Common factors for managing successful change

Reflections prompted by discussions at APM Presents: Project Management in Practice, October 16th, 2014

By Elisabeth Goodman, 25th October 2014

The same issues arise for managing change, whatever the size of the organisation. There are also some common factors for managing successful change, whether the change involved is IT, organisational or process-based.

Delegates during the break out session of the Enabling Change SIG at APM Presents: Project Management in Practice, October 16th, 2014
Delegates during the break out session of the Enabling Change SIG at APM Presents: Project Management in Practice, October 16th, 2014     (Photograph courtesy of Andrew Gray)

I recently co-led a workshop with Neil White of ChangeVista on behalf of the APM’s Enabling Change SIG (Specific Interest Group). Our brief was to provide an introductory level interactive workshop, with delegates from a variety of backgrounds, in 45 minutes, and to be prepared to repeat it, 3 times!

Neil did a great job at consolidating some key principles and perspectives on enabling change into a ten-minute presentation – no trivial task!

I set the delegates the challenge of making a better job of three not unusual scenarios for IT, organisational and process change, using what they had learned from the presentation and what they could learn from each other’s experiences. They did a very good job of it!

(The slides, handouts on the three scenarios and a link to the outputs from the Enabling Change SIG seminar at APM Presents are now available)

The same issues arise in dealing with change whatever the size of the organisation

Paula Baxter, one of the delegates at the event, in her follow-up feedback said: “Found the session earlier really useful, especially hearing how we all go through the same issues with change no matter how small or large the organisation is!”

Effective management of change is about involving and informing the people affected so that they can be navigators rather than victims of change.  And yet this is the part that is often neglected, either deliberately out of a mistaken desire to protect people from unnecessary worry, as in the organisational change scenario used in the workshop; or, as in the case of our IT scenario, out of an assumption that everyone can learn to use new software quickly, easily and in the same way.

There are common factors in managing every type of change

As another delegate mentioned to me, although we were working with three very different scenarios, the same headlines came up in each one in terms of how to achieve more effective management of change. These are just eight of them:

  1. Involve and inform your stakeholders, especially those most directly affected by the change – and do so sooner rather than later
  2. Two-way communication is key and your sponsors can help with this by being visible and accessible. They can also have a positive influence by role modelling the change
  3. Use stakeholder analysis, and training needs analysis to understand the different perspectives and requirements of your stakeholders and to shape your approaches accordingly
  4. Clearly articulate why the change is being introduced (the benefits), and get your sponsors and change agents or champions aligned on these and other key messages (what, who, when, where, how) to communicate about the change
  5. Consider the context for the change:
    • What the change demands in terms of your stakeholders’ behaviours and time, and how that will relate to what else they are doing in their day jobs
    • What other changes are going on that might affect their receptiveness to this particular change (the bigger picture)
  6. Think carefully about motivators and incentives and target them at the right level – they won’t necessarily be the same for everyone
  7. Involve HR (and external consultants / contractors) as appropriate to support but not to lead the change – the sponsors should come from the business
  8. Consider using pilots, and a gradual transition / evolutionary change as an alternative to revolutionary change to minimise the ‘pain’ for those involved, and to get things right

What are your thoughts on common factors for managing successful change?

All in all it was a very enjoyable and stimulating experience. It was very rewarding to see how many common factors for managing successful change the delegates could extract in an intensive 45-minute session. What else could they have identified?

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams and their managers to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. (We using coaching, training, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting just over 5 years ago, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she now leads the Capabilities & Methods pillar for the Enabling Change SIG.

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