September 23, 2021

Use Project Management for Smooth Organizational Change

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As organizations grow, business evolves and process reengineering takes place as a part of the continuous improvement journey to support the organizational needs. On one side, a whole task force, internal and maybe external might have to be involved in this evolution. On the other side, many stakeholders and end-users have to adapt to this change to successfully integrate with the new systems and processes. It becomes imperative to tie these parts to the whole successfully for a smooth transition. This article throws light on various steps that take place for this smooth transition at the 3 levels – leadership level, implementation level, and operational level.

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Transitioning systems at the leadership level

To successfully transition a system at the leadership level, the company must organize the leadership for this project. That process happens in three steps.

Achieve buy-in from key leadership

As the need for change is assessed, the first step is to communicate this need to key leadership. This could mean different things to different organizations – leadership could be:

  • the ones whose contribution and support is imperative
  • those who demonstrate maximum influence among the end-users
  • the functional department heads.

A buy-in is sought from the leaders. This step ensures maximum positive stakeholders within the organization to drive and deliver the transition. This also eliminates future risk of uncovering some important system or process features from a stakeholder with a great technical expertise that may be later harder to integrate or come with high costs.

Identify a task-force

The leaders together identify one change champion and a task force (made up of teams or departments) who will implement the change. This would be the team who will be involved in the day to day implementation of the transition. At times, there may be a need to identify if the entire capability to implement the change exists within the organization, subject matter experts, external suppliers or vendors are required in parts or whole. This is best identified at this stage so the internal task force can be aligned with the required competencies.

Communication to end-users

Typically, a town hall is conducted to communicate the upcoming transition to the end-users. At this time the team would articulate

  • what the new system or process holds for the future
  • why this change is important for the organization
  • what are some benefits of this effort
  • when the transition would happen

It is important to instill the change mindset in the users, clear the air about fears or hesitations that may present themselves, and enable their technical and operational preparedness to accept the transition. Despite all the efforts, some may welcome the change while some others may express concerns. Be understanding of the users when this situation arises, and give them time to acclimate to the transition in order to encourage smooth adoption.

Implementing change in the organization

There are two main steps to implement change within the organization: make a plan and follow the plan. While seemingly simple, these two steps can cause stress if not handled carefully.

Create the roadmap

The champion and the task force create the roadmap or plan for the change. This will

  • Outline activities and key milestones along the transition journey
  • Identify external interdependencies for deliverables from subject matter experts, vendors, and others
  • Mark out important review and decision points during the development of the new system or process itself
  • Establish workflow disruption points like black-outs and go-lives
  • Define training and preparedness related dates

The roadmap should also include key dates for all items. A roadmap is an important artifact that helps the team plan, track and monitor the progress of implementation. Depending upon the ability of the task force to use scheduling tools, simple Kanban-style boards like Trello or more complex scheduling software like Microsoft Project or Primavera may be used.

Follow the roadmap, implementation, and acceptance

As the new processes and systems get built, it is a best practice to invite representation from user groups in addition to the leaders, champions, and taskforce for the review meetings. This will increase useful insights and feedback on the UX (user experience) that will go a long way in improving the product along the implementation cycle. For the users, it would offer a sense of being a part of the process, thus maximizing chances for successful integration into the future workplace.

Change at the operational level

While implementing a roadmap to change may feel like the end of a systemic change, you’ll need to keep in mind that turning the software, process, or system on will not guarantee buy-in. Making real change at the operational level requires training and work to fully transition the team.

Assess training needs

Depending upon whether it is an altogether new system or process or change to some parts of the systems, one needs to assess what new knowledge and skills are required by the users to successfully use the new system. It is also a good idea to check with subject matter experts or vendors who would have implemented this across many organizations and hence may be able to give handy tips on areas which need more focus from their learnings in the past.

Training modality and implementation

Several modalities of training are possible – in person instructor led; online instructor led, online self-paced, simple document review over a document that calls out the areas of change with specific actions, pairing with a mentor for ongoing support to name a few.

Picking one or multiple modalities for implementation would completely depend upon the extent of training needs, geographic spread of the users, their calendars, and what works for an organization.

The final transition

Introducing a new system or process into an organization is easier from a transition point of view than making changes or new additions to parts of the existing systems or processes. At this juncture, the first step is to identify the dependencies and parts that still rely on the prior system. This will be followed up with updating and migration of the prior system to a version compatible with the new or changed system.

Good transition plans also identify and communicate the black outs (downtimes) well in advance to the user group in order to minimize disruption to workflows. In addition, it is mission critical to ensure the planned transition related works are completed within the target downtime.

A change requires planning for successful execution

Managing change / transition is an amalgamation of involving key stakeholders for their acceptance of the idea and engagement, careful planning of the steps involved, implementation and continuous monitoring, tying in the dependencies together along with efficient and effective communication. With these kept in mind, transitions would be a huge success.