Why project change management is important

Let’s talk about why project change management is important for your project success.  If you don’t change the behaviour of the people impacted by your project, the ROI or Return On Investment that was laid down in your Business Case won’t be realised.

Change management is a key part of successful project delivery.  You can have a separate Change Manager work with you, or learn how to support the change management yourself.

Remember change management is all about successful behaviour change.

Podcast Script

Project Managers don’t get change management, at least not many of them.

I can say that due to my many years of working on both sides of the fence, both as a PM and CM (as in Project Manager and Change Manager).

Change management isn’t rocket science. The methods and documents that a Change Manager producers are no different to your Project Management Plan, Risk Register or RACI. They just go by different names.

To help you be successful, you might want to get a Change Manager involved in your project early. Why do I say that? Because the best thing that can happen is for your Change Manager to be along on the journey, starting with the creation of your business case. Having them involved this early allows them to understand what the change is, what it is actually going to mean for the business, and then they can start to consider how they might help you deliver this project and the change in the best possible way.

In a perfect world, in my perfect world, any Business Case would include success outcomes that were based on change management adoption and having the project that you are going to deliver managed in a way that the change is minimal on the business. Not always easy I know and it’s possible.

Change Management Return On Investment is one of those key things that are quite often not talked about a lot.

It is really important that you consider, as the Project Manager, that one of the key success factors on your project, is really dependent on people changing what they’re doing. So if you do nothing and don’t look at these people related changes, how successful do you think your project delivery is going to be?

I would suggest not very, and this is quite often where projects fail and fall down. Besides the delivery piece of it, of course.

This is one of the reasons why it’s important to include change management activities as part of your project planning and yes I know you think that change managers just create more work and more time and are a hassle for you. Believe me, it’s not the case.

If you have a Change Manager working beside you in your project that understands what’s needed and they’re good at doing their job, then hey, they’re going to add value to your project, not diminish value. Why? Because they’re going to ensure that your project success includes and delivers on the fact that people will change what they’re doing to meet the changes that your project’s going to deliver. Makes sense.

If you don’t have a Change Manager on your project, what are you going to do?

Well, I would suggest that one of the smart things you do is gain some understanding at a base level of good change management and how you might manage the change yourself.

There are a couple of books that I would suggest that I’ve found really useful.

The first one’s called “Change Management, the People Side of Change” by Jeffrey Hyatt and Timothy Creasey. The opening chapter of the book says “Change Management enables employees to adopt a change so that business objectives are realized. It is the bridge between solutions and results and is fundamentally about people and our collective role of transforming change into successful outcomes for our organization. What does it mean to manage the people side of change and what exactly is change management?

Pretty interesting really, because these same people have developed a change management model called ADKAR.

So the other book I suggest you might want to grab hold of and read is just that “ADKAR a Model For Change in Business, Government and Our Community” by Jeffrey M Hyatt.

I really love this model. Personally, I found it works.

ADKAR you say, what does it stand for? Well, it stands for awareness, A, desire, D, knowledge, K, ability, A and reinforcement, R. Let’s look at an example that you might be able to connect with. If you want to buy a new phone, what do you need to know about it and how it operates before you are comfortable making your purchase decision? What level of awareness do you need? How much information do you need before your desire to buy that brand is made? I would suggest quite a bit. And this is what it comes down to, that you need to feel comfortable enough that you’ll be getting what you want to meet your needs. You’ll have a list you may not even be consciously aware of what the things are that you need to meet your needs, and once you’ve made your purchase decision and you go to buy the phone, you then need the knowledge required to operate this new model.

This is all about learning about its features, of course, what’s different to your last phone; if you can migrate your contacts into it, for instance. Then you’re going to see what your ability to use it’s like. Do you need some additional support or training? Do you need to go and find the manual? Oh, heaven help us, it’s always the last place I go anyway, do you need to do a search on YouTube or do you need to talk to someone else that you know that’s got the same model phone. Perhaps you might be having trouble with one of the functions and you do a Google search and find the YouTube clip that describes how to use it. It’s all about increasing your knowledge and, your ability to take in that knowledge. And then the reinforcement aspect here is your willingness to continue to use a new model of phone and not revert back to your old one because it gets too hard and you don’t know how it works.

So if you’re struggling, for instance, do you continue to work with the new functionality and push through learning it and working with it, adapting it to your needs? Do you go and watch more YouTube clips or read up on the manual or online material?

As you can see this example shows you that in order to come along on this change journey, this ADKAR model works by raising people’s awareness first, giving them the information they need to be comfortable and understand exactly what’s going to change. Once they’ve done that, their desire to come with you into the new space is going to happen automatically. Then and only then, will you train them on what the differences are between where they are now and where they’re going to be. And then you’ll pick up very quickly whether they have the ability to take on this change or whether they need more support and information or training or other material in order to do that. Then you’ll reinforce the change so that they don’t slip back into the old way of working, by taking away the existing systems that they have before the change comes into place, as an example.

So think and understand what the change for the people really involves. It’s not likely to be what you think it is. System implementation, for example, the change is about behaviour changes from doing something manually to using the system; process improvement changes are about people stopping doing something or doing it differently, moving forward, and again, it’s behavioural.

So many of the things that you’re going to be doing are going to be delivering a behavioural change and it’s really, important that you have the people on board in order to make that change. Without it project failure; With it, project success.

Change Managers, if you have one on your project, should be there to support you. Their role is to help you implement and embed the behavioural change required as the result of your project implementation.

I’ve used the ADKAR model to build up a method of setting your project team up for success. You might like to download the eBook and see if it helps you manage the change in your project team. One of the things that I’m going to be doing moving forward is mentoring and consulting on Change Management, so if that’s something you’re interested in, please reach out and we’ll talk about what your needs are and how I might be able to support you.