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Dealing with the Issues of Change in Project Management

written by: Misty Faucheux • edited by: Jean Scheid • updated: 7/19/2011

Change can be good, but there are certain issues that arise when instituting a change management plan. If these issues are not addressed, they will often lead to the failure of any proposed new plan. Learn how to successfully deal with these issues.

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    Change Issues

    Action Log Change can be good, but there are certain issues that arise when instituting the change management methodology. If these issues are not addressed, they will often lead to the failure of any proposed new plan.

    The first issue is always communication. Effective communication is key when making a transition. This communication should be an open dialog between teams, leaders and end-users or stakeholders.

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    Leaders Need To Take the Lead!

    There's more to communication than just the obvious. Those who initiated the change need to communicate why the change was necessary and how the organization plans to go about making this change. The "road map" to success needs to be adopted by all and completely supported by everyone involved. Employees and staff must step up and not place all the responsibility for the change on management.

    If team leaders see a problem, they need to speak up and address it immediately. If they wait for someone else to speak up, then the proposed change has a good possibility of failing. Many middle managers are tired of change. They have been through it quite often in the current economy and are just weary of the whole process. The sponsors of the change must engage and obtain the support of these people.

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    You Need a Strategy

    Besides trying to obtain the support of the team and management, change management must be looked at as something more than just a problem to solve. Any change must have a unique set of solutions for each individual project. It won't help to group the proposed change with every other issue the organization is facing.

    Another issue is changing the behaviors or culture of your organization. You need to find the real decision-makers and influencers in your organization. These people often will not be in management but a leader among their peers. Find a way to bring these people on board and make sure that they are embracing the proposed change.

    You need to provide everyone with a concrete reason for the change. If not, the next issue will be lack of adoption. Give those that do accept change incentives and rewards. This will encourage them to persuade others to adopt the change.

    Perhaps the biggest reason change management fails is not having a strategy that will work or because the project is under-funded. You need to know where you are going and what type of organization you want to be when you get there. Plan in advance and not while in process.

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    Preparing for Change

    Plus, you need to prepare people for the change. Don't rely on the new system or structure to put people in their place. Training needs to be instituted before moving forward. If not, your teams may fall back into their old routines. This goes for managers as well. If they don't embrace their new roles, then they also won't accept the new direction.

    You must understand that every change you make within your organization is going to be different. So, you need to figure out what makes this particular change different from previous ones. When preparing for your change management methodology, consider the following items:

    • Who will be impacted by the change? These are the people that truly need to be involved with every aspect of the intended change.
    • What is the total scope of the change?
    • What type of change is this? You must define the type of change as this will affect your strategy.
    • What is the total amount of the change?

    The people who will most be affected by the change are perhaps the most important part of your strategy. Some people will experience a minor amount of change that probably won't affect their job all that much. There will, however, be others who will have their whole role changed. People have comfort zones, and they will revert back to their original comfort zones if they are completely uncomfortable with what they are presently doing.

    You must take all of the aspects of your change and then tailor that to your audience. You cannot institute a generic change management plan. A cookie cutter approach to your change management strategies is not effective. As mentioned earlier, all changes are different, and you must deal with each change independently from the previous one.

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    Be Prepared for Hiccups

    Not every plan is going to be successful from the get-go. You may have to retrain people along the way if they revert to previous ways of doing things. You need to evaluate your plan throughout the change, and you must be prepared to give up changes that are not successful. Instituting an evaluation plan will assist you with this process.

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    References

    Change Management Learning Center - "Six Keys to Prepare for Change" retrieved at http://www.change-management.com/tutorial-preparing-keys.htm

    Image Source

    IvanWalsh.com / C.C. 2.0 Creative Commons License