Role of best practice in planning your next change initiative

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Frederick Reynecke

International Organizational Change Management Institute

Director

The role of best practice in planning your next change initiative

Ensuring your change journey takes off successfully (Part 1 of a 2 part series)

Frederick Reynecke, Change Management Expert
Many organisations start their implementation without the proper preparation and thinking (analysis) only to see it “crash and burn”. Understanding and adopting best practices in change management will facilitate a smooth start and will assist in minimizing turbulence as you continue travelling to your destination. Change is the route (process), not the destination (event).

Let’s get one thing straight; announcing a project or change is not change management; communication is not change management, neither is training. Both contributes to change management but as a standalone is not effective. Like a wheel or seat; as part of the complete vehicle adds more value than by itself.

According to Gartner “80% of all technology projects were not used in the way intended or not used at all six months after installation”. Another scary statistic is “70% of change projects do not deliver the expected benefits”.

  • Is yours one of them?
  • What would it be worth if you could avoid that happening?

Prosci (a combination of the words Professional + Science = Prosci) was established to make sure science and research is used when dealing with people management. Since 1994 they have conducted best practice research and are the largest body of knowledge on the subject.

To find simplicity and clarity, they’ve asked participants in their benchmarking research studies the same simple question every two years since 1998; “What has been the single greatest contributor to the success of your change management program?” This question seeks to help us understand and prioritize the parts of their change management approach that are most critical to achieving successful outcomes on change projects. Why are some changes implemented more successfully than others? According to Prosci’s research the following seven factors are the top contributors to success:

  • Active and visible executive sponsorship
  • Structured change management approach
  • Dedicated change management resources
  • Integration and engagement with project management
  • Employee engagement and participation
  • Frequent and open communication
  • Engagement with middle managers

Let’s unpack these findings and see how they can make your change journey (initiatives) more successful.

The importance of sponsorship was cited over three times more frequently than the next contributor. Participants consistently used the key words “active and visible” to describe this top contributor. “Active and visible” sponsorship means that the sponsor is:

  • Supporting the change by giving consistent attention to the change and the need or case for change management
  • Championing the change by leading and motivating others (leadership and Business Unit teams) in the organization
  • Making effective and influential decisions regarding the change, including the ability to align priorities among other leaders in the organization (leadership alignment and building a guiding coalition)
  • Maintaining direct communication with the project management and change management teams and being accessible during the change

Another key study finding reinforces the impact of quality sponsorship on achieving outcomes; projects were almost 3.5 times more likely to meet or exceed project objectives than projects with very ineffective sponsorship.

Related to this is the coalition that the sponsor must build in creating an aligned leadership team. For the last 3 success factors; employee engagement and participation, frequent and open communication and engagement with middle managers to have the required impact leaders must walk-the-talk through their behavior (example) and aligned efforts. Their actions should speak louder than their words.

An intentional and defined approach to managing change provides the structure necessary to stay on track this will ensure time is spent on meaningful activities and allows space to identify and address gaps throughout the project lifecycle. A formal approach makes processes repeatable for consistent application of change management on other initiatives throughout the organization. Key words that came up when participants described this top contributor included, established, customizable, scalable, easy to implement across multiple changes and easy to apply at every phase of the project.

The number of organizations using a specific methodology continues to grow; in 2003, fewer than 35% of participants used a change management methodology. In 2015, over 70% of participants used a methodology.

Although a structured approach is critical, initiatives and projects also need dedicated resources and funding to get the actual change management work done. Dedicated change management resources and funding means having access to the appropriate amount of funding and resources, resources with change management experience and a change team or community of flexible, ambitious, decisive, collaborative individuals.

We’ve heard this many times before: “If it isn’t someone’s job, then it’s no one’s job.” To realize the benefits of change management, someone must be responsible for it and have access to an appropriate amount of funding. In analyzing the data, Prosci identified a positive and meaningful correlation between having a dedicated resource (person) and overall change management effectiveness. This should be linked to the sponsor as well. Participants that had dedicated resources were significantly more likely to have good or excellent change management effectiveness than those without a dedicated resource. These resources are not solely responsible for change management but merely facilitators (more on this in part 2). This is also the link to project management.

Prosci’s research has underscored the common trend of integrating change management work with the activities of project management. These complementary disciplines naturally cross paths throughout the life of an initiative. In the 2016 study, 77% of participants integrated project management work and   change management work. Examples of how this is achieved; integration are fully integrating the change management and project management approaches, integrating change management activities into gate requirements and supporting collaboration between project and change management teams to develop the overall project plan.

Participants who integrated these two disciplines were 16% more likely to meet or exceed project objectives than those who did not integrate. More and more organizations are realizing the value of integrating project management and change management.

These four best practices have a lot to do with setting up your project for success. In part 2 we’ll have a closer look at how the other three factors contribute towards a successful journey during implementation.

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