Topics to help you get up and running with change implementation

Where do I begin?

(This response focuses on considerations for implementing change expertise and capability in an organization. For how one might consider beginning to use the ChangeVU™ digital implementation platform, see the other FAQ).

Regarding where does one begin with Change Management, fortunately progress has been made in the last 30 years. Most organizations are familiar with the term, and many now have had at least some experience with change management on-boarding workshops, stakeholder engagement planning and execution and change impact assessment work.

So regarding getting started from scratch, it isn’t as common as it once was, but here are some reminders:

Initial considerations for evaluating building or deploying change management for the first time in an organization:

  • knowing the complexity of the total change and transformation portfolio of initiatives
  • knowing or having an estimate on the impact of the change component of the portfolio i.e. people impact, and how relatively large or small the change part is.
  • gating and governance - how widespread norms are (vs need to be); phasing
  • change agent network - how central vs local; how “fit-for-purpose”
  • change infrastructure - how integrated or automated you are vs need to be.

In other words, how “set up for success” are you for the change you’re dealing with? With that, you could begin thinking of your needs for advisory and “infrastructure” support, and what configurations would work more optimally for you.

If you’re already begun a journey with change management, or are a good ways down the road with it, there may be benefits to digitizing and automating your change management set-up:

  • Where is there the most to be gained by “digitizing”? At its most basic this would be standardizing and replicating change processes and “know how” - change knowledge sharing. Some examples include common “rapid start-up” processes to get change teams going; repetitive components that can be templated and shared; and digital delivery options such as change e-learning, or automating data gathering activities (pulse checks) to feed live digital change dashboards and action planners.
  • Virtual working. To the extent that organizations are moving to much more virtual working, optimizing change delivery services between virtual and face-to-face to match user needs has proven itself cost and impact effective time and again. Looking at your needs for “just in time” change capability delivery is a good starting point to evaluate how much of your change can be - or should be - done virtually.
  • Degree of urgency: ChangeVU as a digital platform can be piloted and fed into the organization in small doses over time. It can also be used to address urgent issues, and create needed one-off insights - and then be pulled out again. Knowing your needs from an urgency perspective can help decide between short term urgencies and longer term capability building considerations through digital and automated solutions.

Hopefully, wherever you are in your stage, there will be something worthwhile to gained from the Journey!

How do I marry agile project management with change management methodology?

Agile as a methodology has been around for about 10 years. It originated in the software world as a way of accelerating the cycle between user experience and design/development effort. The idea behind agile was to accelerate the innovation cycle - i.e. reduce the time and cost of getting a product to a stage where it was “deployable” into production or monetized.

With higher numbers of feedback cycles and quicker feedback per cycle, development could be accelerated. In organizations, the implications are that design and development pathways can be shorter - but the downside is that user involvement and feedback tends to increase. As a consequence, waterfall approaches which tend to integrate initiatives into portfolio decision-making by phase, can require additional flexibility to allow for agile cycles or loops to complete or be extended in order to address emerging or newly discovered dimensions requiring development.

Due to the higher degree of involvement of existing users in the effort, coordinating roll-outs of multiple initiatives being developed under an agile approach, flexibility in the prioritization of own and licensed-in resources as well as schedule flexibility for initiative testing and implementation is essential. Waterfall approaches which take these dimensions into account tend to be better prepared for the inevitable changes to scheduling and resourcing inherent in agile development efforts.

Aligning communications and change impact assessments as development shifts to implementation in this framework becomes a critical process.

How do I obtain commitment to our change plans from my organization?

There must be maximum consistency between your words, your own personal behavior, how your subordinates act, and the compensation, organizational structure, performance appraisal and promotion/selection policies of your company. When these facets are in alignment, employees will receive a consistent message as to what is important and what they need to do to make your company succeed.

How do I minimize resistance in implementing change?

