By their nature, all projects induce change on individuals. It may be a change in process, product line, job aids, tools, organizational structure, personnel, or at the least expectations. As you know, not everyone deals with change in the same way. Also, change can be halted or derailed because of the way people respond to it.
That means that a project’s success has as much to do with managing change as it does producing an end product. This is not always realized by project managers and business analysts. This is because they are so familiar with the change and have been processing it for so long that they minimize the impact it will have on others. When change impact is minimized it is not planned for and individuals going through the change tend to resist and fight back.
Even though each of us deals with change differently, all of us go through the same process of accepting it. We first want to know why the current state needs to be changed. Then we want to know what the future state is going to be like. Lastly we want to know how we are going to be transitioned from the current state to the future state.
While the above information helps us move through the change process our emotional response to the information can hinder acceptance. Experts tell us that when processing a change we all experience to some degree seven different emotions: immobilization, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, exploration, and acceptance.
With projects, time is on our side when it comes to change. We always know when in the future the change will occur, and if we are smart we will start planning for it right after we complete the planning for the project. There are a number of strategies and tools at our disposal to help people move through the change process and experience the varying emotions:
Communication is the most powerful change tool. Getting information out early and often is best. Repetition with alterations in wording and tone ensure the information is embraced. Breaking the transition into smaller steps helps people move towards acceptance. Legitimizing people’s anger and not taking it personally can take a very uncomfortable emotion and dissolve it.
Learning has to be provided when the change requires people to do things differently. Make sure they know what resources are available to them. People going through change need to know they will be prepared for it in advance of when they will be required to perform differently.
Lastly, there is no better way to motivate someone to experience change than to offer them rewards for embracing it. The rewards need to be consistent with the degree of change and resistance that may be expressed. The rewards also need to be enjoyed as close as possible to the time when resistance may be at its highest level. Offering someone a reward in the future for putting their resistance aside now is not going to work for most people.
The level of effort required to address project change can vary greatly. Putting in more than what is needed does not make sense and is a waist. Most likely, project managers and business analyst will not succumb to this. If they make an error it will be on the side of not putting in enough effort; and, that is what we want to avoid.