No One Likes Change, But Could They?

No One Likes Change, But Could They?

(A guest post by Robert Kelly, PMP)

We all face change on a regular basis in our organizations. It’s a difficult thing, but we have to cope. Regular commenter Robert Kelly chimes in with an original article that looks at both organizational change and project-driven change, and offers ways to handle it effectively.

Organizations are riddled with conflicting theories, approaches, and strategies. Project management alone has its conflicts: Waterfall or Agile? PMI vs. APM? To PMP or not to PMP. Change is not immune to the schizophrenic tendencies of the corporate world. Embrace change…mitigate change…ugggh!

As a leader you can create a positive, effective change environment.

I think there are a 5 things to focus on when managing change:

1. Data is your saving grace. When interests collide, reputation is put on the line. It is data that will help drive progress, decision, and change. I once heard, “In God we trust; all others bring data!”

Kelly’s Contemplation is a project management / leadership blog, that started in May 2010. His blog is a haven of online communication of Robert’s thoughts and ideas on leadership and team management in a high performance capacity. Posted on Mondays, Kelly’s Contemplation includes video presentations (for a laugh) and a mix of the techniques and emotions that make up Project Management. In addition to Kelly’s Contemplation, Robert is an active member of Twitter @rkelly976.

2. Have a plan. Regardless of theory you subscribe to, you need to have a plan in place on how to manage change. Most people do not like change, but having a game plan and process to manage change will help you build the confidence in your team to step off the ledge. Often, the biggest delay on project is a result of executives dragging their feet when deciding to go or not go with a change. Don’t make this too difficult. A simple template to state the as-is today, risk of not changing, risk in the changing, costs / business case, and effects against time, resource, scope and quality.

3. Change is ugly. Someone missed a requirement, estimated something wrong, left out a stakeholder, etc., and that led to a discussion of temporary contention. Build up your emotional fortitude and be a leader that can navigate an organization through change.

4. Project change and organizational change are different. Depending on the project you are managing, there are different types of change and approaches. If you need more money for your project, show the business case, get approval, and implement (obviously a summary). If it’s a business process or organizational change (i.e., implementing PM and a PMO), your sponsor and project charter don’t really mean anything to the greater organization. You need to “recruit” a coalition of supporters, expect to spend time vision-casting, and develop the change (vs. implement it in a project). Read Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail by John Kotter.

5. Include team members. As mentioned, change is often a result of a miss somewhere else upstream. As the PM, you may have received approval to implement a change, but that is not to say that your team is going to be thrilled with you or the project. Implementation of the change is not the only measure of success: team morale and engagement, post change, needs to remain at a high-level. You do this by including your team in the change. Nothing is worse then making suggestions and not having something included or feeling like you have no say whatsoever. When people feel like they have skin in the game, they tend to do more for it to succeed. Change can not simply be directions passed down from the board.

Robert Kelly, PMPRobert Kelly is an innovative and results driven information technology leader with proven skills in leading and developing high performance teams through vision, goal setting, and strong accountability focused on customer service. Robert has developed his project management and leadership skills over the past 10 years across a number industries at firms such as Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of NC, and Lenovo. Although he has ‘formalized’ that experience by obtaining his Project Management Professional Certification (PMP), Robert is, and plans to be, a lifelong student of project management and leadership techniques and best practices.

Do you have an article you’d like to submit about the soft side of project management? By all means, please do!

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I’m a professor of project management at the college where I work. My students continually amaze me with their insights, passion and all-around awesomeness. I figure they deserve access to more answers than I can give them by myself. This site is for them.
  • Thanks so much for a great submission, Robert! Change is challenging. It’s very easy to forget that the comfortable status quo isn’t always a great place to be.

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  • Anonymous

    Excellent post Robert, though not sure you are going to convince people to actually like or embrace change, at least not without dispensing some serious mood enhancers first… ;>) Still, your points on how to implement change are concise and touch on the areas that need to be considered, so perhaps they won’t like it, but they can live through it, which is the best you can hope for sometimes.

    Thanks for sharing!


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