Good Change Program? 4 Ways to Tell
10 May

Good Change Program? 4 Ways to Tell

Once your project is complete, whether it was successful or not so much, how much can you thank (or blame) your change program?

Every once in a while all of us come across blogs or articles that list why projects fail. At the top of the list every time is some lack of OCM, organizational change management (no senior management sponsorship, employee resistance, insufficient communications, etc.). As a result many projects now have OCM. But how much did it contribute do your end result?

You should be able to answer that question.

If you’re a PM, you want to know whether those additional costs were worth it. If not for the current project (that just finished) then you want to know for the next one. You want to know what is responsible for project success. That way you can be successful the next, and every, time.

If you are an executive deciding on budgets, you want to know what return you are getting on your OCM investment. You need more than just anecdotal stories, or feel-good vibes from having done “the right thing”, as important as these may be.

If you are a change lead, you want to justify your existence. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could tell people that you were part of a successful project, and how much of that was your contribution?

The value of a good change program

Some time ago I was the change lead on a significant process and cultural transformation for a large organization. It was considered the biggest change project in their history. It took two years instead of the expected 5, and at the end was considered a big success. And change management was considered a key contributor. How did they know?

On another large North American process transformation for a global player in the utility and energy industry, I headed up their change management team. The program was expected to last 18 months and save $100 million in ongoing operating costs. It ended 4 months ahead of schedule and saved an additional $80 million in costs. Change management was considered one of the main reasons for this outcome, and was put forward for a prestigious global award. How could they tell?

And more importantly, wouldn’t you want to know for your own projects or programs? Well, you can and should. There are four ways to measure how successful your change management efforts have been.

Measure of completeness

A previous blog dealt with how every change management idea you have can be, and should be, planned and tracked in a project plan and schedule. You can read that blog here.

And that is the first and simplest way to measure the success of your change management program: did we complete all of our planned tasks as per plan? In this way change management is no different from any other project activity. And this is the minimum you should be doing to evaluate your OCM results.

But OCM is more than just completing tasks, ticking off check boxes. It is supposed to contribute to the success of the project. And that is your second level measure.

Measure of reaching success targets

In another prior blog I wrote about the importance of determining what success for your project will look like, at the start of the project. You can read the blog here.

Once you decide on what you need for project to be successful, you will have some change management activities that contribute to that success. That is your second-level measure of OCM effectiveness: have these activities been completed successfully, as expected? If so, and your project is successful, then you had a pretty good change program in place.

But again, the expectations of OCM are a bit heavier than that. The responsibility of OCM is to make sure people adopt the new technology, or process or strategy, or whatever you are implementing. And that is your next level of measure of how good your OCM program was.

Measure of adoption readiness

One of the best ways to gauge whether your change will be adopted is by doing a Change Readiness Survey near the start of the project, and then 2-3 months before you go live. I have found there is a very strong correlation between the results of the second survey and the eventual adoption.

The reason for the two surveys is that it shows progress (or lack thereof). It illustrates what is working in your change program and what is still missing. And it allows you to make some changes before you go live to improve outcomes.

The additional benefit of these last minute activities is that it demonstrates commitment to the employees that you are serious about them and the overall success, and that builds trust and commitment from them in turn.

On a large implementation doing a full-blown survey is a must, and we usually use a polling technology like SurveyMonkey to collect these. But even on a smaller project it is good practice to do at least a verbal Readiness Assessment with stakeholders in your most critical areas of the business.

If you have these three measures, you have a really good finger on the pulse of how good your change program is. Congratulations!

But if you want to really score that overtime goal and put the game away…or to not use a sports metaphor: if you really want to smash that flaming guitar that tells the stadium audience that yes, this epic concert is over, (too many “The Who” concerts?), then do this last thing.

Measurement of a change culture

The last and final step is to make sure that everyone feels like they are the change management expert who made this project a success.

It’s the business that has to change the business, not the change manager, the project manager, the consultants. All of us are catalysts to help the business change. But the change has to come from within. And it has to be seen as having come from within. Did you observe the managers become change leaders? And did key individuals become change champions?

In the first example I mentioned above we assigned most of the tasks to someone from the business. Often it was a team member who was from some area of the business. For example, our SME’s became our communicators back to their group and were responsible for leading education events with their, and sometimes other, related, groups. By the end it felt like they did all the work and were successful because of that.

In the second example we did a couple of Change Leadership sessions with the executive team. The focus was on brevity (it was a two hour session) and on what change leadership behaviours are. Then we assigned them success objectives. When I did my lessons learned with the Executive Sponsor afterwards about what element of change management was the most important, led most to the successful outcomes, he simply said, “There was no single element. Everyone led the change and all of the elements played some kind of part.”

It was that statement. “Everyone led the change”, that was the answer.

Here is an example of what real change leadership that looked like in practice, on that particular project.

Example of change leadership behaviour

We were struggling to get information from a key director and his senior manager. This lack of co-operation was about to cause a two week delay, at minimum. During the steering committee meeting we mentioned that we had some difficulty getting this information (we were being very diplomatic).

The executive in charge of that unit picked up on our distress. This is how the conversation went, pretty much:

“So is it guys from my department that are not providing you this information? Who are they?”

“Well, we don’t want to call people out, maybe if you just let everyone know how important this project is and that you support it, we can follow up with them again.”

“These people report to me. I want their names. Who are they?”

“OK, well, its J.B. and R.R.” (By the way, these were long-term colleagues of the executive in question – they basically grew up there together. That’s another reason we did not want to call them out, lest the executive took offense at us pointing fingers at people he considered his friends).

“OK, I’ll deal with it.”

“So should we follow up with you in what, maybe a week?”

“I said I’ll deal with it!”

“Alright.”

End of discussion.

Here’s what happened next. That evening we received several documents via email that we had been asking for, some for weeks. A meeting booked in our calendars next day before work (7:30 am) to discuss what else they needed to provide and what more they could do to help our team. On the call were the director, his senior manager, and three other of their staff members.

Amazing.

From zero people being available and no time for meetings to suddenly five people available with whatever we needed from them. That’s change leadership.

How do you know YOU have done a good job?

I am sure there are many ways. But as a change lead on projects I love the sense I start to feel near the end of a project. People start to look at me and wonder why I am still there. They don’t need me anymore. There’s a sense of being redundant. I know it’s uncomfortable for them to express it because they feel bad, don’t want to hurt my feelings because we have developed some good relationships together.

But I actually like it. They shouldn’t need me at the end. Why would they? They are now equipped to lead and manage the rest of the change, and others that come their way. They have a good change program and the change culture to continue to use it effectively. And if in the future they have to deal with something more complex and want some expert support, I know who they are going to call. And often they do.


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