When I’m working with clients who need help around communicating change I’m often asked “what is change management?” and why does it need dedicated, specialist people to deliver it. In this article I aim to explore what change management is and how it is different from traditional project management.
For me, change management and more importantly embedding change are the people related activities required to support the ‘thing’ (legislation, process, software, culture, behaviour) that is changing. This is often labeled, the people side of change.
I often find it helps to compare the activities of change management with, what for many are, project management activities and what happens across the 4 phases of a project.
This is not intended as a definitive list of project management activities. Rather it is intended to highlight the additional change management activities that are often missed.
The execution of these change management activities will not lead to you embedding change. This will need the pre-requisites of change to be present, active sponsorship and effective stakeholder engagement from the project manager, project team and change agents.
Prepare for the change
This stage in traditional project management is focused around agreeing scope and assembling the project team. Sometimes stakeholder engagement will be seen as a key activity but often only from the perspective of the project rather than how people will be affected by the change personally.
The key change management activities in this phase are to:
- Identify the extent of the change required
- Assess the organisation’s current state
- Identify and prepare sponsors and leaders
- Identify and engage stakeholders
- Develop your change strategy
Design the change
This phase is traditionally where a lot of project management effort starts and the focus tends to be on technology and business process change with some elements of training and implementation.
During this phase change management needs to:
- Design the desired future state of the organisation following the change
- Create the impact analysis of moving from current to future state
Build the change
In this phase project management effort is typically focused on delivering the technology and business process change. Often the technology can lead other activities as it can be difficult to build business processes and training solutions without knowing what the solution will look like.
Change management activities during this phase will typically be to:
- Create the communication, L&D, HR, business process and implementation plans
- Build people management capability to support them with additional skills
Implement the change
In this phase project management effort is focused on how the change solution will be delivered especially how the technology will be implemented. Often this is a choice between a ‘big bang’ approach where the technology is turned on overnight or a phased gradual, trial implementation.
This is the phase where change management activities are most often included as part of the project management activities. In addition to the technology the change management activities are:
- Implement new HR and business processes
- Complete any training and implement L&D plans
- Communicate implementation and rollout plans
Reinforce the change
This phase is often not included in traditional project management activities as success for many organisations is measured as the delivery or implementation of the technology or business process not in how successfully it is being used or the whether the business outcomes have been achieved.
Change management activities in this phase are often missed in traditional project management activities, they are to:
- Collect feedback from across the organisation on how the change has been implemented
- Analyse the metrics you have put in place to measure the effectiveness of your change
- Diagnose any gaps and address and resistance and create action plans
- Implement action plans
Dedicated resource for change management
Some of the activities listed above can be performed by the departments associated with the activities such as HR and L&D. However, when it come to understanding the current and future state of the organisation and communicating change there can be many advantages to bringing in permanent or temporary specialists to help advise and deliver on these activities.
If you would like more information on change management activities or discuss whether you need specialist help, please get in touch.