In the last issue we discussed the importance of aligning your stakeholders and key decision makers to ensure they are in agreement about the primary objective (s) of your project. This alignment is essential and should be monitored and managed throughout the project. It is common to become less focused on this as attention is turned to project implementation and leadership teams manage competing responsibilities and priorities. You can find the last issue here: www.p5associates.com/409.
Regardless of whether your project is a reorganization or a system rollout, the likelihood of success is directly connected to the readiness of the organization to take on the project. We will cover some thoughts on understanding how ready everyone is to accept the change. As always, P5’s emphasis is on measuring first to determine where we start from. Then, we will turn all possible elements into manageable components.
All of my professional experience is centered on Information Technology (IT) delivery and the impact that these projects have on the user community. We often seem to forget that when a new system rolls out, every user of the current system or process will experience a disruption to their normal work routines. If they are not ready to use the new functionality, there will be even greater disruption to the day-to-day operations. Take a look at the graph which shows the impact of poorly managed change vs. properly managed change. The graph’s three lines are defined as follows:
- Unchanged Processes/Systems - The current level of productivity experienced with unchanged business processes. This assumes that they are not scalable over time, hence the drop in the curve at the end.
- Poorly Managed Change - The expected productivity over time where the change is not well managed, resulting in a protracted drop in productivity.
- Well Managed Change - The expected productivity drop from implementing the change followed by rapid recovery from it. This reveals that if the organization is properly engaged, the users will become more productive, more quickly and continue to increase their productivity at a higher rate.
The area under the productivity curve represents lost productivity. Comparing the two curves you see that the properly managed change reduces the amount of time under the current productivity line (labeled Unchanged Processes/Systems).
The key to properly managing change is to first understand where the resistance is and at what level it exists (both hierarchically and with regard to level of intensity).
Using assessment tools for organizational readiness, a value can be determined indicating the level of readiness for the target group. The common practice for preparing users, unfortunately, is to provide training right before the new function is available. With this approach, the buy-in of the impacted community does not happen so training is often pushed onto groups who have no commitment to the change. This is a mistake often made, yet easily corrected with the right amount of investment by supporting and including users in the process early and actively cultivating their interest and readiness for the coming changes.
Starting with the announcement of the change, clear communications with all those affected by the project should be considered. Using the results of the organizational readiness assessment, or similar tool, the approach can be tailored to each of the levels who are resistant as well as their reasons for that resistance. Was it a bad implementation they experienced in their current company or elsewhere? Is there a lack of understanding about what this change means to them? Your messages and supporting activities will be critical to engaging those who will carry the burden of the change. Without their support and willingness to come along, your project will struggle.
Think back to your school days for a moment. Which classes did you enjoy the most? Which classes did you score the highest marks in? Most of us did better in classes that engaged us and held our interest. The same goes for change and for implementing large projects. If we are interested, can see the value of what we are doing and are fully engaged in the outcome, we will retain what we are taught and be more tolerant of the issues that are always a part of these types of initiatives. This desirable outcome only happens if we have been shown the vision, have strong leadership that is consistently aligned to the goals and if we feel there is something in it for us. Simplistically speaking, our user base must be ready, willing and able. Training alone gets them close to able, but not necessarily ready and willing.
The next post will focus on bringing leadership alignment and the organizational readiness assessments together to create actionable plans for addressing them in a project management context.
Thanks to you all who are sharing your comments. I welcome and appreciate your insights and responses!