In this age of progress and acceleration, people are always looking for ways to work faster. The reality is that the workforce is open to change, but this willingness is hindered because change is not being managed effectively. Today, change programs all too often results in the creation of non value-added tasks for employees. They have to comply with unnecessary processes and templates, generally without knowing why a new initiative is being implemented. Of the 70% of change programs that fail to achieve their goals, the majority is due to employee resistance. When employees are fully engaged in and supportive of change, the project is 30% more likely to succeed. As such, organizations should not fear employees’ reactions to change but instead consider them instrumental to its success. Companies have to look at human impact as a top priority when considering change.
Enter Change Management. According to Prosci, “Change Management is the process, tools and techniques to manage the people side of change to achieve the required business outcome.” In other words, Change Management is what helps teams and individual employees adapt to and adopt change within an organization in order to reap the most benefits from these changes. It affects several project success factors, such as the speed of adoption, utilization rate, and proficiency.
Take, for example, a company’s implementation of new software. If one day, out of the blue, IT installs this new tool without any warning, training, or explanation of why it is needed, we can expect that employees will overlook it and not make the effort to teach themselves how it works (and if they do, it will most likely take them a while to be fully proficient). However, with the proper introduction and coaching, these same employees will ramp up much faster and be comfortable enough to use the tool more often and more efficiently. This same thought process can be applied to any other change program implemented within a business, from reorgs to M&A. Therefore, whether or not a project meets its objectives largely relies on effective Change Management.
Here is an outline of the process behind successful Change Management:
- Success starts from the top. The management team must have a clear vision and a defined strategy.
- Middle management informs, mobilizes, and makes it obvious to every employee in the organization. Each role will now support the vision.
- Measurable and identifiable KPIs will be set up to monitor result.
However, like most disciplines, change management continues to evolve and improve. A 2018 research report indicates that, of the change practitioners who were successful in meeting or exceeding their objectives, 60% had integrated project and Change Management. As such, combining the two disciplines increases the chance that a project succeeds.
While Change Management focuses on the “who” and the “why”, project management revolves around the “how”, a.k.a. the tools and methodologies necessary to complete a project. Thus, it is evident that these would complement one another. Change Management is more informal as it is based on the reaction of employees to new initiatives, whereas project management is all about precise timelines, data-driven decisions, and well-defined processes. When a project kicks off, PMs will hone in on achieving maximum value through specific objectives, and change practitioners will ensure that its effect on employees is handled in such a way that minimizes stress and opposition and fosters a positive environment and smooth transition. The two disciplines are mutually beneficial, as employee support reduces delays and allows for the project to be completed in a timely manner, and structured processes allow for Change Management professionals to better inform and train impacted employees.
There will always be resistance to change - it is inherent to human nature. However, by putting people first and integrating project management processes with the Change Management model, it is possible for a business to mitigate the impact that change will have on its employees all while exceeding project objectives.