Change Enablement should be treated as an integral part of the overall project approach. The most successful projects are ones where change resources are engaged from the beginning of the project and change plans are tracked within the overall project work plan. This helps the project manager and executive sponsors understand the entire scope of effort, coordinate key project activities, and ensure project and change team members are approaching the business with one voice. We have found that the change consultant is most effective when treated as partner to the project manager. This means Change Enablement has a seat at the table for all critical planning, status, and project review meetings.
While the change work should be integrated into the project plan, it is also its own body of work. The starting point is creating a change strategy.
Elements of an Change Enablement Strategy
- Case for Change (Why must we take action?)
- Current-Future State Analysis (What is changing? How big is the change?)
- Stakeholder Analysis (Who is impacted and how? What support will they need?)
- Benefits Risk Assessment (What are the risks to achieving results?)
- Adoption and Success Criteria (How will we know if the change is sticking?)
- High Level Change Plan (How will we execute our change strategy?)
- Roles and Responsibilities (Who agrees to do what to make the change successful?)
When a project team can answer the above questions completely and thoroughly, they can include specific tasks in the project plan that focus on helping people through the transition as easily as possible.
What does a Change Plan include?
Many organizations equate change planning with training and communication. While these functions are important tools in an overall change management approach, they are not sufficient. Change Enablement is also about creating and leveraging stakeholder engagement and managing user adoption of new systems, processes, and tools.
Stakeholder engagement encompasses identifying, asking, listening, involving and enlisting the help of all individuals or groups that will be affected by an organizational change or that can influence the success of that change. We have seen some organizations wait to approach stakeholders until all plans are finalized and decisions made, and then attempt to “obtain buy in” on what is about to happen. This is not effective and can derail the entire project. Each stakeholder has a significant interest in the direction and outcomes of change. Those leading the change must understand the level of support needed from each stakeholder and purposefully enlist that support.
Managing adoption includes identifying the business outcomes that matter most to the organization, and then finding ways to measure and monitor the likelihood of realizing those outcomes before, during, and after the change. The business case for most transformational projects involves making significant shifts in how work is performed, often as a combination of numerous small changes that add up to a high impact to end users. However, surprisingly few efforts include a formal, disciplined approach for establishing performance metrics and monitoring performance.
Project plans that include robust Change Enablement plans – and specifically training, communication, stakeholder engagement, and adoption tasks – have a better chance of success. Invest in this work and it will pay dividends.