Not a member? Join here

Answers to Your Most Important Change Management Questions

change management keyedin project management stakeholder management Apr 19, 2021
Answers to Your Most Important Change Management Questions

 By Colin Gibbins 

In a recent webinar, titled The Adaptive PMO: Manage and maintain Change Management for Long Term Success, I teamed up with Audra Proctor, CEO of the agile change management company Changefirst, to discuss how we partner to support a successful transition to an adaptive Portfolio Management Office (PMO). During the session, we tackled some tough — and common — questions from attendees about the change management process. Read on to learn what mattered most to attendees and our answers to these thought-provoking questions. 


1. How do you know it is time for a change?

Most organizations recognize a need for change when pain points become too difficult to ignore or external factors force action. This can be a challenge because it means that by the time a business decides to adapt, they are desperate for change and the priority list for success is incredibly lengthy. This can make resistance higher and mean the change ultimately takes longer. Processes, methodologies and outcomes should be tracked and assessed regularly to identify problems while they are small and easier to conquer. Change should be expected and prepared for as a positive part of doing business, not as something to accept begrudgingly when all other options are exhausted. 


2. How important is stakeholder engagement to change management?

Stakeholder engagement is vital to facilitating change management. It is important that people don’t just know that change is coming, but also understand why it is necessary, what they need to do differently and how they need to “be” – in effect how their thinking and behavior needs to align. Stakeholders should be participants in the change process and the more personal you can make the connection, the better.  The problem with relying solely on impersonal documents and generic lines of communication is that people may hear but don’t have to listen. When you’re engaging with them in smaller groups, making it relevant and personal that is when you can break through.


3. How do you overcome resistance to change and drive high adoption rates?

Even with proactive planning, you will still have people who are resistant to change. To combat this, it is critical not to underestimate the power of your local leadership. As Audra Proctor explains, “Often when we have to deal with groups of people resisting adoption, that’s where we have to start.” 


People look to their immediate leadership for motivation and enthusiasm. If a leader is resistant, chances are that the team will also be resistant, since there is no one to reinforce the positive reasons for adoption. You need to investigate reasons for the resistance. Why are certain local managers reluctant and what can be done to get their buy-in and then pass it along to their teams? You need to not only identify both the people who are going to be positive but also potential detractors, since they often yield more peer influence than you realize and they may have valid issues. Turning just one detractor into a promoter can be hugely beneficial if they are one of the “unofficial leaders” in an organization.

4. When is the ideal time to begin training a team to decrease resistance to change and ensure longevity? 

This varies from team to team and the degree of change involved. Every company is different, which means that timing of training can shift based on a variety of factors. And yes, you can begin training too soon. The best approach is to be proactive in identifying and addressing issues before training begins. Start by measuring your team’s readiness for the required changes. This will help you identify areas of resistance and confusion and address them ahead of time. For example, if a member of the PM team is concerned about shifting from physical spreadsheets to digital reporting, you can offer preemptive engagement  and support before training on the platform itself. 


In addition to smoothing over bumps in the transition, measuring readiness also spurs engagement. People are more willing to change when they are involved in the change and this often results in a better design and outcomes. This helps people buy into change because they are part of the changes rather than having change inflicted upon them. 


5. How do you ensure a successful change with limited resources?

Of course, change management is easier to manage when resources are plentiful. However, the reality is that many organizations have a limited budget in comparison to what is needed to orchestrate the level of required change. Audra Proctor stresses the importance of technology in facilitating change because of its ability to improve collaboration whether participants are working from headquarters or a home office. 


Projects, deliverables and plans can be shared with the click of a button. Workshops and meetings can be conducted via video platforms. Information can be communicated instantly, reducing the expense of implementation. If an organization doesn’t have the resources to implement change but desperately needs it to thrive, it’s important to reassess business priorities to see if there is room to shuffle resources for change management. 


Failure to do so could be more expensive in the long run, considering that an expense like a new portfolio management tool or another technology platform becomes a waste of money if no one utilizes it to its full benefit. Ask your sponsor “do you want to do it once and right, or have to pay to do it over again in a few months time?”


In Summary


In uncertain times, the ability to adapt is the key to business survival. For many companies, the PMO has become an essential partner in driving the growth and navigating the obstacles that often occur when an organization makes the shift to become a more flexible and innovative company. An adaptive PMO is a powerful ally in the journey to success, but only if the people have the tools, process and change management support they need to get the change right. 


Visit Changefirst to learn more about how to make your change management approach more effective and successful. 


Visit KeyedIn to learn more about the tools and processes to support the transformation to adaptive portfolio management.