Thought Leadership Articles

    6 Steps to Effectively Starting a Change Project

    Jul 28, 2022 | Posted by David Lee

    Once our Certified Prosci® Change Practitioners leave the relative safety of the classroom and are in their working environment, what seemed a relatively clear change management process can feel a bit ambiguous and intimidating. For this reason, we will make it a point to check in to see how our participants either informally or through our inclusive community of practice (see Practitioner Hub). Our goal is to ensure participants are successful applying what they have learned. We never want participants who need ongoing support to feel that we left them at the classroom door.

    During our post programme follow ups, one of the most common questions I get is, “How do I get started?” or the related question, “What steps can I take to effectively start a change project?”

    These are challenging questions because the solution can depend on many factors. How far are they in the project implementation? How experienced is your project leadership? What is the experience with change management in the organisation? That said, there are 6 clear steps that one can take in most cases that will get a project on the right track in almost any instance. They are:

    1. Ensure there is a clear definition of the change and successful outcomes

    2. Measure the health of the project change and create an action plan to improve it

    3. Determine the stakeholders and do a complete impact analysis

    4. Identify, define, educate, and activate the key roles

    5. Follow a structured approach like the Prosci® 3-Phase Methodology, and

    6. Assess the extended or special needs of the organisation

    If one follows these initial steps, you will find that each helps define and clarify the succeeding steps making it easier to build momentum and affect change. Let’s explore each in greater detail.

    1) Change Definition

    Ensuring a clear definition of specific business changes, the benefits they contribute to the organisation as well as measures that determine success, is essential to aligning the vision of the future state to understood organisational outcomes, shoring up support, and enabling change to be successful. An imprecise definition of the change means the project is more likely to go off course and need major corrections down the road. People will interpret the change through their own lens or even utilise the ambiguity to drive their own agendas. Having a clear definition enables alignment in the organisation and enables the change team to define KPI’s to measure and reinforce the change throughout.

    While change definition is the first step to achieving success. It is difficult to achieve and often overlooked or avoided. To this end, the CMC Global Change Definition Workshop brings together elements of leadership, systems thinking, design thinking and agile to equip a team with a structured process for defining and prioritising a purposeful change initiative.

    2) Project Health

    Knowing the key components for and measuring the health of the project change provides immediate feedback and enables actions that to shore up and ensure the project is on the right course. Such an assessment is useful at any stage in the project and should be done throughout to see if the health of the project is improving. Once the initial results are assessed, the project team can develop a project health improvement plan and review process.

    For this step, Prosci® provides its practitioners an assessment tool called the Prosci Change Triangle. Using this, the change team will build on the outputs of the Change Definition Workshop and work with key stakeholders to:

    • Quantify the current health of the change and its likelihood to succeed in the current state using 4 dimensions.
    • Agree a point-by-point action plan to improve the health of the change on each dimension.
    • Agree a review cycle of this PCT health up to and beyond the go-live schedule
    • This work all helps us to answer the key question “Are we equipped to achieve the outcomes we are trying to achieve from this change?”

    3) Stakeholder Group Impact

    Developing a stakeholder impact analysis is a key step that most organisation often jump into without careful consideration, even leaving to vendors (on technology projects) to assess. The challenge here is making sure one takes the time and has the right approach to do a complete assessment. Most projects only focus on the most impacted groups, but in a complex organisation, there may be impacts that are unforeseen and difficult to determine.

    In this step, a capable change team will identify all the impacted employee groups and assess the impact that the change will have on each. To make this easier, Prosci® has identified 10 common areas that change can impact an employee group and provided simple tool to assess what degree they will be impacted. Once this high-level assessment is done, the project change team can prioritise and explore the specifics further as needed.

    To accomplish this, the change team will reach out and work with stakeholder groups to drill down on the assessment. This enables stakeholders to validate any assumptions and begin to make them aware of how best to prepare, equip and support themselves and their team to successfully adopt the change with the required level of proficiency necessary to deliver the expected business benefits. The change team can then prioritise its activities to support the different employee groups appropriately.

    4) Key roles

    Another step that is often overlooked or mismanaged is the identification, education, and activation of key roles for a project. Quite typically, the project is assigned to a person or a small team with the expectation that they will carry the burden of the effort for the entire organisation.

    This is not only a poor strategy, but it can lead to fatal results. In fact, successful change projects require multiple key roles played by people throughout the organisation. These roles need to be identified, defined, and equipped with the knowledge and training they need to be successful. Without this we often see confusion, animosity, and frustration fester all of which and increase the level of resistance and risk associated with the project.

    In this step, the change team will identify key roles required for effective Change Management (e.g. Leaders/Sponsors, People Managers, Project Team) as well as necessary extended roles (SME’s, Change Agent Network, Training, etc.). They will seek to understand the awareness of each player and develop a roadmap to prepare them to be successful in their change role.

    This is a where a large portion of a Change Practitioner’s time needs to be spent on a project. Leaders need to be briefed one how to be effective sponsors of change. People managers need to be informed how vital it is for them to be strong coaches for their team and taught how to manage key aspects of the change process. And, it helps if the project team in charge of the implementation have a good understanding of the what the change team is doing, how to integrate this into the project plan, and why it will help them be successful.

    5) Structured Process

    Having a structured approach to people side of change has proven to be a key factor for project success. Yet, it is not always employed. Despite all of the literature, research and real-world proof, project leaders and teams still do not always see the value of the people side efforts. While they are disciplined about how the develop, implement, and deliver a change; the process for enabling people to engage, adopt, and use the change is still often haphazard, disorganised, or just plain forgotten. While the evidence supporting a structured is explored in detail in other articles on this website; I will tell you is that from personal experience leading change in small, mid-sized and large Fortune 500 companies; a structured, disciplined, and scalable approach to managing change is the difference between probable success and probable failure.

    Therefore, our recommended next step to launching an effective change project to engage Phase 1 of the Prosci 3-Phase Methodology. By this point, the change team will have done much of the Define Success and Define Impact stages and will want to complete the Risk Assessment to Define the Approach. This will lead to a powerful Change Strategy that is customised and scalable to the change project.

    6) Extended Needs

    As I stated at the beginning of the article, every change and every organisation is different, so the approach to implementing effective change management on a project can vary widely. This is why at this point we will advise the change team to take a step back and assess if there are any additional gaps that need to be filled or any unique challenges to overcome.

    We have seen a number of common issues come up at this point. This can range from project teams without a lot of experience running formal projects, to people managers who are not adept at change communications, or leaders who just need some coaching to help them get over the speed bumps. CMC has responded to these challenges by creating a suite of Skills Builders and Accelerators to help organisations through these rough spots. We encourage the organisations we work with to make an honest assessment of their extended needs and include building in solutions into their plans. Everything that they do to build their capability will not only benefit the current project but future projects as well.

    Change is a difficult process and knowing where to start can be a big challenge for any project change team. But if you follow the steps above and utilise the tools that CMC and Prosci® provide, you should be able to ensure a positive beginning and that will provide the momentum for your project down the road.

    Of course, we are happy to help along the way.

    Topics: Prosci training, Difficulties of Change Management, Planning and Executing Change Management, Getting Started with Change Management