In reality, resistance is a natural human element that actually is full of wisdom. Understanding the nature of resistance is therefore a process of inquiring into the resistance to understand it better. When jobs and roles are changing - or worse, being eliminated, no amount of avoidance will change that fact. But applying empathic questioning, listening closely for what underlying issues really are, is the best way to avoid the worst part of the tendency to react to resistance - which is to plow forward and push the change through. Like the old adage of trying to teach a pig to sing, it never ends well - both the pig and the teacher will come away frustrated - and worse, no change will actually take place.

What change methodology should I implement?

Change methodology is either a hot topic at the water cooler because of the types of issues that Agile processes are raising as it gets applied to almost every facet of business these days… or it’s rapidly fading into the horizon in the face of agile implementation taking over even the change management and change implementation conversation. “We don’t need change management. We do Agile”.

We’re cognizant of sounding biased in this response, but there may be at least a few reasons not to throw the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to considering a change methodology even if you’ve already long gone Agile.

Let’s begin with the Agile methodology. Implementation is different in an Agile environment because Agile involves cycles of design, testing, reviewing and re-gigging the pieces that need re-working until something useful is produced. The focus is on speed of innovation and turning out a “good-enough” prototype that can have the kinks worked out later.

But implementation in Agile is still a longer-term game in the sense that new processes and ways of working take time to get up to speed and meet expected return rates to justify initial saving calculations. It’s a mix - and successful organizations understand that the people element is still the make-or-break piece that requires engagement, re-visiting and assurance that things are on the right track. Getting someone to your App once can be done relatively easily. But keeping them there is the jackpot.

So we’re back to successful implementation as a measure, even in Agile environments. If you’re delivering successfully in Agile, you still may not be delivering full value if the outputs are not monetized successfully - or at least as initially expected. This uptake flow - i.e. how successful implementation is on the back-end of Agile processes, is where change methodology can be helpful - tracking required adoption-oriented sponsorship, assessing the new organization capabilities required to support new developments and optimizing the uptake of outputs of the Agile process on impacted stakeholder communities.

What are the success factors when implementing organizational change?

There are very few critical things to get right when organizational change succeeds. Among them are:

The key thing to understand about ensuring success for your change is that success factors vary with the following aspects.

  1. The size of your change: large scale change requires much more infrastructure - defining the portfolio, it’s components and initiatives, the sequencing of initiatives to ensure key foundational elements are in place before others, KPI’s defined correctly for installation and adoption (uptake) segments, implementing phases, steps and appropriate gating and decision-making governance and oversight, installing “fit-for-purpose” advisory committees to review and assure that key elements are included in the change effort. For a detailed assessment of sizing, see ChangeVu’s “size and scale of change management” assessment.
  2. Change Management style: Style of change management boils down to matching the leadership style with the urgency level. It behooves no one to do extensive consultation when a fire is raging - and thus adopting the appropriate leadership and management style fo the change is critical to get right. See ChangeVU’s “size of change and style of change management” self-assessment.
  3. The length of time over which the change will be implementing: change programs which outlast sponsors and change leadership require careful resource planning to assure that key players who move on are adequately replaced. Failure of change begins and ends with sponsorship, and longer program simply require adequate planning for key resources at the sponsor, governance, PMO/CMO, change team leaders and other personnel. For a detailed assessment of need for longer programs, see ChangeVU’s “size and scale of change management” assessment.

Beyond these initial considerations, the best we can suggest is to run ChangeVU’s implementation risk assessment based on the ChangeVUTM SuccessFactors database. Since each change situation is unique, the risk assessment process enables a prioritization of key factors of most importance to your situation, test that against the success factors database for timing and sequencing, and most important of all, self-assess your team and organization’s change skill levels to ensure that sufficient capability and capacity have been identified.

How would I benefit from a change management consultant?

