For many, shamrocks, the color green, leprechauns, and beer are just a few words that come to mind when they think about St. Patrick ’s Day. Also common around this time of year is the expression Ádh mór ar an hÉireann which is Gaelic for ‘Luck of the Irish’.
While ‘luck’ is something one may count on when playing the lottery, it is not a strategy I would recommend for successful project delivery. Project success requires more than luck; it warrants a sound change management strategy and approach. The second largest reason why project initiatives fail is due to the absence of a change management methodology integrated within a project.
“The better we apply change management, the more likely we are to deliver on project objectives. Prosci’s correlation data from over 2,000 data points and 10 years shows that initiatives with excellent change management are 6 times more likely to meet objectives than those with poor change management. By simply moving from ‘poor’ to ‘fair,’ change management increases the likelihood of meeting objectives by three fold.” (1)
To best illustrate the importance of incorporating change activities in everything you do, consider the following case study.
“Brace for impact”
Throughout my career, I’ve had the privilege of leading over 100 projects impacting over 2,500,000 employees globally. During that time, the projects I’ve led have faced all sorts of resistance from sponsors, process owners, senior leaders, Finance/Legal personnel, HR representatives and employees. Fortunately, such resistance has been significantly reduced over the last decade as organizations begin to recognize the importance of change management and its proven correlation to project success. Just as I thought the field of change management was turning a corner, however, I came across an unlikely situation appropriately titled: “Brace for impact”.
I was leading a business transformation initiative for a client that would impact several thousand employees. This project was part of a larger technology roadmap designed to a) create an improved employee and leader user experience, b) standardize core HR processes across all lines of business and c) encourage managers to assume greater ownership of core HR responsibilities.
Unique to this initiative was a recommendation I proposed that would empower actual leaders, employees and key HR stakeholders participate in an iterative design approach. This Agile design model would not only build a coalition of support and advocacy at the end user level, it would also lead to an increase in quality delivery from a people, process and technology perspective.
The iterative design approach was particularly necessary as the new system and supporting processes represented a cultural shift in how managers would operate and lead moving forward. Consequently, it was critical to design and implement a thoughtful change plan to ensure employee and organizational success.
Additionally, the change approach would have to weather key organizational attributes including (but not limited to):
- The client was averse to change
- The client was not steeped in the discipline of change management
- The client subscribed to a command and control decision structure
- Sponsors, leaders and HR personnel did not have an appreciation for the benefits of change management
With the above org attributes in mind, I designed and implemented the requisite change management strategy for an initiative of this size, scale and scope. I employed an unsophisticated, yet practitioner-based change approach to minimize learning curves for the change champion network, sponsors and leaders.
Below is a subset of change activities I implemented to mitigate and / or accelerate progress from a change adoption perspective.
Change Approach / Deliverables
|The client was averse to change|| |
I conducted an initial change readiness assessment to identify early resistors and adopters and implemented an iterative review, design and demo process to ensure stakeholder buy-in.
|The client was not steeped in the discipline of change management||I installed a change champion network and provided them with weekly mentoring, upfront education on change management basics, and a change champion toolkit for executing change.|
|The client subscribed to a command and control decision structure|| |
I operationalized a bottom-up design model by socializing its benefits and by positioning change champions as SMEs with project-level decision rights. I also had the team host numerous focus groups to collect user insight and gauge end user support.
|Sponsors, leaders and HR personnel did not have an appreciation for the benefits of change management||I developed an integrated project and change management plan that was simple to understand and demonstrated how planned change work would enable project success. I also conducted stakeholder analysis interviews to understand change resistance and developed change tactics to mitigate it. Throughout the project I highlighted how outputs from change readiness and stakeholder interviews informed the end design and development of the new tool and supporting processes.|
Overall, the initiative was successful in each line of business with the exception of one. The HR change champion refused to engage in basic block and tackle change activities. In lieu of participating in these change efforts, she informed me that her business function ‘doesn’t need change management support as my team and I will just brace for impact after the new system and processes are implemented.’ While this was clearly not a recommended course of action, I was not able to garner the necessary support from her leader or executive sponsors to influence her thinking or hold her accountable for anticipated business results.
Since the HR change champion did not fully embrace our change management approach, her client-facing HR team did not participate in numerous change opportunities such as design sessions, focus groups and system demos. The absence of core HR resources in the impacted area led to gaps in system functionality and newly designed processes that would not work in their current operating environment. As a result, her managers were not prepared for all of the fast approaching changes and their employees were caught off guard by the changes to the new system and supporting processes.
Since the premise of change management is to link project solutions to specific project outcomes and, mobilize people to deliver results, employing basic change practices would have resulted in a higher level of project success. In short, a reliance on luck or a ‘brace for impact’ approach to change management will not yield desired project outcomes or end user adoption.
(1) Source: www.prosci.com/resources/articles/why-change-management.