Effective change management is vital to the success of any project that alters the way people work, regardless of whether the changes are to processes, systems, structures or technologies.  As organisations embark on projects, there are practical steps that managers can take.

Survey the landscape

You need to have a thorough understanding of the nature of your organisation and the way it functions across all disciplines before embarking on any changes, including internal and external customers, service users and suppliers.  Legacy processes and systems need to be fully considered and understood.

The starting position can often be fragmented or ‘silo’ based but it is important to view all processes as a whole.  This is often the case in well-established organisations, or those where growth has come through mergers and acquisitions.  Try to avoid focussing on one particular process or department, it’s important to look at where you want to improve in relation to overall strategy. What is it that the organisation wants to achieve in the long term?

Determine your goals and don’t be constrained by current thinking

Determining your primary goals at the outset and benchmarking these against best practice and industry leaders, enables you to target areas for improvement, create your business case, and then monitor against these targets on a continuous basis.

There is a need for compliance and transparency throughout. Choose which processes are most important, analyse the present case, and don’t be constrained by current thinking.  Always keep in mind the strategic goal and plan your journey towards this, taking the organisation with you.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

All change programmes need to be built on solid foundations.  There has to be a compelling reason for the change, and this must be communicated clearly and in a genuine manner.  It is important not to criticise earlier processes or ways of working, but give a firm reason why change is needed and how this will benefit the organisation as a whole.  Be consistent with your message at all times.

At the outset, it can be useful to create teams to share best practice knowledge and to define how the end result will look.  This will enable people to engage with the project at an earlier stage, making it easier to share information, define requirements and provide direction.

It is vital that senior management clearly understand the nature of the project and the changes involved, and that they are made integral to the communication plan.  Realise that you will need talk to talk to individuals who are affected by the change in very different ways.  That requires practice and understanding.

Always respond to questions, make time for groups and individuals. Plan regular project meetings.  Those who contribute to the change and feel included, will be more likely to embrace it.  Identify those people who are strong advocates for the change; they may sit in unlikely roles and not traditionally seem like candidates, but they offer a powerful voice to support communications throughout the wider business.

Take responsibility

This is perhaps the most powerful, yet refreshing, piece of advice we’ve received from a client about their role in a change programme. It is essential to the success that the project owners take responsibility for stakeholders’ reactions.  If anyone feels out of line with the project goals, try not to criticise them, but seek out ways in which you can communicate with them more effectively and change your approach accordingly.  The project team needs to understand and accept their responsibility to the individual. Create tangible targets for them and spend time clarifying and discussing these.  Once the business case is approved, inform people with timelines, face-to-face briefings and one-to-one support.

Communicating change early in an open and honest way, helps to manage uncertainty and generates positive participation of those involved.  Doing so reduces project risk, increases adoption and significantly improves ROI.

There will always be challenges when handling a project – the solution is to deal with them positively.  Be aware that you might need extra resources. Ensure these are part of the plan so everyone is aware of this at the outset.

Celebrate success

Celebrate achievements and milestones, for individuals and teams as a whole.  Be creative in the way you communicate and celebrate stages along the journey.  Take time to thank all individuals involved and showcase their success across the business. After all people invest a great deal of their professional and personal energy into these projects and that deserves to be acknowledged.

In summary, a successful project requires a clear rationale; the support and involvement of everyone involved; communication and consistency of message; and the commitment to dig deep and support each other during challenging times.  Be prepared to work with changes as they emerge, but never lose sight of your objective.

If you’d like to learn more about how we partner with our clients to deliver successful projects and fully support them from project concept to completion, please contact us info@embrace-digital.co.uk or call 0333 577 2629.

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