Why do we need a Change Programme?

‘People are the most important part of this programme’ and, ‘this will be a better place to work post change’ are often at the forefront of any announcement of a large business change programme.

It is very important to set the programme up in the right way to engage staff in pending changes, this is not the problem. The problem can come later when the positive impact of the changes are neither measured nor referred to ever again.

In the worst case, the programme is measured in terms of time, cost and financial benefit delivery with only a passing reference to the improvements in ways of working and the future organisation generally being a better place. The delivery and embedding of these improvements are often given to the Change Management professional when in reality it should be ‘owned’ by the programme team.

What are Change Management Practitioners?

Change Management practitioners often charge Project Management with being too ‘hard’, milestone oriented, and lacking in its approach to the people side of change. Project Management practitioners have been known to counter this by suggesting the nebulous nature, ‘fluffiness’ and a lack of delivery focus being the key facets of Change Management.

Both may even occasionally be correct but are essentially missing the point of programmes. Programmes must be where the two disciplines meet. What should happen is that the best parts of each are merged, creating a synergy of a benefit focussed, engaging and structured approach to the change. What cannot be allowed to happen is the creation of a ‘silo’ mentality within the programme.  A couple of points to help avert this scenario are below:

Change and engagement activities CAN be planned

Project Management can deal with stakeholder management not just in the analysis sense either. If the analysis reveals a certain member of the leadership team to be a potential blocker, then one possible way of getting her on board could be to get another member to have a chat to find out why and help progress her thinking. This is not quite as tangible as ‘completion of UAT testing’, but potentially more important to the long term success of your programme.  It can also be planned as an activity, with Stakeholder Engagement featuring heavily in the plan.

Have joint change and project planning workshops

This can help other team members to see the benefits of both the ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ side of the programme.  It can also present a united front and reinforce that the disciplines both work best when interwoven.

Involve communications in planning activities

This is probably libellous, but I’ll mention it anyway; comms people aren’t very good at planning. This is ok though because project managers are. If you need to produce a more accessible version of your plan in something other than Gantt chart software, then that is what you need to do. The buy-in and relationship with Communications, as an extension of the Change Management, is a vital part of the Change programme.

This is likely the route where the bulk of people in the organisation get updates on the progress of the programme, and more importantly how it impacts them. There is a chance you are already working in this collaborative way in your programmes and that the points mentioned above are just part of working as a good team.

If this is the case, then great, but the conscious addressing of these points can help ensure the programme not only delivers to time and cost but the change ‘sticks’ in the future organisation.