For those who have led a Change Management effort, you know all too well the challenges of accommodating diverse audiences within your overall Change effort. Before you can begin to address the Change needs, though, you first need a plan. Your Change plan needs to be understood and endorsed by the project team– and that’s where many Change practitioners encounter challenges. Change work isn’t always a linear progression and few people outside the Change world understand how all the Change information leads to a cohesive, measurable result. Here are three tips that we, at KSI, have found to be successful in developing and gaining support for your Change plan.
Although Change Management is often touted as integral to a project’s success, Change activities don’t always receive the respect they deserve. Change Leaders are often left to scramble for the scraps of time available after the primary work effort is done. This often limits the ability to develop a comprehensive Change plan that addresses the needs of multiple audiences and points of view.
What changes this dynamic? DATA. Having Change-specific data presented in dashboards, spreadsheets and other familiar presentation tools familiar to project leaders tends to establish the credibility needed for an equal “seat at the table” with other project workstreams. Before the project begins, make sure to clearly articulate the data you will gather and the results it will produce. Explain how your Change data is like other “hard data” assembled for the project and why you need it. Demonstrate how you will assemble your sets of Change data to create a detailed and effective Change Plan that will achieve the project goals.
For a sample of the types of Change data gathering that builds confidence in your Change plan, see this video that highlights the data gathering KSI uses to construct a detailed and effective Change Plan.
Project Leaders want to know what’s coming but Change plans are heavily dependent on decisions made by other groups. Everyone doesn’t always understand that we can’t tell the story if we don’t yet know the characters (audiences), points of conflict (changes required), and the resolution to the conflict (new actions or behaviors).
Project Leaders tend to be less interested in the subjects of your messages and are more interested in when messages will start to be delivered to the organization.
This is where the Change team needs to rely on their collective experience to quickly assemble a basic communication delivery timeline. Using the Change data gathered (item #1 above), predict the timeline and general subjects for the first set of messages. Once you have defined the starting point, there is a fairly predictable pattern of topic introduction, education, and reinforcement that can be applied to expand the initial communication schedule. Be sure to remind project sponsors/leaders that the plan is only preliminary and that it will evolve as more decisions are made. The ability to create the communication schedule in the early phases of the project goes a long way to satisfy the persistent “when will we communicate?” question that is top of mind for many leaders.
Project teams are accustomed to using numbers to report status. For technology projects, the numbers are often represented by the processes designed or tested or the number of integrations built. For organizational design projects, the numbers typically reflect things like headcount numbers of the number of policies that have been reviewed and modified to support the new organizational structure.
Although we have seen a trend toward reporting more numbers in Change projects, many Change efforts still rely primarily on reporting dates and whether tasks are on or behind schedule. Remembering that data most often engenders confidence, report up-to-date figures on the number of messages or materials that are not started, in progress or completed. If you cannot yet draft messages while waiting for other decisions to be made, report on the number of dependencies that require you to move ahead.
Identify the critical dates that must be met by others that enable you to begin writing. The more hard data you can share, the more the leaders and other workstreams will recognize that Change isn’t merely the caboose on the project train.
As more of our work features increased automation and emphasizes cost effectiveness, the Change approach needs to translate its actions into segments of work that can be more closely compared to the types of binary decisions, actions, and due dates that are part and parcel of other of projects within your organization. This is not to say that Change will ever lose the highly skilled artistic nature of the work we do. It’s more about the packaging of that art that can make the difference between being accepted versus being consulted at the leadership table.