Planning is Critical in Successful Organizational Change
One of the contributing factors to project and program failures within public organizations is the lack of organizational change management planning. This is well documented in Management Concepts recent report, “Successful Change Management Practices in the Public Sector.”
While project and program managers often focus their plans on the technical aspects of what needs to change in order to realize project success, they may often underestimate the impact of changes on personnel and the level of planning it takes to mitigate this impact. The risk is that if the people impacted by change are not on board, sustainable change cannot be achieved and mission-critical objectives may not be realized.
Several negative consequences to the organization can result from inadequate planning and neglecting a change’s impact on personnel, including productivity loss, employee disengagement, turnover, and resistance. Those negative consequences and risks will often result in financial consequences. It will take longer for employees to get on board and begin using the new system, process, etc., longer to master, as well as longer for the agency to see a Return on Investment (ROI).
By using effective change management processes and planning, you can mitigate some of those issues and meet program goals successfully on time and on budget. Here are a few tips that will help to contribute to overall success:
- Executive Sponsorship: Ensure that the sponsor is effective and is actively engaged throughout the entire process. Data shows that the number one contributing factor for a successful change management project is how visible the sponsor is.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate: Communicate early and often throughout the entire process. It’s important to make sure employees fully understand what the change is, the business need for the change, what the change will mean for them, what will be required of them, how the change will occur, and one of the most important items, the risk of not changing. If employees are told only what the change is, without the why, a common response will be “so what?” If they don’t understand why a change is needed and the benefits of the change, there will be no desire to conform.
- Important role managers play: Managers must understand how important their role is throughout the entire change process. To be most effective, managers must first fully understand the change and how it impacts them prior to communicating it to their teams. They should remain positive about the change and “lead by example.” Additionally, they should facilitate feedback between the project team and employees and vice versa. Managers should also coach employees through the change, as not all employees handle change in the same way. Managers then must reinforce the change.
- Resistance Management: Resistance is a natural human reaction to change, so it’s important to expect and plan for resistance at all levels of an organization. The primary reason for resistance is lack of awareness of the need for change. To address resistance, there are several approaches you can use, but it’s best to try to understand where the resistance is coming from first. A few suggestions include: listening and understanding objections, focusing on the outcomes, removing any roadblocks, and providing clear choices and consequences related to adopting the change.
Change management planning is an integral part of successful change in organizations. It isn’t performed by just one person or a group of change agents. It requires partnership and collaboration from executives, sponsors, managers, supervisors, and the project team throughout the entire change initiative. By being deliberate about change management planning from the onset of a change initiative, and by following some of our tips, your organization will be better positioned to achieve project success, on time, on budget, and the ROI will be realized much sooner.