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Minimize the Impact of Change

Changing or redesigning processes will affect an entire organization. Use these best practices to minimize the impact of change and increase the chance of adoption across the enterprise. Ensuring your stakeholders are engaged with organizational change, will increase the likelihood of project success.

How and When to Engage Project Stakeholders

Nailing Down Your Strategy and Project Goals

In this blog series, you will learn how NEOS teams successfully lead processtrategys redesign efforts and simultaneously engage project stakeholders to eliminate downstream concerns or project failure. The Strategy Phase, the first of 3 process redesign phases, is critical for establishing scope, direction, and a business case for change. It serves as the first and best opportunity to secure any executive-level commitment that can provide backing when projects begin bumping into each other down the line. This phase also produces a tool known as the NEOS Business Value Linkage Dashboard (BVLD). The BVLD ensures clients’ critical initiatives are tied clearly with discreet measures of success valued by the business. Let’s take a moment to explore how and why.

The goals of the Strategy Phase are specific; to engage cross-functional leaders, determine project scope and define a targeted set of objectives that meet the needs of both sponsoring executives and the overall business strategy. It engages a subset of stakeholders and key leaders who will provide a broad range of feedback and impact knowledge. Various tactics are used to capture input on project goals from all relevant groups. This information is then consolidated and used to guide a focused discussion and nail down exactly what will be achieved through the redesign effort. The result is a set of simple, practical, but very robust set of deliverables. More importantly, the true power comes from the process. Coming out of the Strategy phase, clients have gotten key leaders aligned with one another, with a tightly defined scope and minimal room for deviation. Establishing these expectations early on means:

  • Critical advocates buy into your redesign initiative early and likely for the long haul
  • Key leaders are prepared to advocate strongly for your initiative because they understand what’s in it for them, what’s not in it for them, and how it will enable the business.

This is no small feat for just three weeks of work, and the results will keep your project alive when the going gets tough (i.e. new projects begin competing for the same resources and funding)

Here’s an important caveat. Many people typically leave IT out of this stage, perhaps rightfully so. When redesigning a business capability or process, it can seem logical to define the business need first and determine technology solution second. However, our experience has shown it is a sound practice to engage IT early from an awareness perspective. Engagement is the most powerful tool you can give stakeholders. It gets them thinking about what change is coming down the pipeline and can result in great suggestions. At this stage, IT can also identify high-level impacts that should be considered for prioritization and planning purposes. I will provide further insight into appropriate IT involvement in the next installment of this series.

The result of all stakeholder engagement in the Strategy phase is a defined set of deliverables to direct the redesign process. These deliverables typically include:

  1. A Clear Vision – In some cases, we need to ground ourselves in the overall enterprise or business vision to ensure key leaders are clear on the ultimate outcomes.
  2. A Targeted Mission – The inputs from initial assessments clearly define, “what is the particular initiative or project going to deliver and how does it support the broader business objectives?” There is a specific way to construct this so that it is meaningful and measurable.
  3. Clearly Defined Business Objectives – Stakeholders help to answer, “How do we define success for the project?” and “What will success look like?” The best approach is to develop 3-5 objectives depending on the size of the project or program and examine questions such as will your project automate processes and reduce the likelihood of human error? Will it organize data more efficiently in some way? Make sure the objectives align with your project mission and broader business objectives. Doing this will help your team to control the scope with precision; doing so in collaboration with impacted leaders is a powerful tactic to get leaders on board early.
  4. Measures of Success – Measures of success are broken into two categories.
  5. Business Indicators – Organizational metrics will help you identify project success, or show the organizational areas that need to be strengthened. Indicators will also answer the question, “How should we track and report success for the project?” Here’s a practical tip. It is important not to focus entirely on what is measured today, but this is a good starting point. This step is often overlooked in projects, but it is necessary to keep a project on track, demonstrating value and sustaining buy-in for the change. Don’t skip it or you can’t truly measure success!
  6. Detailed Metrics – in those instances where the criteria are clear and data is already captured, it is important to document detailed metrics. At a minimum, Business Indicators are selected. Metrics will emerge more clearly as the process definition gets under way.

Together, these deliverables combine to create the proprietary tool we refer to as the Business Value Linkage Dashboard (BVLD).

The Strategy Phase is incredibly powerful because it helps leaders define the business value in terms that resonate with them and understand how success will be measured and what strategic goals will be met. It also determines who must be involved from all respective teams to ensure success.  With the commitment of senior leaders to these outcomes, you will be prepared to determine required roles and ensure those resources are available to participate throughout the lifecycle of your project. Implementing these few fundamental shifts in your approach to strategic planning for your next initiative will guarantee confidence that you are engaging the right stakeholders and dramatically impacting the results from Day 1.

