identified and utilised. The stakeholder analyses (point 5 above) help define with whom there needs to be communication; channels for communication (intranet, email updates, face-to-face briefings etc.) have to be opened up with these stakeholders. The content and frequency of communication all need to be planned and put into effect. FAQs and the like have to be developed. Mechanisms for feedback (staff questions) and to gauge engagement (such as pulse surveys) should be utilised.
- Finally, a Change Plan that pulls all the forgoing together should be developed, implemented, monitored and reported against (refer governance arrangements – point 6). A risk analysis (which must comprehend stakeholder risk as well as operational, resource and reputational risks) should be carried out in tandem with the change planning.
That’s my list. You may have other factors you wish to add or subtract, but the above captures the guts of any decent change effort.
Just make sure you have strong senior management support; a clear case for change that relates to tangible business outcomes; stakeholders identified and mobilised; and a meaningful means by which those stakeholders can contribute to the change effort. No change effort can go too far astray if those are in place.
Good luck and go well with your change projects!
Robert E. Levasseur (2010) ‘People Skills: Ensuring Project Success— A Change Management Perspective’ Interfaces Vol. 40, No. 2 March-April, pp.159-162.
© Michael Carman 2018