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7 Steps for Successful Change Management  

By Lynda Sydney, Copywriter and Communications Consultant  
 
In the December 2012 BA Connection newsletter, Deb Oliver, the BA of IIBA® talked about change management. 
 
“At a recent conference I heard the statistic that only 30% of projects are considered successful,” said Deb. “One of the reasons the number is so low is because of change management. It could be an outstanding product, but if people aren’t ready for it, the technology won’t work for them.”
 
We asked Deb how companies can be more effective at change management. Here are seven steps to implementing a successful change management strategy in your organization.
 
1. Ensure strong executive sponsorship.
 
When you have any major change, it is critical that the executive sponsors of the project fully and actively support it—those at the top need to be the biggest cheerleaders.
 
Deb recommends planning a project kick-off event and inviting all stakeholders who will be impacted by the change. At this meeting, have the executive sponsor present the details of the project—why the project is important to the organization, the benefits to be realized as a result of the change, and an outline of the metrics for success. The metrics are a key component as this defines what the change looks like, the positive impact it will have on the business, and how the change will be measured. 
 
2. Hold frequent forums for communication.
 
Communication is key in change management, and to be effective you need to have frequent forums to discuss the project and progress. To organize a forum, include the sponsor and business groups impacted. This is an opportunity for everyone to provide feedback and raise issues to ensure everyone is getting the same message about what is going to happen and issues can be addressed immediately, to avoid surprises. Let people ask questions and voice concerns—if they are involved in the project from the beginning they will feel more committed to it as it progresses through to implementation.
 
In a recent IIBA project, the communication aspect started strong, but as the project progressed it became harder to find time to schedule the forums and have everyone involved. A drawback of not having the entire team together in the same meetings is that different groups may be receiving different messages about what is going to happen throughout the project. 
 
Make an effort to get these group meetings scheduled on everyone’s calendar so the key stakeholders can provide input and take ownership of the project. 
 
3. Conduct a change management stakeholder analysis at the beginning of the project.
 
Make sure a change management stakeholder analysis is one of the first activities completed when starting a new project. List all the business groups involved and what kind of change each will be dealing with—is it a business process change, technology or tool change, a people change in terms of their daily activities, or data/information change? Once you understand the impact to the different stakeholder groups, you can develop communication plans and activities to make sure they are comfortable with the change.
 
It is also important to assess if the key stakeholders are ready for the change. For example, for a large process, you need to do everything necessary to facilitate the change, such as providing detailed documentation of what the change looks like for stakeholders or provide opportunities for additional training if a new set of skills is a component  of the change. Be sure to follow-up with individuals at regular intervals, perhaps after any major milestone is reached, to make sure they are still on track—they may not be comfortable speaking up about issues or concerns while in a large group. Determine if there is any other work that needs to be done as you move towards implementation, anything you can do to minimize the risk of launching before the stakeholders are ready.
 
The intervals for check-in will vary, but usually they begin midway in the project, then, pick up in frequency as you approach the launch date. And plan to check-in after launch as well, once you see the new capability in action, to ensure all is going as planned and no new issues have developed.
 
4. Determine the communication events for stakeholders.
 
The role of the BA is not to lead these events but rather to ensure the communication structure is in place—BAs help to identify the stakeholders and assess their readiness to accept the impending change. The degree of readiness will determine the type of communication events required for each set of stakeholders. The purpose of the communication events is to provide the necessary activities required to move a stakeholder group from a state of uneasiness to a state of readiness to accept and embrace the change, with the ultimate goal of removing any foreseen barriers to achieving success with this new capability.
 
It is the responsibility of the business people who own the new capability to implement the communication events or activities; they need to ensure that each of their team members have the necessary skills, knowledge, and motivation to effectively manage the upcoming change within their work environment.
 
5. Involve key stakeholders at every step.
 
Throughout the process, make sure the people impacted are included at each stage. Talk to them about what they need for the process to be successful. Involve the stakeholders who know each process best—they will be instrumental in identifying potential issues with the plan. Be sure they are present when you are gathering and reviewing requirements. It is important to solicit and/or include input from the individuals who are directly impacted by the change. The more opportunities you find to do this successfully, the greater the likelihood for minimal resistance to the new capability.
 
6. Focus on implementation day and beyond.  
 
On the day the project goes live, it is important to do everything possible to make sure the launch goes smoothly. Try to be responsive rather than reactive in working through issues; have a process in place for dealing with any problems that may occur, with the team on standby to address anything unexpected. Follow-up with the individuals impacted by the change after implementation at 30 days, 90 days, or whatever intervals make sense for your organization, to ensure the new capability is working as planned and they are still actively supporting the change. Saying that, it is important to remember that is okay to course correct, if minor adjustments are required.
 
7. Measure the metrics.
 
Revisit the metrics set at the beginning of the project and publicly report on the success of the change, as well as any opportunities that exist for improvement. Track the performance measures: “This is what we said the new capability would do, here’s how we measure it, and here’s how it is doing.” 
 
If there are any negative outcomes, review the changes and determine ways to address them, whether through the stakeholders, the vendor implementing the capability or another key group. You may need to develop a new process or identify a work around solution. The key is to make sure everyone involved is clear on what the organization wants in terms of success and to be able to take action to make corrections if the implemented change is not going the way it was planned.
 
People generally react the same way to change, and it is not always positive; an organization just needs the processes in place to manage it. “At the end of the day, success is not that we implement a project,” says Deb. “But that the people on the front line are able to effectively work within the change and the change delivers the desired outcomes for the business. That is the true measure of success.”