You may have been on projects like this. Within the project, everyone seems to know why the work is being done. They have some idea of what is changing and how it is supposed to change things for the better. When you do the needs analysis, you realize the people who will be asked to perform differently have never heard of the project and do not know why it is being done.
So, the change management role is missing, and we do our best to formulate an overview for the performance improvement materials to help orient the people to what is changing and why. Inevitably, the people in the performance solution experience, begin questioning why the change is being made. They may point out problem areas that will result from the change. Problems that you never heard discussed in the project meetings. You realize there is a big gap in communication, the people are not supportive of the change and do not have motivation and energy to move forward with the change.
How about an example: The project was installation of a new information tracking system for a laboratory that tested manufacturing products. The change management person was absent. The team working on the system focused on their schedule to do the coding and testing. The project team decided to issue new laptop computers to the lab staff so they could conveniently enter their data and laminate multiple paper forms. During the performance solution classes, laboratory staff commented that they could not use computers in the sample testing area because the computers could not be sterilized. In addition, computers carried from a testing area to another area, could spread contamination. Their solution was to complete all the paper forms and then transfer the information to the computer system at the end of the day; making double work for them.
Often, we wait for the change management person to be identified on the project, and they are not. No person is assigned to lead the change effort and the gap is formed.
This is our opportunity: To lead from the perspective of experience and training. Change must come first. If no one is assigned, volunteer. It is vitally important that someone carry the message to the workforce that change is coming, what is changing, and how it will affect them. Persistently communicate to the project team what additional things must be considered. Use your Wilson 6 box if the team has difficulty separating the issues. Use your change management materials. Write a proposal to lead the effort with goals, milestones and a work breakdown document. Don’t think you will be good enough? You will be better than no change management at all. Don’t want to go into change management because it is not your “thing”? Fine, be the good example that they need to have on the next project so they don’t leave change management out of the project.
Go to the after action reviews. Present on the results of the change management part you led. Make sure everyone on the project knows that change communication and correct messages on what will be different and why, made it possible for the rest of the project to go forward with support from the people receiving the change. Your effort will illuminate what a good project must include. Mahatma Gandhi said it best, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Dr. Arthur Paton
Global Deployment Solutions
Baxter Healthcare Corporation