Importance of Change Management for Project Success

Change takes place in the organization every day. Companies introduce change through new projects and initiatives for a variety of reasons, such as to improve performance, increase profits, or enhance competitive advantage. A project to implement a new technology, re-engineer a process, or pursue company-wide transformation will result in changes that affect people. And until people fully adopt the project and use it as intended, the change will be incomplete and its full benefits will remain unrealized.

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What Is Change Management?

Change management is the discipline of helping people move from a current situation to an improved future state. It employs people, processes, and tools to manage changes in projects and initiatives, so organizations achieve their strategic goals. Change management supports projects by helping teams adapt to new processes.

When a company initiates a project, it results in new business processes that impact the way how people have been working. By managing change, change leaders can help address resistance, reduce performance impacts, and secure sustainable benefits quickly.

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The Challenges of Change Management

A new project or initiative can create a significant impact on the ways individuals do their work on a daily basis. Change resulting from this new project can impact processes, systems, tools, job roles, workflows, mindsets, and behaviors. Individuals resist change for common reasons. One is fear of the unknown. Another is the uncertainty of relearning.

Other challenges are complacency, lack of stakeholder support, and insufficient training and resources. But a more recent challenge has emerged in 2021. The amount of change the average employee can absorb before fatiguing has significantly diminished as they cope with uncertainties from recent events concerning the economy, job security, and health. Change leaders know that for organizational change to happen, individual change should happen first.

The amount of change the average employee can absorb before fatiguing has significantly diminished.

Unlike project management, change management does not have formal technical processes. But at its core, change management can apply structured approaches that include helpful knowledge, processes, and tools. When applied appropriately, these approaches will increase the chances of successful adoption and deep placement of change that affects people, processes, organizations, and culture.

The successful implementation of the project goes hand-in-hand with the conscientious delivery of change that accompanies the people involved as if in a journey.

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How to Implement a Change Management Plan

Change management ADKARStrategic business initiatives that require high-level organizational changes often fail because individual employees fail to understand or gain the knowledge how to successfully make the change.

The ADKAR model for individual change management can provide a framework to enable a person make the transition and address any roadblock or barrier along the way. ADKAR describes the five building blocks of individual change as awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, and reinforcements. The model presents a list of questions that ADKAR answers and help the individual employee make the change and move from their current state to their future state.

Key actions that ensure acceptance of an individual change:

  • Equip leaders with the right strategies and tools
  • Provide individuals with the right information, motivation, and ability to move through changes in the organization
  • Outline goals and outcomes of a successful change
  • Focus on activities that drive individual change to achieve organizational results

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How to Facilitate Project Change

Project managers consider a project successful only when users accept and utilize the new application or process. For a successful process change, project managers should promote the change by showcasing the resulting benefits when people embrace the new process. Another way is to implement the change in phases with a pilot team and allow the rest of the company to gradually understand the advantage of adopting the new process.

Key actions that ensure acceptance of a process change:

  • Show before and after data as proof of the benefits of change with the help of easy comparison
  • Implement the change in a pilot environment
  • Reward teams who follow the desired processes
  • Establish a mentor–student relationship

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How to Facilitate Organizational Change

Achieving organizational or cultural change is more complex and difficult. Management can identify outstanding project managers and assign them as change managers. To succeed, project managers need to fully understand the rationale behind the change and communicate it clearly with the rest of organization. They also need to update their change management plans using a more strategic approach.

Key actions that ensure acceptance of cultural change:

  • Communicate the advantages of cultural change and the benefits to employees
  • Use interesting, engaging, and relevant messages to get attention and support
  • Roll out change management early at the project planning stage
  • Develop a clear plan with objectives, transparent communications, and specific measurable goals
  • Involve teams in the planning process

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Embracing Change As a New Normal

Recent experience shows that rapid change is here to stay. Companies can use several strategies to manage change as they initiate and deliver new projects to move the organization to a better position. They can implement changes in different speeds and sizes while ensuring employees understand the need, are able to make changes comfortably, and also support the whole organization on its initiative.

Radhika Chittoor

15 years of experience in presales and marketing. I have helped companies set up their sales & marketing teams.

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