There are quite a few stories out there about project failure caused by poor Organizational Change Management (OCM) or complete lack of OCM. What about successful Organizational Change Management? I have always felt like fashioning Change Management after a marketing campaign was a very good way to go. I was working on a huge worldwide program for a very large pharmaceutical company that had the best OCM I have ever seen. All of the leaders supported the change. This involved a good deal of their time as they had several events to help the users understand the importance of the change and rally around it. They communicated very frequently and in many different forms. The program leaders made sure that they were getting requirements from all locations participating. Obviously the leaders of the organization were willing to spend money to handle the people side of change as they could see there would be a return. We all know that huge worldwide programs can be the riskiest so the company did all in its power to try to ensure success.
And then there was the time I was brought into an organization to bring a great deal of change. The CIO wanted change. The PMO Director wanted change. Everyone wanted change! They just didn’t agree on what this change looked like! But they agreed it needed to be done yesterday (they really did as they had been looking for a resource to lead this for quite some time). This caused a great deal of resistance from the people who had to do the work to get the projects completed. And then there were the various businesses under the corporation who needed to come together to help develop the requirements that would work for all. I worked with the sponsors to ensure they stood behind the changes required from the program. I built targeted communications for all the various areas of the organization and communicated frequently. I didn’t have the luxury of a big budget and many resources to ensure OCM success for the program but I was a big fan of the solution so my enthusiasm kept me going. And as I said most of the people in the organization realized that several things needed to change as things weren’t going so well before the program was implemented.
When I was researching for a keynote speech I was to present, I came across a very inspiring story of a project success. The two hour house. One of the major elements of the very successful project was people working together because they really believed in the project. This project wasn’t about change in an organization but it was about people really believing in what they were doing. And that is what you want on OCM – for people to believe in the benefit to result from the project. For that particular project the “benefit” was proving they could build the house per a 2 hour schedule. In the end they were proving out the major elements they felt must be in place for success of the project (very detailed planning, risk management, only dedicated believers on the team, contingency planning etc.).
I was just reading a study of Project Failures which got me thinking about the warning signs. The following are true warning signs and issues I have had or witnessed in my Project Management career.
You know your project is in trouble when:
1. The project team was just assigned but the customer wanted this 6 months ago. And the deadline isn’t changing from the original.
2. Your project team is very unhappy because the project has this overly aggressive schedule.
3. You have some team members that don’t like each other – to the point they are acting like 5 year olds asking you to remove the other team member. Time to provide a lecture on being a good team member (and acting like a grownup).
4. Your sponsor is nowhere to be seen – has completely dropped his or her sponsorship of the project.
5. One of the team members has developed a mantra: “I will have that done tomorrow”. This task was due last month!
6. The project contract has a specification that is tighter than the spec your team felt they could meet.
7. Your designer has kept a secret from you: that he doesn’t have a clue how to design the solution.
8. Your stakeholders selected the software – very thorough analysis of alternatives involving tons of people and tons of hours. They selected the application that will work much better than any alternatives. Unfortunately, that is not the application you are implementing. At the last minute an executive informed you that you were to buy one of the alternatives. He claimed that, as a company, we only purchase from this major software vendor.
9. Stakeholders are not happy about this change but they are happy to tell you they don’t want this change.
10. You day-dream a good deal about changing careers.
Some ideas around these project issues:
• Good risk management is important. At the beginning of the project work to determine what can go wrong and what you will do about each risk. This is not just for the PM to do but the entire project team will be valuable in working on this.
• Thorough stakeholder analysis and management will help avoid users that don’t want to use the new system or process.
• Research has shown that a project with no sponsor is more likely to fail that a project with a strong sponsor.
• Communication, communication, communication – with the project team, the sponsors, the stakeholders
o This includes communicating problems – along with what needs to be done to solve the problems.
• If faced with aggressive schedules make sure this is included in your list of risks. This is a difficult issue. The customer always wants it asap and meeting all goals and high quality and in budget. That is a daunting task!
What signs of project trouble have you had? And what did you do about it?
Last night I was claiming that we really needed to YouTube my husband’s last minute “project”. Our cork screw had broken and we had a bottle of Chardonnay that really needed to be opened! My engineering husband would not take the five minute trip to the store to get a new cork screw, no, this was an opportunity to be creative. Well, also a great opportunity to play with his tools. He went back and forth to the garage about 5 times but finally successfully opened the wine. He got the job done – and under difficult circumstances. And that is definitely something that leaders are often called upon to do. I believe I have developed leadership skills through difficult tasks, where I learned very quickly what works and what doesn’t. There was the time I went into a consulting engagement and quickly found out that there had been several consultants on the project before trying to satisfy the customer but no succeeding. My contracting company had told me very clearly what they needed me to do. The IT customer told me that was absolutely not what he wanted. The business customer wanted something else altogether. This was a case where I needed my people skills and determination to ensure we got quick wins despite the lack of agreement on the solution.
Charisma is a great characteristic of leaders. People are drawn to the leader and anxious to hear what he or she has to say. I was reminded of this over the weekend when I saw pictures of my 8 year old grandson in a tux, looking like he has worn tuxes all his life. In that tux, carrying it off like he is a very important person, he looks like a future leader of the world! I hear he did some great dancing also!
I have always felt that motivation is also a key in leadership. A motivating leader will get the best work out of the organization. I learned this early so that motivating others has been a key to successful transformations over the years. I find motivating people fairly easy and enjoyable. It requires listening and understanding people as individuals. It results in people feeling good and that’s a good thing.
My husband’s crazy project last night motivated me to write this blog, I figured other people might get a kick out of it. Then I had to mention the grandson because I seriously was surprised at how he looked so comfortable and commanding in his tux. I didn’t work out an analogy relating to the other big thing in my weekend – we dog sat 4 wiener dogs. That made household count of dogs at 6 as we have 2 of our own. People outnumbered 3 to 1. You will find it surprising but true – 6 dachshunds barking in unison can be very loud. Just ask my neighbor. I guess I would have to say that dachshunds can show great determination. Thursday night they were determined to NOT go to sleep and to keep us up with them. They succeeded! Considering they are much smaller than us, I would say they were showing great leadership!
I hear this question often so I have come up with ideas to help those of us who believe in Change Management convince others of the value.
Most projects involve people changing. They have to use new technology or they have to use a new process or maybe take on a whole new role because of a reorganization. There are many scenarios and we all know that change takes us out of our comfort zone. You may even have change saturation in the organization.
Why do we need change management? That is touchy feely stuff!
For a new process or technology project, or both, the ROI is generally based on the assumption that users will adopt to the change at go live and will be proficient. What if the people aren’t ready or are resistant to change? Your return will be pushed out and will not be what you expected.
Loss of productivity is an issue whenever you upset the status quo. When people are anxious about a change or resistant to the change, productivity goes down. By working with people to understand the root cause of the resistance, you can minimize this negative impact by helping people understand the business value and personal benefit of the change.
Ultimately projects can fail when change is not handled properly. People can revert to the old way of doing things. There are many business cases out there about major losses caused by failure to pay attention to the people side of the project and properly bring the individuals of the organization through the change.
In summary, Organizational Change Management enables transition to achieve and sustain the desired business strategy and drives ROI through:
– Accelerating the Adoption Curve
– Ensuring Proficiency
– Minimizing the dip in Productivity
– Increasing project success
Let me know if you have other ideas for “selling” change management to those who don’t get it.