Resuscitating Stuck Change Initiatives

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change management, change leadership, resistance,

Everything was there – the plan, the project management software, the project team, managers and senior management support.

Everyone knew – the newsletters went out, the communication plan worked, the team meetings happened, the posters were printed and the vision was mentioned often.

Everyone was working – the project manager, the project team, the managers and so were the costs as they were climbing without real progress being made.

And the results – the business case for initiating the new system was sound, however getting to those results felt like walking through syrup.

David, MD of this professional services firm, was struggling to contain his frustration.
“Where are the results? I am not interested in all this activity! “

How can so much action not deliver the results ?

The answer lies, not in the project plan, but in the kind of people support being experienced.

Business results always reflect what people are working on and where their true focus really lies. Sometimes we miss this insight when using primarily a project management approach even if it includes a communications plan.

Professional services firms, by the very nature of their purpose, employ people who are thinkers, who view themselves as professionals and who gain personal value from making decisions that affect themselves and their clients.

However, experience continues to show that 90% of the support given to people who are being asked to change, focuses on polices, systems and one way communications. This is all good and necessary stuff, however it tends to be highly task focused and as a result is usually driven by the project management process itself.

This kind of change support often views people as an extension of the project plan and its tasks, thus leading to lots of activity and not necessarily results. It also goes directly against what professional people expect and require when being asked to change their thinking and behaviours.

How to avoid the change project becoming stuck in the first place.

When people are being asked to change their behaviours as well as how they think, different leadership and support is required compared to that necessary to ensure normal operations occur. This is particularly so when supporting professionals. This “right” kind of support needs to meet with their personal views and attitudes so they are able to see the value in their becoming engaged with the change.

Once again, experience is continuing to show that when the significant majority of the change support focuses on the people and not solely the tasks; on their values and not solely the policies; on their actions and not solely on the communications plan; then change results tend to be delivered sooner.

What also happens is success tends to remain for longer and the disruptions along the route are reduced. All because people are being appropriately led, being inspired and being actively encouraged to create their own motivation to change.

The project sponsor and senior leaders all need to consider their own style and focus of leadership and whether it is appropriate in order to support the project and its desired outcomes.

What does this style of change leadership look like?

Change leadership is more than sharing the “why” changes need to be adopted. It is involves leading and encouraging people to talk about the gaps that exists between “their why” and “your why”.

It needs to include consistent two way open discussions regarding the gaps in understanding and potential consequences of the change programme as the people see them. Naturally including the people in how to bridge the gap and reduce the risks is critical for both engagement, and project success.

People are always inspired when they are able to see their contribution and passions as being a real part of the new future.

They need to be able to create a picture in their head of how they can contribute to the successful implementation of the change and how they can make a difference. In this way the project tasks become stepping stones towards success and achievement rather than something else that needs to be completed on top of a full day’s work.

People become motivated when they are able to see what they can actively do and achieve within activities that occur within the project plan. Even professionals thrive on achieving smaller steps when it is clear that they can make a difference to the outcomes. Holding focused discussion sessions that deal with both progress and barriers to success creates the space where motivation can exist and thrive.

Committing to this level and kind of support will enable everyone to move towards accepting the change consequences and delivering the improved results. The policies and systems will then be able to sustain the improved results.

How to avoid the change project becoming stuck in the first place.

When people are being asked to change their behaviours as well as how they think, different leadership and support is required compared to that necessary to ensure normal operations occur. This is particularly so when supporting professionals. This “right” kind of support needs to meet with their personal views and attitudes so they are able to see the value in their becoming engaged with the change.

Once again, experience is continuing to show that when the significant majority of the change support focuses on the people and not solely the tasks; on their values and not solely the policies; on their actions and not solely on the communications plan; then change results tend to be delivered sooner.

What also happens is success tends to remain for longer and the disruptions along the route are reduced. All because people are being appropriately led, being inspired and being actively encouraged to create their own motivation to change.

The project sponsor and senior leaders all need to consider their own style and focus of leadership and whether it is appropriate in order to support the project and its desired outcomes.

What are your experiences in change leadership situations?

  • BJC # 0275 cropped signature
    Barbara Craven
    Enabling Leaders to Deliver Change during Uncertain Times.

    Should you want to use this article for your clients – Fine please use my signature paragraph alongside with the links active. Thanks

  • Barbara Craven is Change Psychologist, Coach and Facilitator. She is founder of Change Insights, a boutique change consultancy that provides toolkits and processes to enable business to successfully change.

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