Change management can be applied to many types of business improvement programs - from radical changes like BPR, mergers and acquisitions or new product releases to incremental changes like continuous improvement processes or Six Sigma. Change management is the process and tools - such as communications, sponsorship, coaching, training and resistance management plan - for addressing the people side of change. Change management is not an event - it is a process of helping individuals understand, internalize and support a change. The challenge for project teams is to effectively integrate change management with their project management activities.
Conceptual business improvement and change management processes
To see how integration takes place, we begin by looking at a conceptual picture of a business improvement process and a change management process. Although the pictures below show high-level steps, most business improvement processes (TQM, BPR, Six Sigma, reorganization, etc.) contain the five steps below. Likewise, while the change management process will vary and be more complicated than shown below, these five areas represent some of the major activities of change management.
Business improvement process
Change management process
Your starting point changes what you do first
If you begin change management when you begin your project, you are able to integrate the change management steps into the project steps. This is shown conceptually in the table below called Scenario 1.
Integration primarily occurs in one of two ways. First, someone from your team (like you) introduces the importance of change management and the people side of change at the project initiation or second, your organization has made a commitment to building change competence and utilizes change management as standard practice on every project. When change management is started at the beginning of a project, the activities can be fully integrated. Your first step will be to develop a change management strategy based on the characteristics of your particular change and the attributes of your organization that is being changed. Change readiness assessments will help you decide on your strategy and how you will customize the change management plans you are going to develop.
Unfortunately in many cases, change management is added on to a project after it is well underway. The project team may be preparing for implementation or implementation may have already started, and often times the catalyst for using change management is resistance by employees, supervisors and managers. In this situation, your project has already begun to experience difficulties, including productivity declines, active and passive resistance, and possible loss of valued employees (all of these can be prevented or minimized when change management is integrated from the very beginning). In this scenario, your first activity is to find out what has already happened. You must take the pulse of the organization, identify the source of resistance, why it has emerged and manage it effectively and quickly. After you have controlled the damage that is already done, you move into the change management process and develop a strategy for the rest of the project.
Change management process
The picture below depicts the three-phase change management process and the associated outputs of the process. This process is based on best practices research with over 900 organizations.
Change characteristics profile
Organizational attributes profile
Change management strategy guidelines
Change management team structure
Sponsor structure and responsibilities
Resistance management plan
Master change management plan
Project team activities
Compliance audit reports
Corrective action plans
After action review
By integrating change management and project management, you will be ensured of a more effective implementation of your project.
Tim Creasey is Prosci’s Chief Innovation Officer and a globally recognized leader in change management. His work forms the foundation of the largest body of knowledge in the world on managing the people side of change to deliver organizational results.