In today’s world, two things warrant against consultants. First, change is changing so quickly that no consultant can bring in “experience” that fits your situation. So your consultant will be learning along with you - at your expense. Second, with software and knowledge at your finger tips, these days you can rapidly upskill your leaders and teams on the basics of change more rapidly than let someone else bring in supposed expertise that you think you don’t have.

At a minimum, what a consultant can - and should bring - to your change implementation are the following:

  • Broad knowledge in Change methods, research, literature & experience; depth in several of the major required core areas (governance, decision-making, portfolio & initiative set-up and management, large scale change experience, cross-cultural interventions, change leadership, etc.)
  • Capability and depth in the type and nature of change methods so that the change approach applied can best match the situation at hand (training and/or degree in change management plus 5-10 years of application experience either as an internal or external (consultant))
  • Psychological and psychodynamic training: Individual coaching skills, training and experience for one-on-one work (in particular with senior executives); behavioral team dynamics skills & experience for team and sub-group interventions; and system level skills for culture and organization level interventions.

How do I convince my CEO that people change is important?

There is a very famous saying that you will hear from change practitioners from time to time that goes like this: “if you find yourself working harder than your sponsor, there’s something important that you’re missing”.

Essentially, this same moniker could be said to apply to this question.

Under normal conditions of success, change initiatives, and in particular strategic initiative portfolios (which are resultant construct of organizational transformations), require as a basic tenet, that the CEO be the champion of their delivery. There is plenty of literature - and failed initiatives - which points to this fundamentally consistent theme.

So if you find yourself wondering why the organization is expecting you to be the sponsor of a significant initiative or portfolio that is delivered beyond your control authority, you would be well advised to re-consider accepting the lead role for the project.

If your CEO requires convincing of change management, this one fact - i.e. that as CEO, they should already be sponsoring the work, could be Reason#1 why they may want to consider bringing that capability in.

How do I get people risks incorporated into the ERM (enterprise risk management) system?

Risks associated with change implementation can be accounted for in different ways. So this question takes us back to the framework for risk management put in place to cover the enterprise’s risk. At the highest level, an enterprise’s ERM process manages risks which pose a threat to organization’s survival.

In today’s environment, the rise of the Internet, automation, AI, machine learning and technologically-driven changes dominate CEO agendas. Many organizations are orienting ERM systems to manage the increases in volatility and impact of technology on existing business models.

How important people risks become in this context depends on the importance of the organization’s talent pool to its survival strategies. Automation and robotics means that organizational talent widens to include people as well as the knowledge processes they will convert, own and run on behalf of the organization.

In this context, assessing the risk of the business to changes in the skills and competencies in the talent pool becomes increasingly important, not less. Does the organization have the skills and capabilities required to deliver the strategy when the transformation nears completion? And does the organization have the number of resources and requisite skills required to deliver the transformation?

In the first case, incorporating risk-assessed talent management strategies for the organization’s talent pool would be a good place to start the ERM level risk.

In the second case, adopting a people-risk implementation approach and framework for the transformation would enable the organization to assess the people-risk inherent in delivering the transformation.

How do I know what I need in my PMO/CMO to make my change successful?

If you’re not familiar with these terms, either your project or change isn’t sufficiently significant in size or impact to warrant differentiating the skills, roles and deliverables between them (PMO: Project Management Office, CMO: Change Management Office)

Or if you are familiar with them, then it’s quite possible that your experience with them contains some memories of conversations about how to set them up - and what to do with the PM and CM parts… and how tricky that conversation can sometimes get.

Are they different? Can PM resources do CM tasks…? Vice-versa? And what are resulting implications for resourcing the MO for the change you’re considering?

Given our experience that this conversation is alive in most organizations at some level, and increasingly so given the pervasiveness of digital transformation, here are some initial thoughts around how to start, contribute to or advance getting to a reasonable answer to the debate of how to structure your MO with happy P’s and C’s (If you have additional comments, we’d love to hear from you!).

We would consider 3 conversations helpful in assessing your response to the PMO/CMO question.

