As change management professionals, we are constantly reminding our colleagues, clients and leaders that change management effectiveness does not begin and end in a classroom. Effective competency building takes time and action before every training event and after every training event.

The funny part of this all…change practitioners are the first to forget this when it comes to their own training. Think back to your first change management training. You left your program excited and armed with new tools and approaches to increase the likelihood of success on your project. You were ready to go…or at least you thought you were. It likely did not take you long to realize that having knowledge is only part of the equation. In the months following your certification experience, applying change management within the realities of your organization probably revealed new opportunities and challenges.

Here are five key lessons other change management experts have learned—and the many questions they learned to ask—once they went from learning change management concepts in the Prosci Change Management Certification Program to actually applying it at their organization:

1. There’s work to be done before you start applying change management

In the Prosci Change Management Certification Program, we start our work under the assumption that a clearly articulated, well-defined solution awaits you. We focus on what you do once you’ve been put on a project as a change management practitioner. The truth is not every project has been perfectly designed or well-articulated.

If this is a challenge you face in the future, know that there are two things that have to happen before you can start to plan and execute on change management activities: solution design and change definition.

Research shows that the earlier you are involved in project design, the better. Pushing to get a seat at the project table earlier is warranted. If your organizational culture or structure doesn’t allow for that, there are specific questions that can be asked—like those you'll find in the Change Management ROI Calculator—to ensure the change management practitioner/team are fully aware of the project objectives and outcomes as they have been articulated by leadership and the project team. And if these outcomes haven’t been defined, you are doing everyone a favor by asking.

2. Change saturation changes everything

19.3_at_or_past_the_change_saturation_point.pngThe Best Practices in Change Management – 2016 Edition revealed that 78% of participants listed their organization as nearing, at or past the change saturation point. Saturation is something that every organization deals with, and everyone has to approach it differently given their organization’s expectations, culture and other characteristics.

Unaddressed, change saturation can reduce the resources you have to implement your change which will result in lower project results or even failed projects. As a change manager, the reality of change saturation means you need to consider if your organization is ready for another change AND what other changes are already happening. Gaining general awareness of the following questions is the first step:

  • What other small and large changes are happening?
  • How big is the people impact of those changes?
  • How are the timelines for the changes?
  • How are they going?

Change Saturation ModelIf change saturation is a concern, the first step is making leadership aware. If the decision is to keep moving forward, the second step is to understand the constraints that will put on your project and adjust accordingly.

Need more? Prosci's change management saturation model (see image on left) helps you assess the level of saturation in your organization. You can also gain unique insights from discussing change saturation with other change management professionals at the Prosci Experienced Practitioner Program. Learn what they did and how it helped or hurt their change effort.

3. Change management and project management integration can be difficult

Wouldn’t it be nice if everything came together and integrating change management and project management plans was seamless? In reality, we know that is not always the case. Most organizations—but not all—have a project management approach. Based on the maturity of project management and change management, the priorities of project management teams and change management teams can come into conflict. 

Don't be discouraged! When facing a particularly difficult opportunity to integrate your work with a project team, remember (and perhaps remind others) that project management and change management are complementary disciplines that are both working towards a common purpose. For practical tips on what makes integration work, read our article on the success factors of change management and project management integration.

4. SPONSORSHIP IS THE NUMBER ONE obstacle TO SUCCESS

When you first start learning about change management, we start with the assumption that your project has one sponsor who is the right sponsor. You can soon realize that you'll rarely get such a simple scenario. Instead, you could be placed on projects with multiple sponsors, none of whom actually have the capacity to adequately sponsor the project. Or perhaps you work in a matrixed organization with a complex reporting structure. 

Matrixed organizations and multiple sponsors certainly add complexity to change management work. However, there is still good news: the behaviors you need from a sponsor don't change, how you engage them and support them does. Whether working with one sponsor or five, remember the basics of what good sponsorship looks like. This article on the role and importance of sponsorship can give you a refresher.

5. SUCCESS IS LIMITED IF YOU DON’T HAVE A BUDGET AND RESOURCES

budget-and-resources.jpgIt’s easy to get wrapped up in all the planning for change management and breeze over this crucial step. All the planning and designing of plans can be for naught without the time, resources and money needed to execute.

So what can you do to get the resources that you need? How can you still be successful with limited resources? Start by focusing on a compelling business case for change management and learn to articulate the ROI of the investment you are asking for. Being clear and concise on these two elements early can help to ensure you get the adequate support that you need.

HOW CAN YOU PREPARE FOR AND OVERCOME THESE CHALLENGES IN THE MOST MEANINGFUL WAY?

These challenges are often our reality, but they can also be overcome. These very complexities can be what make change management work so satisfying. Organizations and change are messy. Your unique understanding of your organization and its quirks can truly make the difference. Pushing through these difficulties to see new benefits realized through successful change is one of the most rewarding experiences of a change manager's job. 

Prosci knows that the best change management practitioners are those that can think outside of the box and those that collaborate with one another. To foster this, Prosci has created the Experienced Practitioner Program—a three-day program where you can roll up your sleeves with other experienced change management professionals to discuss what really worked, what didn’t and how you got success amid the complex realities of people and organizations.

Prosci Experienced Practitioner Program

Written by
Michelle Haggerty
Michelle Haggerty

Michelle Haggerty has been with Prosci for over seven years and specializes in helping organizations around the world realize their intended results, from small incremental changes to large, transformative changes through the application of change management. Michelle’s main focus in helping client organizations realize success is through knowledge transfer. Michelle leads the strategic direction of Prosci’s training offerings and oversight of delivery quality.