Most change in organizations today occurs because of large scale project implementation. Very often this involves new technology platforms but sometimes the change is purely a business project change initiative. Unfortunately change management still has a long way to go to establish its fundamental importance to the successful implementation and benefit realisation of those changes. Simply put, most project managers think of change management as something that happens later in the project management life cycle. So let’s talk about why this happens and what as change managers we can do to put it on the agenda.
The first and most important distinction to be made is that as a change manager our role is to enable change to happen, we don’t drive the change. This is usually a huge paradigm shift in thinking for project managers and business leaders and most think that we make change happen, when what we do is advise on the most appropriate tools and techniques to employ at any given time in the change cycle to engage employees in the process of change. It is up to the leaders in the organization to drive change using our recommended strategies to achieve the desired outcomes of a particular project.
The second issue is that most project managers and business leaders think of change management as the “soft stuff” doing the communication, training and human resources requirements of the change. What they fail to understand is that the “soft stuff” is really the fundamental driver of change, a change project, whether focussed on technology or business change is of little value if employees are not engaged in the change itself and the reason for it and therefore the benefits of that change.
So here is a way you can influence the thinking of project managers and business leaders when a new project is on the horizon. Firstly think in terms of how they think, generally they are thinking phases of managing the project lifecycle, so for example the following phases; initiate; plan; build; implement; and close. So firstly think about change management in each of those phases across the “soft side” of business issues such as communication, stakeholder engagement, training, human resources issues and measurement. Then decide what activities, actions and strategies could you recommend to be included in each of these phases and identify the precise benefit to the project manager and business leader for your specific change management advice to be included in each of these phases for the project success.
This way you can ensure that project managers and business leaders will understand what you mean when you say “change management” in the context of their paradigm which is project management. And once they experience the benefits of getting change management involved at the beginning of a project versus at the implementation phase, next time the challenge of getting change management on the project management agenda wont be an issue.