Nearly every project requires a change component to it. It doesn’t matter the size or complexity of the project; although the size and complexity drives how large a change component that is necessary.
If we remember that most all projects require some change – whether it is a process needed to complete a task or learning some new tool – we are more likely to set aside time in our project planning phase to ensure we prepare stakeholders for change.
Stakeholders worry about change – even what may seem like the smallest needed change can be worrisome. They worry they won’t be able to learn how to do the job; they worry they will fall behind in the workload; they worry that the change means they might lose their job. By addressing change that projects require from the stakeholder’s perspective of that change, project managers and their teams can better manage the stakeholders and increase acceptance of their project.
When preparing stakeholders for change required by the project, consider following this approach to preparing others for change:
Exhibit 1: Preparing for Change
Let’s briefly review what happens in each phase in the Exhibit 1.
Create a comfortable environment for change: Stakeholders can become more comfortable with change when they understand why that change is happening. In this phase, communicate with stakeholders about the who, what, when, how, and why of the change. Why is this project being launched? How will it benefit the organization as well as the individual stakeholder? Stakeholders need to understand the vision for the change. How does this project help the organization achieve success in meeting its long-term objectives?
Engage the organization in the change initiative: Stakeholders from throughout the organization should serve either on the project team or as an extension of the team – for example as a stakeholder support group. Regular communications early on and throughout the project enable for stakeholders to stay engaged in the change project. During early project planning stages, understand who the stakeholders are who are most impacted by the change and their perceptions of that change. Are they champions who support the change or are they resisting the change? And why might they be resisting the change? Understanding who your stakeholders are and how they feel about the project will enable for structuring communications to provide them the information they need and to keep them engaged.
Implement and sustain the change: Project managers should begin to think about how they will ensure the project will “stick” long before the project is coming to a close. Consider what is needed to ensure that the stakeholders will work with the project at its completion. Is training required? Do they need to be involved in determining how the project will work for them? (e.g., developing new processes as part of the project?) How will performance be measured once the project is implemented? How will you check in with the stakeholders to ensure all is going well? When stakeholders see that plans are being made to ensure implementation of the project will be successful and they will get what they need to be successful themselves, they are more likely to actually use the product of the project.
Contact Abudi Consulting Group to learn more about our approach to helping organizations manage through change from helping leaders to plan for and launch change initiatives through to ensuring all levels of employees are engaged in and understand the need for the change.