Managing the vision of change

Deborah Singerman
October 2, 2014

Change is everywhere: in homes, offices, lifestyles, ways of communicating with each other and in encouraging people to think of change positively and not as an imposition on an organisation. More than focusing on a project’s requirements, change management concentrates on managing the people who will have the most impact on the project and, in turn, will be most affected by the transition.

In other words, you need to work out what you want to change and how best to do this – and bring everyone along with you.

Establishing the need for change

For a start, change has to be explained, agreed upon, understood and communicated to the people who are most important to the project’s success. Slow and steady, structured and managed is preferable to ill-devised and designed; clear-thinking and patience are recommended for long-run success.

You need to know the current state of your organisation (or project) and be honest about how it is faring. You then need to think through what you wish your organisation was like, the future state, the vision, for which you are aiming. You also must know who the change is for, which stakeholders and the key people to target within each of them.

Draw up a stakeholder register. Specific stakeholders will have their own histories, perspectives, needs and responsibilities and it is best to let them know your plans, what you wish the change to achieve and to make them part of it. This will enable you to focus on how to bridge the gap between what you have and what you want, and help you plan for and eventually implement the new processes, systems, structures and roles that are needed for the transition from one to the other.

Holistic change

Successful change is not achieved in isolation. Thinking long-term is crucial. Research by leadership expert Dr John Kotter has shown that 70% of all major change efforts in organisations fail mainly because organisations do not take a holistic approach. It is not enough to start the change process. It has to be followed through and implemented.

Project Lifecycle Phases can cover:

  1. Discover
  2. Define (what is critical-to-quality measured by key performance indicators)
  3. Plan
  4. Monitor and control
  5. Design
  6. Execute
  7. Deliver
  8. Close

Following prescribed steps such as Kotter’s eight, improves an organisation’s ability to change, avoiding failure and increasing the chances of short- and long-term success and a return on investment.

You need to establish a sense of urgency, to help others see why change is necessary and that it has not just emerged out of the blue.

Change as a group

Spend time creating a guiding coalition of collaborators who can lead the change effort and have the power, expertise and credibility to make it happen.

Encourage working as a team. Develop a consistent approach, a project charter summing up your change vision, keeping it manageable and achievable, of how the future organisation will be different from the current one.

Communicate that vision in simple, tangible language and keep repeating it for buy-in as change management is not a solitary experience from within your organisation and from your important stakeholders.

Smooth the pathway to change, encouraging risk-taking and non-traditional ideas among a broad-based group. Be realistic about what is achievable at any given moment, so you can generate short-term wins, preparing people for change and making them more comfortable with it.

Document your goals, resources and milestones to give a sense of the impact of the change on your project. Be persistent, consolidate gains and report the performance of the organisation, getting people on side, empowering them to take their own actions to accommodate change, sustaining it until it becomes normal and brings long-lasting cultural change to the organisation.

To make the change stick, you must be able to convince employees that the new model of the processes, systems, structure and culture is not only different from the old model but is superior. Communicate and reinforce this view with every new employee.

With input from the Marcus Evans workshop Executing Project and Operational Change, facilitated by Edward G Kashmere, president and founder of AllianceMax.

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Deborah Singerman
Deborah Singerman runs her own writing and editing consultancy. Her Twitter handle is @deborahsingerma.
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