Apr 27, 2017

Change Management: Start at the Beginning

Posted by Pam Toth | 0 Comments

“Not every project manager is equipped to manage organizational change.”

Editor's Note: Welcome to the second in our Expert Series. We are thrilled to have Pam Toth, a leader in project management improvement and practice at Owens Corning. Her thoughts on organizational change are the voice of experience.

Organizational Change Management (OCM) is a necessary component of delivering a successful project and a sustainable product.  I have seen and been involved in more projects than I care to remember that delivered a flawless product, only to see it quickly fade from use or never get off the ground due to insufficient consideration given to its impacts.

Nevertheless, I understand why, at times, OCM is not given the attention it deserves. As Owens Corning set out on our journey to create an enterprise-wide project management capability that would set every project up for success, we initially decided not to fold in a change management capability along with the project management elements. Mainly, we wanted to keep the initial rollout as simple and straightforward as possible. However, it didn’t take long to realize that we could in no way ignore this integral piece of the puzzle.  With every conversation, over and over, we heard that change was a pain point that our people felt way too often.

So, about six months into our deployment, I began to work with a change management leader in the organization to integrate the language, methods and tools of OCM into the project management capability. As I worked through this, I found an interesting disparity in how business leaders, project sponsors, stakeholders, project managers and even project team members see how, when and who should lead the change aspects of a project.

As a professional project manager, the change management elements of awareness, motivation, education, training, and so on, are very much part of building a project schedule.  Yet, many others in the company treated this work separately.  With this revelation alone, it is easy to see why problems may occur when preparing people for change.  There is much more to it, of course.  Sometimes we have unrealistic expectations of a project manager, both in bandwidth and skills on managing change.  Either scenario can be a recipe for failure.

We must take into account that not every project manager is equipped to manage organizational change.  Some project managers may be very well versed on the people side of change.  Others may need to rely on a change partner in the planning and execution of change management.  Either resourcing approach can be quite successful.  The key is to recognize, early in the planning process, the level of change being taken on and to assess the abilities and bandwidth of the project manager in charge of the change.  As you get started, assess skills and resource requirements to prepare employees in a manner that sustains the project outcomes.

Today we promote and educate on early change management planning for all projects.  We have embarked on a sponsorship awareness campaign on understanding their role as key change leaders and the time and effort required to be impactful to the change.  Similar to our project management efforts, we are holding change management educational workshops to skill up our workforce on recognizing the phases of change and how to proactively plan to work through them.

The trick, I think, is planning for an organization while remembering it is an individual who is being impacted.  Each person will ebb and flow though the phases of change at different speeds.  You will not be able to plan for each individual but you can certainly prepare for as many likely scenarios as possible.  The role of the project manager or change partner is to arm every change leader with the education and skills they need to lead each person through the journey.

For more on OCM, please refer to our blog series on the topic here.

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