The Formula Below Is Often Used By Project Managers Coping with Poorly Planned Change

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Coping with Poorly Planned Change

So, you are supporting or have been given a new initiative, organizational change, or process/application that you need to implement in your organization. You know the new system will cause disruption, but you’re not sure how much. You also know from listening to other colleagues that a change management process will help improve the chances of success. You didn’t budget much for the change management side of the equation, as “hard” project costs ate up most of it. Your boss said, no doubt, that there is no more money this year. The biggest problem you face is that no communication with the end users has been made so far, and you fear that the project will fall flat on its face.

What is the probability that your project will succeed? What should you do? Well, frankly, your chances of success without a change management system are about the same as flipping a coin – actually, in your case, much less. In fact, one of the most common reasons for the failure of a new initiative is a lack of planning, little or no meaningful involvement of stakeholders, and haphazard implementation. If the benefits are unbelievable; or the participants are not “on board” or at least not completely opposed to it; or there is a real or perceived perception that the initiative is ill-conceived then you have a very serious problem. At this point, money or budget constraints will be background noise within the “range of concerns”.

At this point, you, as the project manager or client, will feel a great deal of fear, mixed with frustration, and maybe even anger that your hands are tied and you are not supported in this task. Fear not, as all may not be lost.

If the project or initiative is ready to “go-live” and nothing has been done to prepare the target audience, then you may have a problem that is outside of the suggestions I offer. However, if at least some of your audience (primary, secondary, and tertiary users) know and some engagement has occurred, then you are “ahead of the game”. Remember Lewin’s paradigm shift: Don’t Freeze- Change-Reset.

The following steps can be used to minimize the damage that will inevitably occur as a result of your (organizational) poor planning for these changes. Your thoroughness in following these steps will determine the amount of friction and disruption that will occur. Make no mistake; if you don’t do anything, then the chances of major disruption will be high. However, if you do something, anything, the distraction will lessen. Although it may seem like everything you try results in fire, remember that if you had done nothing, your situation would have been worse than it is.

Step 1: Scan your audience, environment and the relationship between the two

Scan your primary, secondary and tertiary audiences and profile them instantly. Identify their age, gender, general belief system (ie, they don’t want or don’t change), length of service, union or union, trust/distrust of managers, independence or over-supervision, level of general knowledge about their jobs, communication between justice. and informal levels of job hierarchy (may include corporate v. local), supervisor-subordinate relationships, and information on upcoming change initiatives.

The more information you can gather during this time, the more effective your plans will be as you begin to implement them.

Step 2: Determine the general level of awareness and acceptance

If the audience is well aware of the changes, then this is fine. If they are not aware of the change, then this is bad. Let’s say they are somewhere in the middle. Even if they have some knowledge, they will not know exactly how the change will affect their role or the roles of their work unit or the organization as a whole. It is up to you to find out (by whatever means or sources of information possible) how the change will affect the people in your organization (starting with those directly affected by the initiative). If people can prepare (be accurate in information) in a meaningful, positive way, and are allowed to “step up” and take control, even if the situation seems chaotic and out of control, then they will be more comfortable in their situation. and they will adapt faster than they are given information.

Remember the following formula that provides a general rule for overcoming resistance to change (Beckhard & Harris, 1987):

D (discontent) x V (idea) x F (first steps) > R (resistance to change)

If your audience is collectively dissatisfied with the status quo; the vision you paint is realistic and achievable and understood to take you to a “better place”; the first steps you took are logical, practical, and toward a solution; and these factors taken together are greater than the combined resistance to change, so your job as a change manager will be easier if the reverse is true of any one or more of these factors.

Step 3: Clarify the idea (no BS, just plain facts) about what you expect

Develop a clear, concise, real-world scenario tied to concrete examples of what will happen when the dust settles. Make it believable and “relatable”, so people can visualize and understand what they are going to experience. Understand that people learn differently, and some are more intuitive while others are more visual. Also, the vision must include both an intellectual and an emotional component, both of which must replace the current fear-based, misinformed view that is likely to pop into your audience’s mind automatically.

People respond to honesty. They may not like the message or the messenger, but when the dust settles, they will always say: “At least he was honest with us”. So, based on the analysis of the previous two situations, develop a clear, concise, well-structured but realistic message (to the target audience) in a language that each audience understands and can relate to. Do not use phrases such as: “strategic importance, sound decision-making, service improvement, coordinated service delivery network”, or anything that will confuse or confuse (do not use “obfuscate”) the true nature of the change or what can be expected. . The strategy here is to make sure you “provide enough information; accurate information; tailored to a specific audience and presented in a positive manner..

Step 4: Identify your change agents and deliver the message

Remember, “no man is an island”. Immediately identify a small group of change agents who can help you in your goal. This is important for many reasons – too many to list here and discussed in detail in the literature related to the group. The point is, just do it the way you’ll be happy. But be careful with your choices.

Change agents may or may not be committed to the change initiative. The most important pre-condition is that they understand. If they are the first, then your job is easy. Simply put in the message and deliver it clearly and directly (repeat as necessary). Change agents will need to be people who are respected for their knowledge and will hold “control” or influence over other people in the department. Ideally, these people will be good at what they do, that is, sound art and personality. For those who do not embrace change or commit to change, they build on the seeds of the positive potential effects of change. Make sure you keep an “ear to the ground” about interactions between the people you bring into your inner circle. Be very careful who you choose and how they behave. Change agencies are often “organizational” focused and advocates of organizational improvement. Change agents may or may not be formal leaders, but they are certainly leaders.

Whatever you do, don’t choose a change agent who has taken a position against the change initiative, no matter how much “sway” it has. In my experience, and despite what many textbooks tell you, choosing people with poor overall or practice habits is a very risky proposition. Many times these people lose a lot if they are persuaded to support this initiative and then it falls flat. They will always… repeat, always… default to “I told you so” or “destruct” the project at some point if their personal needs for power, control, or acceptance are not met. At the very least, they will absolve themselves of any responsibility by taking the active position of “they tried to tell you so, but you didn’t listen”. Be careful.

Step 5: Continue messaging and supporting your agents of change

Continue to clarify the message and support your change agents in their efforts. By now, you will have repeatedly told everyone involved in the project in an honest, direct, and positive manner that the disruption will happen, and that it will be manageable and short. Your audience will know the types of things that will happen and some reading will be required. When people are not surprised, but expect and are ready to face expected or known problems (note, I don’t say “challenges”) in a change initiative, they tend to handle it. Your goal here is to create a sense of competence and ownership or “routine” about solving problems. Part of your job will be to manage the surprises that happen (some may even surprise you). If your audience is shocked by something big, then they may panic. Try to avoid panic whenever possible, and treat each problem as something that can be solved. Almost everyone likes to solve problems, so creating this kind of environment will improve the chances of success.

Step 6: The magic of time

During the transition, keep insisting that the “full season” will see the emergence of the current crisis as another “day in the life”. This new initiative will be integrated into the organizational culture (or may be the culture) and the benefits of the new way of doing things will outweigh the costs. Also, those who manage during the transition will have new skills to rely on when future changes occur in the organization. Change is part of the working world now. The days of 30 years of service in one company, without change are over – the economy, technology, social and environmental factors have seen this. Make sure that you always stress that the problems that arise now will take longer – maybe sooner rather than later – and also focus on the benefits that the new situation / new system will improve and surpass the “old way” of doing things.

I wish you the best of luck in your transition. If you need help, please call Busby & Associates, and we are happy to help you with your current and future transitions.

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