Remember 3 Elements for Successful Change

By its nature, any change introduces risk.  While things can – and do – go wrong, many common pitfalls can be avoided.  This blog highlights three key themes to consider when planning your next change project.

You Made a Change. Things Broke…Now What?

The unseen cost of poorly executed change runs to millions of dollars annually as well as the operational ‘drag’ it creates in the form of:

  • manual workarounds adding time to processes rather than delivering promised savings,
  • lost productivity as colleagues absorb and adapt to new ways of working,
  • poor customer experience, dissatisfaction and complaints because front line colleagues are not adequately trained and cannot resolve customer queries.

In reality all change carries risk.  But you can avoid or mitigate bad outcomes with a thoughtful approach to change management that starts long before go-live.

"Avoid or mitigate bad outcomes with a thoughtful approach to change management."

3 Elements for Success: Stakeholder Involvement, Preparation and Ongoing Attention


1.  Win Hearts and Minds to Build Support and Advocacy

Identify your stakeholders and invest time to explain the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of the proposed change. Taking time to listen—and respond—to their concerns will pay dividends when you need their support.

Communication is not a ‘one and done’ activity.  Maintain regular dialogue to keep stakeholders informed during change projects. They need to feel they are part of the change—not a victim of it.

Last but not least, secure the support of a strong business sponsor. An engaged and supportive sponsor will advocate for change, embed new ways of working and, ultimately, ensure that business case benefits are delivered.

TIP:  The role of the sponsor is often misunderstood.  They are much more than a figurehead. Instead, an effective business sponsor works closely with the project team. They take a hands-on approach when it comes to selling the future-state vision, building support for change, securing the resources needed to succeed and removing obstacles along the way.


2.  Preparation is the Key to a Smooth Landing

Spend time up-front defining clear business requirements and completing an impact assessment.  Consult all interested parties to avoid unintended consequences down the line.

TIP:  Don’t forget to include those front-line colleagues who will ultimately operationalize your planned change. They will provide valuable insights into what really happens, and that can be very different from what is contained in procedures documentation and/or management perceptions.

Don’t take shortcuts when it comes to user acceptance testing and prioritization of defects. If you need to defer any fixes until after go-live, consider:

  • Are business and customer impacts understood?
  • Is an interim manual workaround required and wise?
  • Are all stakeholders in agreement with the proposed fix?

Define clear business readiness tollgate criteria. Schedule a formal ‘Go/No-Go’ decision point to confirm with stakeholders that, for example:

  • testing is complete and the timeline for deferred bug fixes is acceptable,
  • training meets user needs,
  • customer communications have been issued, and
  • processes and procedures have been updated to reflect new ways of working.

TIP:  The cost-time-quality equation is well understood by change management practitioners, but commercial considerations and stakeholder expectations can result in pressure to implement change that simply isn’t fit for purpose.

You can mitigate this risk with a disciplined approach to business readiness. Agree to minimum go-live criteria with all stakeholders during the planning phase—and hold them to those standards in a formal ‘Go/No-Go’ decision point. This significantly de-risks the implementation phase.

Agree up-front with your sponsor and stakeholders how you will track benefits.  Identify who will be responsible for making sure the project achieves its return on investment after go-live.


RELATED CONTENTUse a planning questionnaire to help guide you and prioritize steps


3.  Make it Stick to Create Shareholder Value

Change management doesn’t stop at go-live. Now you need to embed new ways of working to deliver desired customer outcomes and realize planned business benefits.

TIP:  Organizations often have a blind spot when it comes to project benefits. Examples include failure to validate business case assumptions and computations or define how they will be measured. Additional “misses” could be an inability to identify a business owner who will be accountable for ‘cashing the check’ in BAU. Regardless of root cause, the outcome is the same. Namely, a P&L gap that needs to be plugged to meet investor expectations.

Embed rigorous scrutiny of project benefits in your end-to-end change framework, from initial scoping through business case approval to implementation and transition to BAU. This will result in more objective prioritization of competing change projects and improved return on investment across your change portfolio.

Create a feedback loop using informal pulse-checks as well as formal review meetings to understand how well the change has landed:

  • Are new systems working as intended?
  • Are colleagues demonstrating the desired behaviors?
  • Is there a need for intervention and/or course correction?

Finally, accept that things may go wrong and plan for it. Include sufficient budget for bug fixes and/or refresher training if required. This way, stakeholders will feel supported by the project team if issues emerge when the change goes live.


You Can Manage Change with Strong Stakeholder Engagement, Clear Communication and Flawless Execution with Bridgeforce

Bridgeforce has more than 24 years of real-world change management experience. We have worked with clients spanning end-to-end program management and focused troubleshooting in response to 911 calls when things have not gone as planned.  Whatever your requirements, contact us today to find out how we can help you find success with your change program.


[Editor’s note: this article was written by Alan Glencorse, former Bridgeforce Senior Program Manager]

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