First, have you agreed a standard process for your change and project activities over time? In a previous step you would have recognized that the size of the change component in your transformation or strategic initiative portfolio is significant. A standard process discussion would involve assessing the skills required in the overall delivery of the change - both from a project management and change management point of view. At a minimum, you would be agreeing an overall breakdown of who does what when in the process; What reporting requirements are for the critical decisions in your gating process (project risks and change risks); and how change skills fit in with delivery schedules and milestones (how much time to respond to PM vs CM needs).

Second have a thought as to the role that project management and change management have in your situation. Is project management strict - looking to provide guidance, consistency, oversight and/or compliance oriented? Or is it looser, possibly decentralized, and looking to track/react vs pro-actively screen? Similarly with change resources - are you looking to resource change capability for urgent “fire-fighting” or “critical items only”? Or are you looking to build capability, intervene pro-actively, or create strategic intervention teams which are called to action based on trigger points set on customized digital dashboards…? Depending on your change, your optimal configuration of PM and CM roles may be different. In the end, projects don’t manage change, they manage projects - and change resources don’t deliver projects, they deliver change. How one defines these two elements - project and change management - is at the heart of the answer that will work in your situation.

As a third consideration, go to the end of the transformation process and ask yourself the change capacity question: given the change I see coming, where is the low-hanging fruit to address change capacity - and do I supplement those capacity constraints with either PM or CM resourcing? And what aspects of my CMO and PMO can be digitized or automated to better enable successful implementation?

If you’re knew to PMO/CMO’s and have become curious about C vs P in your MO and how to leverage the abilities inherent between the two, you’ll at least recognize the debate when it makes itself known.

How do I know that my leadership is serious about change?

This question might also refer to the question on how to get one’s CEO to see that change is important.

In our experience, having leaders “serious” about what’s required to deliver the “change” part of a change or initiative boils down to how important the change (behavioral, cultural, human), component is, and whether that is a major factor required to the initiative’s success. That’s one part. The second is whether the leaders themselves will be required to take on the post-implementation organization.

It is what it is. Being able to assess leadership authenticity in the context of change is a key variable that both internal and external stakeholders look to in times of significant change. How Leaders behave sends signals, and our human condition is highly attuned to detecting when divergences exist. When what Leaders say and do diverge.

Muddying the water more is that, more often than not, real-life situations can be less than optimal. In other words, it may be that a difficult or untenable situations takes hold that have no realistic chance of changing or being dislodged. These are highly stressful situations that often lead to burn-out and other similar outcomes.

Having leaders not implicated or not authentically role modeling commitment to the change increases ambiguity for others. It may be understandable situationally but experiencing that disconnect repeatedly over time can be highly counter productive. Being able to detect real and authentic commitment and ownership for a change is a key variable in engaging others in delivering the change.

How long does it take to implement lasting change?

We will take this at its literal level, because it has a philosophical dimension to it as well.

But practically speaking, changing behavior can be immediate. At an individual level we do it every year at New Year’s - or anytime we commit to changing the way we live and operate our daily lives.

Organizationally, if a new regulatory requirement is required, and delivering on it requires significant changes that must be done, those changes can be instantaneous.

But witness how many New Year’s resolutions really stick. Whether, in fact, they last.

At the other end of the spectrum, large scale changes, think of Climate Change - and our long-standing inability to change collectively in order to address it over the last 30 years. An excellent example of how lasting change can also be incredibly difficult.

So without belaboring the point, implementing lasting change - i.e. changes that last - requires changing something and sticking to it - either because of or in spite of the metrics used to evaluate whether the change was “worth it” or successful.

And while it’s true that there are lots of examples where lasting change doesn’t stick, the incredible thing is - like going to the moon, addressing AIDS, and changing the culture of how we treat women in the workplace - there are are also examples where lasting change has not only taken root and established itself; it has also created lasting solutions that have drastically improved the lives of those who came after.