Subscribe to the NEOS blog to receive Part 2 of the series, where we will discuss the Redesign Phase.


Change Management: Five Divine Principles in Practice

A NEOS Whitepaper

An estimated 70% of initiatives fail to deliver on their promised business value because of poor change management, not poor project management. Yes, 70%!  Like Project Management, Change Management is a process. It has a set of tools, knowledge, and skills to enable an organization to achieve its business goals. Research has shown simply following steps in a change management process or having that “one-size-fits all” approach doesn’t work. What’s the key to keeping your initiative among the successful 30%? It’s a matter of investing in the people side of change by consistently applying the Five Divine Guiding Principles of change management.

In this whitepaper, you will learn:

  • What the 5 divine principles of change management are
  • What happens when they are not at the heart of your strategy

Download the whitepaper to start integrating NEOS’ 5 divine change management principles into your strategy.

Change Management as a Capability, Not a Checklist

A NEOS Whitepaper

Changes in technology has increased tenfold over the last decade. As a result, organizations have no choice but to standardize their project management processes and procedures in order to control cost and optimize quality. From this standardization, change management has emerged as a widely recognized key factor for successfully executing complex transformation projects. Yet, many companies still experience complications when it comes to executing change management practices.

At NEOS, we believe change management needs to be an organizational capability, not merely a set of tools augmenting standard project management processes, or an item on your project manager’s checklist. This paper examines three pillars necessary for building a word-class change management capability.

In this whitepaper, you will learn:

  • Why it is so important to build a change management capability
  • The three pillars necessary for building a change management capability
  • Best practices within each pillar that leads to success

Download the whitepaper to start constructing your own change management capability.

Six Drivers of Project Success You Can’t Overlook, PartCommunication III

In parts 1 and 2 of this series, I talked about the importance of strong, consistent sponsorship and the fundamental need for organizational relevance to ensure a project’s success. Part 3 builds on a driver closely related to both of these: Communication. Telling people things is easy. Communicating is hard, especially when a project has many moving parts and spans a long duration. So, what makes for great project communication?

  1. Target the right messages to the right audiences. A great communication plan is, in effect, a marketing and branding exercise. Go beyond the traditional “get the message out” and concentrate on creating excitement and enthusiasm around the program. Use the organizational relevance statements to target your messaging to the audiences – the same message will not resonate with everyone! Contact center representatives will have a completely different view on a delay in a server delivery than the CIO, for example. Your plan must consider the differences in audience and WIIFMs (what’s in it for me) to appeal to each audience’s specific filters and priorities.
  2. Make someone responsible for project communication. For a smaller effort, the project manager herself often takes on communication. For larger efforts, a communication manager becomes more important. Having a communication and change management team is common for big projects with correspondingly big changes. If no one is responsible, communication just won’t happen. Someone has to be accountable for making sure communication happens. Assign the responsibility and then follow up.
  3. Don’t ignore multi-channel and omni-direction communication. Top-down is not enough anymore (if it ever was). Bottom-up and peer-to-peer, facilitated by internal wiki boards or social media, round out the communication plan. Establish a way for project members to raise issues, especially on large, complex initiatives – this will feed your plan. Plus, the more you use interesting and varied formats, the more likely people will consume the information and internalize what you’ve tried to tell them. People need to hear something seven (7!) times before they remember it.
  4. Measure. People pay attention to what gets measured. Part of measuring is determining whether the intended message was received by the intended recipients. You might think you’ve told everyone that the efficiency project is about creating capability, but all anyone heard was job elimination. If you don’t check, and measure, you remain unaware of potential blockers to project success.

Of course, engage your sponsor and other leaders as appropriate messengers. Provide speaking points or a talk track to managers and peer leaders for consistency’s stake. There are a million handy, dandy tips and techniques for effective project communication as long as you actually have a tailored, multi-directional plan that someone is accountable to execute and measure.

NEOS has written a number of articles and whitepapers on communication and its close cousin, change management. You can access those resources here.

Don’t Let Change Turn You into the Hulk

Don't let change turn you intoEmbracing change is a requirement in an era where companies have no choice but to keep up with changing demands from consumers, and competitors who are quickly exploiting new technology. We all understand that we have to live with change, but many times it can be hard to support it. What gets us all worked up, what enrages our inner Hulk, is when our leaders fail to communicate early and often, and when they don’t understand how we need to be supported through these changes so that we can perform well and comfortably in the new environment.

