Managing change at the last minute
This is not fiction. We’re 30 days away from the official launch of a client’s integrated solution. What should be a stimulating time is becoming quite stressful, due to a worrisome double whammy: nothing at all has been communicated thus far, and no training has been prepared. To be frank, absolutely no management initiative has been undertaken. What to do?
How to Take Charge of Change in 3 Steps
Build a more agile guidance strategy based on minimal actions:
- Enlist the help of the sponsor and the project manager to quickly identify key players
- Quickly meet with them to get an understanding of the project, the stakeholders, the issues and the risks
- Establish guiding principles for your actions
- Have essential points validated only by the key players in the project team, in order to accelerate the approval process
- Verbally share your detailed vision of what you want to accomplish (you won’t have time to document everything) and make sure your goals are operationally realistic
Strategically put it into practice while its content is being validated:
#1: Change management before, during and after
- Communicate the project’s vision to all groups involved. To do this effectively and quickly, I used technology and asked the president to shoot a brief video explaining the project’s vision. This allowed us to reach all employees in record time.
- Build the action plan only around those elements that are essential to the managers’ survival, i.e. preparatory activities prior to deployment, determining who will be there and when, in order to accompany them before and after the deployment. You should make sure that the people supporting the managers during and after are well informed about the realities on the ground. Since you won’t have time for impact analyses, these people will serve as “live feeds” to explain the impacts and implications to managers and employees throughout the deployment.
- Set up a network of change agents to at least be aware of grassroots concerns, in order to adjust your actions as you go along. Even on the eve of D-Day, this will make the difference.
#2: Communication is always key
- Prior to deployment, start by looking at the history of the project’s communication efforts (what, to whom, when, how) in order to be consistent in your future communications. At the very least, announce the operation’s key milestones and the major changes and benefits you expect for everyone involved. Because no impact analysis has been done, you’ll have neither the time nor the opportunity to provide details for each group.
- After deployment, send a quick e-mail to talk about its success and – most importantly – to congratulate everyone involved.
#3: Training gives people power, even in emergency mode
- Ask managers to identify content experts who can quickly build training initiatives. My advice: assemble them all in the same room so they can help each other out. This will save you precious time when it comes to reviewing the content.
- You won’t have time to organize dry runs for trainers. Trust them and accept the fact that the first training session won’t be perfect. Try to attend that session in order to quickly identify opportunities for improvement.
Once the deployment is completed, breathe a sigh of relief, take some time to document the process – mistakes included – for posterity and to provide an example for similar projects in the future.
Breathe, visualize, and integrate the fruits of your labour.
The Risks of Not Managing Change Soon Enough
What did this slice of life teach us? With no impact analysis, we learned midway through the process that highly influential people were being impacted in a major way. They complained to management, and the project team had to spend lots of time with them after deployment to understand their gripes and find solutions ASAP, as some of them were threatening to stop coming to work.
Impact analyses are at the very heart of change management activities. That’s non-negotiable. They’ll help you anticipate the sparks – and even the fires – and serve as the basis for your communications and for your training content. Always keep this in mind.
When Should You Call on a Change Management Expert?
The golden rule says this should be done at the same time you’re choosing your integrated solution suppliers. This will help avoid having to manage everything in crisis mode. After all, such a stimulating project should never become stressful.
Enjoy your summer!