When it comes to transforming core systems, change management can play a crucial role -- but only if you avoid some common errors.
In my last blog, my engineer self admitted that the root causes for why core systems replacement projects don't hit the mark in the business case are more likely related to people, not the technology. I stated that the business only changes when individual contributors each do their jobs differently.
Now let’s take a more detailed look.
There are many models out there that provide a framework for understanding change. One that we use frequently at Wipfli is the Prosci model, which is focused on understanding change at the individual level. Boiling it down to its simplest form, this model says the change must progress for each individual from awareness to desire to knowledge to ability to reinforcement.
Understanding that, Mistake #1 to avoid is measuring the need for change management based on executives’ paths, not their people’s. The executives responsible for the program and ultimately for the change management strategy, approach and investment are by definition the leaders furthest down their own change paths. That is, they are, in all probability, way beyond the awareness and desire stages. (Hint, hint: That’s why this core systems project is underway). And, not uncommonly, because of where they are, they may not understand the need to make a significant investment in change management.
Once you embrace the need for change management, there are an array of tools and techniques at your disposal. These include communications, sponsorship, coaching, training and resistance management. Mistake #2 to avoid is loading everything into communications as a one-and-done approach. In fact, I would guess that when most of us hear the term change management, we immediately think of communication. That’s good because change starts with awareness. But did you know that it takes something like five to seven communications for a message to be truly heard and understood by all? Remember that perfect project kickoff email you sent last week that summarized everything perfectly? Yeah – maybe 20% of your audience remembers it today. So communication must be multiple messages using multiple channels coming from multiple stakeholders.
Multiple studies over the years have reaffirmed the significant correlation between a project’s success and change management’s impact and, more specifically, the importance of the project sponsor's role in both. Succinctly, the earlier the project sponsor is engaged in the project and the earlier the project sponsor embraces change management, the better the chance for success.
Mistake #3 concerns the project sponsor and her change management role. Just because you have a smart and engaged leader as your sponsor, don’t assume she knows what’s supposed to be done every week in a transformational core systems project if she hasn’t played that role before. For example, does the project sponsor know to build a coalition among the key managers and supervisors whom the affected employees will most want to hear from? At the end of the day, the employee will turn to his immediate boss and not the project sponsor to really get the WIIFM (what’s-in-it-for-me).
You get the idea. As much as agile project management and delivery approaches and methodologies have been embraced, used and hardened over the past 10 years, we need to do the same for change management.