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Develop The Organisational Change Management Plan

Project managers must evaluate the amount of change their project will create within the target organisation. Based on this analysis, a plan for managing change should be developed. To evaluate the level of change and potential resistance to that change, the project manager may want to take advantage of specific diagnostic tools designed for this purpose.

For example, a set of tailored questionnaires/surveys called diagnostics can provide valuable information regarding the impact of the project on the organisation. As discussed in the activity, “manage change using the collaborative approach”, facilitated workshops are introduced to assist in managing change.

Identify Key Change Management Roles

At the start of any information technology project, the project manager should develop an understanding of project team roles and how they relate to each other and the rest of the organisation. During this process, the project manager should identify the individuals who occupy key change management roles on the project.

Change management roles may not be specifically identified on a formal project organisation chart, but must be identified when considering how the “people aspects” of the project will be managed. Specific change management roles include:

  • Change Sponsor—the individual or group within the organisation having the political authority and organisational power to initiate the project and sustain it through to implementation. This person(s) has the ability to legitimise the change.

During a project, the change management roles often overlap. A change agent may also be a change target; a sponsor may also function as an agent.

Build An Effective Project Sponsorship

Strong project sponsorship is critical to the success of all information technology projects. Project managers play an important role in the identification, facilitation and maintenance of project sponsorship. Project managers should be involved in the following areas:

  • Determining the sponsorship needs of the project and obtaining proper sponsorship; educating sponsors regarding their role within the project to determine if they provide the appropriate levels of “pain and reward” to the organisation; optimising the use of the initiating sponsor’s time to help ensure that his/her decisions are sought only when necessary;
  • Ensuring sustaining sponsors and project resources are mobilised effectively and perform as needed;
  • Supporting sustaining sponsors in carrying the project message down through the organisation to the users of the system;
  • Maintaining the appropriate levels of sponsorship throughout the life of the project.

Build Commitment Through Effective Project Communication

One of the project manager’s most challenging tasks is to aim to ensure user expectations remain in line with project reality. To achieve this, project managers must carefully plan when and how communication takes place with the users and their management. This planning must take into account the level of understanding users need to have regarding the project throughout the project lifecycle.

To ensure effective communication, the project manager should develop a formal communication plan. This plan should be developed in whatever format is appropriate for the project structure, timeframe and objectives and should address the areas below;

Communication ElementSpecific issue to be addressed
Why?Why are we communicating (what is the objective?)
Who?Who needs to be involved in the communication process?
What?What information needs to be communicated?What are the most suitable methods for communicating?What are the existing communication channels?What is the best feedback mechanism?
When?When should the communication take place?
Where?Where should the communication take place?

Once the external communication plan has been developed, the project manager should set targets and define responsibilities. The plan must be executed effectively to build and maintain user understanding and commitment.

Project communication can take many forms and may be developed specifically for the project or use existing communication channels. To optimise time and effort, project managers should use existing communication channels whenever possible. Some examples of communication methods include:

  • House magazines.
  • Project newsletters.
  • Small group briefings.
  • Web Sites.
  • Text Messages.
  • Interactive presentations.
  • Training sessions.

The project manager should aim to ensure information conveyed in external project communications is consistent with internal project team information. This consistency is necessary to build support and confidence within the larger user community.

Effective communication is a two way process which must involve feedback. The communication plan should include provision for both formal and informal feedback.

Recognise Resistance

Implementing any project invariably creates resistance. In fact, research has shown that resistance is a natural reaction to the “disruption” that change causes in our lives. This research further suggests that individuals may resist even if they perceive a change as positive.

Project managers need to identify areas of resistance, measure its strength and develop strategies to minimise its impact. Various approaches for managing resistance are available. For example:

  • Providing vehicles for individuals to discuss their concerns openly, rather than suppressing them and raising their level of resistance even higher;
  • Involving people who resist as much as possible in the project to provide assurance that their concerns are understood and will be addressed.

Knowing project resistance is inevitable, it is essential that the project manager follow an approach that anticipates resistance and identifies factors causing individuals to resist. To understand what is likely to raise resistance, the project manager will need to encourage discussions with users, project sponsors, other implementers and other key individuals impacted by the new technology.

IT projects should support a pre-defined change in business processing. If the project is viewed as the cause of the change, resistance is generally higher than when the project is viewed as a necessary part of a larger change initiative. The project manager should aim to ensure that IT is not perceived as the cause of the change, but that it is put in its best business context.