Over the years that I’ve worked on projects, Change Management has come a long way.
When I started in the industry, the only Change Management on an IT Project was focused on transitioning new software releases to production.
Things have evolved a lot since then, and Change Management are more and more becoming an integral part of projects, rather than an afterthought that is included if there is budget.
That being said, I still feel that a number of business and project managers do not really understand what value the Change Management process brings to a project. The change team are often referred to as the “Tree Huggers” or “Group Huggers” and for those of you that know me, I am definitely NOT that. I’ve come to realise that there are a number of myths out there when it comes to change management. Here is my top 4.
Myth 1: You have to stick to one recognised change management methodology for change to work
There are so many theories of change management out there. From ADKAR to Kotter, it can be difficult to understand how they differ from and which one will be the right approach for a particular project or organisation.
The good news is that any Change Manager worth their salt will be able to mesh the various contemporary theories and practices into an applied solution that will work for your project within your organisational culture.
Myth 2: Change Managers are also Communication Experts
I have worked with amazing Change Managers and Communications Managers, but they are certainly not the same thing.
Communication experts develop and distribute the key messages using the most appropriate tools that would work in the environment and culture, but to truly engage with the business, strong stakeholder management and engagement skills are required and this is where the change manager comes in.
In my view, the Change Manager is the bridge between the business and the project and is often the voice of the business within the project team and the voice of the project team within the business.
The Change Manager is the person who is responsible for reminding the project team that they need to empathise with their end users. A good change manager metaphorically walks a mile in the shoes of the end user (yes I know, it’s a lot of miles) and is able to relate that experience back to the project team to ensure that the needs of the end user always remain paramount.
I’m not saying that a Change Manager cannot also have good communication skills. What I am saying is that the two skills sets should not be confused and that they are unique, not interchangeable and projects need both.
Myth 3: Change Management is not successful unless everyone is happy about the change
The old saying goes, you cannot satisfy all the people all the time. It doesn’t matter what you do or say, not everyone is going to be happy with the decisions made, and part of being on a project is dealing with the armchair experts and backseat drivers. There will always be dissenting opinions about whether it is the best solution or the correct way and time for it to be rolled out.
Software and technology evokes an emotional response from users that are often disproportionate to the impact that the solution may have on their day jobs. Think about people’s personal preferences around Android vs Apple or views about SAP vs any other ERP system.
For change to be successful, users do not have to love the new technology, or be happy about using it. For a project to be successful, the new system or technology must be used correctly and attain the promised business benefits. Change management can be considered a success if it help users to know about the technology and understand why it is being adopted.
Users do not necessarily need to be happy about the solution, but they do need to respect the decisions and actively contribute to the success of the project and organisation by correctly using the tools provided.
That does not mean that Change Managers do not have to work on trying to change naysayers’ minds – sometimes the most powerful spokesperson is not the person who was always a believer, but is the person that was convinced. And needless to say, having a greater proportion of users excited about the change, will by default help dissenters to adopt the solution.
Myth 4: Change Management is not successful unless everyone is ready for the change
Every person adopts and internalises new things at a different pace, and that rate of adoption is not necessarily in line with the project timeline. Although change readiness should be a contributor to the go / no-go decision for go live, it is also important to have a support structure in place to help people who are not ready.
As part of the go-live readiness process, the change manager can use tools like the change agent network, surveys and training reports to identify pockets of the business that may require additional help during and immediately after go-live. Lets face it; new technology is intimidating and scary for most people. It can make a person feel stupid and incompetent, which could lead to negative reactions and increased resistance. I’ve worked on projects where the carpal tunnel workers compensation claims escalated after go live because people did not want to use the system.
Having a network embedded in the organisation with people being supported by their peers provides an environment that is non-threatening for people to learn the skills required. Having a helping hand available for these users during this transition process will go a long way in ensuring a project that will deliver on its promised business benefits.
Change is the only constant. Any new initiative can be an exciting opportunity or a disruptive threat to the business. How it is experienced depends on selecting the change approach that works for your organisation.