Projects often fail because of the inability of the project team to effectively manage the change – be it new technology or processes – into the business.
Ensuring that change execution is part of the strategy from the outset – not a ‘nice-to-have’ or an afterthought – can significantly impact the success of your project’s execution.
Strategy, tactics and rising above the noise
The eloquent technical delivery of a solution is all well and good, however, if not accompanied with robust fit-for-purpose change management then the overall project may fail to achieve the critical KPI of business take up and acceptance.
Change management is an ongoing blind spot in projects, particularly those with a technical emphasis, and there are myriad reasons as to why it is often neglected or poorly executed. Change is difficult to execute well and it can be challenging to understand the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ for many project participants.
Sun Zhu wrote that ‘… strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” Applying the concept of strategic change management from the outset ensures that the symbiotic nature of change and technical implementation is planned for and remains intact throughout the project’s delivery.
Plan for change from the outset to ensure success
It is important the change aspects of any project are given due consideration upfront and suitably planned for and resourced appropriately. Below are a number of actions project managers and sponsors should be considering when approaching their projects and traps they would do well to avoid:
It is never technology for technology’s sake: The underlying technology of a project should be viewed as the key enabler. But for the project to be successful overall the change the new technology brings must be managed so that the business understand, accept and can adapt to their new work practices to unlock the functionality and benefits of any technology changes.
Change is not just comms: Change is often misunderstood and reduced to just a communications workstream. Whilst communication is critical it is just one of the key streams of any change program.
Real change must identify the gap between how the business currently operates and how they need to operate effectively in the new world. Just telling the business about what is coming does not take into account what they may need to change to be able to do their jobs in the future.
Change is not just training: Ditto the above!
Never assume what is easy and what is hard for the business: Nobody knows their business better than the people within it. Many projects fail through lack of investing in change or failing to bring people on board and the project team are left making assumptions about what impacts a change may bring.
This plays out negatively on two fronts. Firstly by assuming what may be required for the business to adapt to change things can be missed or understated which impacts roll out and sustained take up.
Secondly, the business can become hostile toward the project if the project team have paid little or no attention to their real needs through poor change engagement. This can play out through on-going animosity between the business and the project.
Select the right project leaders
Make sure when resourcing the key roles for the project team that the people targeted to understand the importance of change and know that projects need both excellent technical execution and change execution to be successful overall.
Often the ‘technical’ is the project manager’s comfort zone which can manifest in a lack of focus on the business impact and change requirements for a project. An easy test is to have any potential project leader’s walk through what a change strategy document should look like in terms of the table of contents and the intent of such a document.
Maintain the balance between change management and technical solution
There is no question the change stream of any project is often the most nuanced and therefore often the most difficult capability for project members and sponsors to understand and get right. So it is important that the easy option is not taken by reducing the focus to the technical.
The technical and change implementation have a symbiotic relationship. If the project is to be considered an overall success then good technical execution must always be accompanied by excellent change disciplines and change should not become a nice-to-have or an afterthought.
For more information about change management and ensuring your projects are set up for success from the outset, please contact us on 02 9098 6300.
As project specialists, we develop fit-for-purpose strategy and project delivery. Contact us here to find out more about how we work with your teams or call 02 9098 6300.
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