Trust me, I get it as a leader of change initiatives, but I’m also continuously on the receiving end of change as an employee in my organization. The reality, however, is that you have a responsibility to your company as a good steward, leader, and peer to help the company maximize return on investment. Lucky for you, in order to do that they need you, as the target, to buy into what they’re selling, so if you play your cards right and suppress your inner Hulk, you can usually get what you need and everyone can win. Here’s how.

  1. Figure out what your problem is. Now, this isn’t meant condescendingly. But seriously, you need to first ground yourself. Are you anxious, or even actively resisting the change, simply because you don’t understand it, or are you more concerned with your own agenda? We all react by saying we’re better than that, but we’re also human, and change is uncomfortable. So seriously, what’s your real motive? It’s necessary to be honest with yourself and ask the following questions to uncover what’s really holding you back from accepting and advocating for the change:
        a. Do I understand the business need for this change and the risk of not doing so?
        b. Do I understand what’s in it for me?
        c. Have I proactively reached out to the project team to ask for more information, or express my concern to give them a fair chance to understand my needs?

    If you answered no to just one question on this list, you owe it to your company, and yourself, to get the facts straight, and you owe it to your project team to help them understand what you need. In fact, in the event they didn’t account for something you bring to their attention, you may very well help them close a gap that might cost them later, and they’ll appreciate your tenacity and curiosity.

  2. Tell project teams what you need. Have you ever heard the saying, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease?” Project teams WANT to communicate better. So help them! It’s never inappropriate to reach out to a sponsor or a program lead to communicate your needs. In fact, you may be praised for doing so because it’s likely your entire peer group is feeling much of the same pain. Consider this, exposing your concerns or group resistance as early as possible in a project lifecycle are the primary goals of all good project managers. Why? Because it’s the first sign that someone is trying to accept change but needs to better understand why the change is necessary, what will change, and what to expect. It’s a fantastic indicator and project managers actually want to hear from you, so speak up and tell them what you need! You’ll help them execute more effectively and you’ll be touted as a leader among your peers.
  3. Be a Leader. Your goal should always be to lead change and leave your company in a better place than when you joined it. The fastest way to position yourself to lead a change is by aligning yourself to your company’s objectives, finding out what you personally need to change, and then campaigning hard to help drive the transformation across your peer group. To do that, engage your sponsor and project manager. Let them know you want to be a part of their change network to help spread the word and communicate back to the team with ground-up concerns, resistance, needs, or even good news about what the team is doing particularly well. Doing so would be instrumental in helping the team generate organizational buy-in and drive a successful implementation, capturing you in the minds of your peers and superiors as a strong leader. Being a great leader means leading yourself, first. When you are feeling frustrated or strained by organizational change that doesn’t seem to make sense, suppress your inner Hulk and flex your leadership instead of your muscles. Ground yourself and align with the organizational needs before your own, diagnose your needs and communicate them to the project team, and corral your peers behind the initiative at hand so your company can maximize the return on investment. In the long run you’ll experience less pain, get what you need, and achieve great success as a leader.

Get even more tips for effective Change Management

Keep learning about how to effectively manage change in your organization by reading our whitepaper, “Change Management: Five Divine Principles in Practice.”

Maybe You Just Had to be There


Effectively communicating is key to any organization and project and these tips will help you be the best

How many times have we heard a friend or colleague finish a story with an expectation of laughter, and when none comes, say halfheartedly, “maybe you just had to be there?”  It’s true; there’s something important about being present to truly understand a situation, even with today’s modern communication tools like video chat and instant messaging.

Realistically, however, we know that we can’t always be everywhere, and we rely on these technologies to help us stay connected to projects, decisions, and changes. But these tools are only as good as the businesses using them. Too often, organizations fail to effectively keep everyone up to date on decisions and adjustments. The following are best practices to help organizations communicate effectively and keep everyone up-to-date on what is going on, no matter what your technology tool-bag offers.

  • Have a note taker/distributor

Choose a member of your team to take notes during project meetings and then distribute the notes to the whole group. Not every word needs to be documented, but critical changes and decisions should be recorded so that each individual has the most up-to-date information at hand.

  • Know your role

You may be a decision maker, a reporter, an information provider, a subject matter expert, or something else altogether. Know ahead of time what your role is and what will be required of you during and after the meeting so you can plan how to communicate or create change.

  • Communicate to the right people

Make sure that everyone who should be informed is being informed. Often times, key people are left out of the communication circle to the detriment of project success. If you have been appointed to attend a meeting on behalf of your team or department, make sure you communicate back to your team or department.

  • Don’t assume

Keep your communication brief, but give enough context to help readers understand what is going on. If there are action items, make sure these are highlighted, along with expected time-frames for completion.

  • Don’t view information as power

Avoid hiding information as a way to maintain power. Power and influence come from making change happen. Hiding information to make oneself more essential is a short-lived strategy that is doomed to failure.

