“Help! My project goes live later this month and all I’m facing is problems and resistance. Can I still implement change management or have I left it too late?”
Research shows that the effectiveness of change management in its ability to deliver the business results expected from a project, correlates to the start point of change management activity in the project lifecycle. 37% likelihood of success if you start in the implementation phase, 64% if you start change management at the same time as you initiate the project.
It is never too late to apply effective change management to a project, with the aim of improving the adoption of the new ways of working demanded by the new system, process or organisation structure. Change management focuses on realising the financial and non-financial benefits that are directly linked to staff changing the way they work. Without the buy-in of staff and line managers when a project goes live, you will be faced with a wall of resistance and the expected benefits will disappear into the distance. In this blog we examine practical actions that can be taken to mitigate resistance and aid adoption, triaging your change when it is in cardiac arrest.
We recommend that you prioritise the 4 steps below and bring your change back to life:
1. Collate and analyse employee feedback
As a change practitioner or lead in a project our value is intrinsically linked to how well we can understand, connect, interpret, teach, translate and communicate what is demanded by senior management in terms of business results to new actions and ways of working required by directly impacted front line employees and line managers, often in an environment of multiple changes and a heavy daily workload. So lets quickly diagnose the problem with our patient project by getting close to the front-line; gather and review feedback from a representative sample of those whose roles will be most affected by the change. Find out why they are reluctant to adopt the change, discover if they know why the change is required, why now and what are the consequences if the change is not adopted. Ask if they are clear on what is expected of them and if they know how to perform their new role well. Clarify if they know what is and isn't changing. Verify the root cause of their personal resistance to the change. This is best done through one on one interviews, but if there is less time available, gather some representatives from each of the affected areas and hold a meeting or conference call. Use ADKAR as a tool to help diagnose the barrier point to individual and group progression. Collate the feedback into themes and data.
2. Audit compliance with new processes, systems and roles
Once you have collated and analysed the feedback gathered, you will know where and what the barrier points are to progression at the individual and group level. They may be concentrated in one particular job role, one aspect of the new way of working, one functional area or one location. With those pockets of resistance identified then drill down to identify root causes. This will inform you on how you proceed next. With limited time available concentrate your efforts on the more pressing areas, returning to resolve smaller problems at a later date. Before diving into action don't forget to also pause and reflect on the effectiveness of change management to date and then circle the wagons.
3. Inform and seek consensus from the project sponsor and the project manager
Now is your chance to report back on the seriousness of the problem to the project sponsor; show the data, amplify the comments behind the data and offer a range of actions before gaining consensus on the resolution plan. It is also an opportunity to reframe the responsibilities for ensuring successful change adoption. While the change lead is often the designer of the change management strategy, and some related plans and actions, as preferred senders most of the actions in effective change management must come from the sponsor - seeking coalition support from impacted peers and managers, as well as from directly impacted line managers who need to communicate, coach and mitigate their own teams' resistance. Simultaneously this is your opportunity to both observe the level of change competency the sponsor has executed to date and to suggest how you can help them increase their effectiveness before the change they are responsible for goes belly up. Don't waste this leverage.
4.Collaboratively develop corrective actions
With limited time available involve the sponsor and some of the directly impacted managers in corrective action development. The actions will range from increasing the clarity and frequency of communication about the busines and personal reasons for the change to systematically working through the resistance of influential employees and line managers against the change. Use the urgency and importance to demand proper resourcing and time for measurable success to be achieved. Make sure that impacted employees are not only happier with the reasons why the change is required and whats in it for them to participate but also have the level of proficiency, speed and accuracy demanded by the new system or process that will deliver the productivity benefits required. If necessary inform the sponsor that a short delay in the go-live is required.
This blog is merely a summary of triaging your chaneg back to life; to cover the above points in the detail required we suggest you consider how to best use the Prosci's ADKAR and 3-Phase organisational change model in your own projects and programmes by participating in one of the CMC Prosci multi day Training Pograms or 1-day Workshops. These are held either in a public setting with peers from other organisations or privately with your colleagues, focusing exclusively on your own organisation's change challenges.
Aligning the people side of change with your technical project management process, whether in a waterfall or agile environment, can and does enable sustained higher perfomance to be delivered.
Whether you are a change lead, project manager, line manager or executive leader discover the options for CMC's private on-site training with our expert team here. Or register to become a Certified Change Management Practitoner on one of our public programs so that you can be personally prepared for whatever change your organisation requires to succeed.