Communication is a critical component for success.  Overlooking it usually leads to tension, from a child failing to tell his or her parents that they are going to a friend’s house, to a data architect forgetting to tell the rest of the project team about database changes that impact their deliverables. Implementation of the best practices above will help improve the communication failures that are encountered at all levels of business.

Keep Cultivating Your Communication Skills

Get more tips on effective communication tips from our blog post, People and Change: You Reap What You Sow

People and Change: Remember, You Reap What You Sow

Reap what you sowIt’s harvest season, and here in New England, as well as across the country, farmers have planted, pruned, watered and nurtured their crops since bud break and they’re now seeing the fruits of their labor. The farmer, his family and the hired hands are busy in the fields tending to and gathering the crops they worked so hard to grow during the season. It’s time for them to reap what they sowed, and we can’t help but compare a farmer’s investment in their crops to a company’s investment in managing change within their organization.

Successful change management, much like a farmer’s crop, needs to be planted and nurtured from the beginning to be effective, and is a long, strenuous process. People are at the heart of any change effort and, like farming, you get what you give when it comes to managing them through it.

Below are tips on harvesting the best results from your projects and your people when it comes to change, communication and training:

  • Value your people by engaging them early and often.

Involve managers and front line employees early in your change process. Their input early in the process will reap savings you cannot always directly measure in dollars, but resistance and denial make your change curve longer, and time is money. By spending less time coaxing your teams to into adopting your new process, system, etc. you will save many salaried hours on discussion and persuasion. Trust us, when people are heavily involved they are less likely to resist the change. Adoption is faster, and the change is embraced and sustained. In terms of communication, honesty goes a long way. Tell them what you know when you know it. When people are ‘in the know’ they will not feel blindsided. Instead, they will feel trusted and valued by management. Investing time in your people and having tactics in place for individual change management is worth it.

  • Assign the right project role to the right resource and ensure everyone knows who is doing what.

When roles change, communicate it to the team! Seems like common sense, but it’s not always common practice when things get busy and people have too much on their plate. If you don’t have the right skill set in house for a particular role, bring in the right person for the job, even if it’s on a contract basis. In the end, it will save your project time, money, and seeds that never bear fruit (pun intended). A simple RACI Matrix is an underutilized and forgotten tool, but creating one will ensure that everyone is on the same page and accountable for their role and work.

  • Plan, plan and re-plan!

Implementing changes requires a detailed business implementation and readiness plan. Inside of that large plan, you MUST have well-connected communication, change management and training plans. These all need to line up with your milestones. They need to be thoughtfully blended to support one another, and most importantly, align with the project goals and the business value they offer your organization. Ideally, these plans use a variety of formal and informal mediums and events, and they adjust when the plan’s milestones, key players and/or stakeholders change. When these three plans are all well thought out and connected, people are happier and generally feel confident that management has their interests and needs in mind.

  • Don’t jump to a training solution until you do a proper needs analysis.

When roles change, communicate it to the team! Seems like common sense, but it’s not always common practice when things get busy and people have too much on their plate. If you don’t have the right skill set in house for a particular role, bring in the right person for the job, even if it’s on a contract basis. In the end, it will save your project time, money, and seeds that never bear fruit (pun intended). A simple RACI Matrix is an underutilized and forgotten tool, but creating one will ensure that everyone is on the same page and accountable for their role and work.

  • Scale your training and its approach to meet the change effort.

Work with the business stakeholders and SMEs to ensure you have the right plan in place. Like system development, project management or change management, training design is a process. Your training team must be an integral part of your project team, engaged when project seeds are planted, not once development is done. They need to be in the loop on system development, requirements, functional specifications and plans. Have the training design team involved early and collaborating side by side with the project team, Subject Matter Experts, Technical and Business Analysts and/or your Product Development team.

  • For the love of adult learning, keep training in mind when you’re building your system environments and create a dedicated one for training!

If budget and resources allow, create a dedicated training environment to facilitate real life, hands-on practice in a “sandbox” environment. Quality training materials require access to an environment that is as close to production as possible, so in addition to giving your training developers early access to the system test environment, create a dedicated environment for training. It is worth the investment. Adults learn by doing, when you create a training version of your system, learners can practice and master the new system functionality prior to release into production, ensuring a better and faster learning transfer.

If you want a good crop from the projects you plant, invest in people with thoughtful communication, proper engagement and change plans, as well as practical training. People are at the heart of it all, so when it comes to managing them through change:  “Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later.” –Og Mandino

Keep Learning How to Successfully Manage Change

Read our recently published change management best practices whitepaper – Change Management: Five Divine Principles in Practice.

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