A word that program managers dread to hear. And an inevitable part of program management because companies must evolve to succeed.
Progress waits for no one, and companies that don’t embrace the concept of continuous improvement will fall behind.
So, whether from organizational shifts, internal process adjustments or external influences, all programs and projects are impacted by some sort of change as an organization evolves. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Yes, change can be disruptive to program managers because of the effort required in making adjustments, but it is also a highly productive source of improvement that can be beneficial to program managers when appropriately managed.
And that is the key for anyone leading a program — learning how to manage change with a stable process and software to support that process puts you in a position to continuously improve.
Create a Change Management Process
According to a 2015 McKinsey survey of global senior executives, the success rate of major change initiatives is only 26 percent. That means three in four change initiatives fail, and often this is because the change is not properly managed.
Fortunately, properly managed change is often a matter of imposing a structured process. Program managers can help their teams navigate change by helping impose that kind of structure, then translating it into a change management plan.
Tim Creasey, chief innovation officer at Prosci, calls this integration of change management with project management a “unified value proposition.” When the two disciplines come together, it combines the technical and people sides of managing change, which puts organizations in a better position to successfully manage the change.
When creating a change management plan, program managers should look to include four basic phases.
1. Understand the Change Request
Program managers need to be sure they fully understand the details of a change request and the scope of that change. It is also important to understand how the change will benefit or hinder projects, processes, product quality and stakeholders. Lateyfa Ali, a human resources consultant, has a few key questions that will help direct your thinking:
- What part of the organizational strategy will be directly impacted by the change?
- What outcomes is the company hoping to achieve with the change?
- Is it a change that needs to be implemented at this moment in time?
- How will the company secure buy-in for the change?
- How will stakeholders be informed of the change?
- What value will be created for the organization as a result of the change?
Understanding the answers to these questions helps programs managers understand why a change is necessary and exactly what the company is trying to accomplish. If something does not make sense, program managers can open dialogue about the necessity and impact of the change.
2. Conduct an Impact Analysis
Program managers can provide a voice of reason because of their ability to determine and anticipate the impact of a change.
No change should be implemented without an impact analysis on how budget, schedule and scope will be affected. Project manager Amit Sakar says this analysis should also provide essential information on the effects on people, processes, quality and operation, as well as the risks associated with the change.
Our chief defense industry client strategist at Artemis, Joe Kerins, explains that an impact analysis answers the question “What if?” By running a “what if” analysis, program managers can visualize the change and consequences. This information can be used to either push back against or encourage a change based on what the data says. Ideally, program managers would run multiple “what if” scenarios for each change request to understand the best path forward.
3. Manage Change
Once a change is approved and set in motion, it must be managed properly to ensure goals are met (and, when relevant, that the changes meet compliance regulations).
It starts with your team. Managing the people involved in the change is a key area of focus in these steps. During this phase, it is important to make sure everyone knows their roles in the change and that adequate support is available. Also, this is the time to provide the necessary training and tools to overcome any objections or barriers to change that arise.
Project manager and author Elizabeth Harrin suggests talking to your team and sharing the change process with them. This will help them understand and adapt to the change management process. She also advises that you make the process as easy as possible, while being there to help your team adjust.
Managing the change also means ensuring you are managing all of your resources most effectively to meet the new budget and schedule constraints. The complexity of this step can be eased with the right software, which we will touch on in the next section.
4. Sustain The Change
The final step in a change management process is to ensure that the changes last by giving constant encouragement to the team and continually driving change through the business. This is where process takes a backseat to leadership. “As a leader, you have to believe — and you have to help every single person in your organization believe — that you will never arrive,” says Gary Peterson, executive vice president for supply chain and production at O.C. Tanner.
In other words, Peterson says, you cannot say “mission accomplished.” There is always something in your processes that can be improved.
Let Software Automate As Much of That Process As Possible
Managing change is made simpler with tools that can automate and accelerate the steps above. Otherwise, you risk having to put a project on pause for days or weeks while someone conducts a cost schedule analysis, or because you must manually get approval from key stakeholders.
Keep Your Project Data Clean
Ideally, program managers would have a single tool that uses a single database for managing a project, Kerins says. With a single database, changes you make to one application updates in the other. This streamlines the change process for everyone and eliminates opportunities for error. It also ensures the integrity of the data, which is essential in successful change management. Bad data can have a devastating effect on any project.
Process Automation Eases the Transition
Each change request can come with multiple project changes. And if your program must meet DCMA regulations, those require that each change be documented. A good PM tool will allow for multiple changes to run at one time, automating the approvals and documentation required for regulatory compliance. The quicker you can run through approvals and documents, the quicker your team can implement the changes, and a tool with a single database speeds up each of these steps.
The more a tool can do for you, the more you can dedicate your time to the other piece of the change management puzzle — people.
Your Ability to Lead a Change Initiative Sets the Baseline For Continuous Improvement
Change will fail without support from people at every level of the business. Executive advisor DeAnne Aguirre and product design specialist Micah Alpern explain that change management begins with those at the top of the organization and extends to everyone on the organizational ladder.
Program managers help facilitate this support. Because your role is to understand the focus of the change and how it aligns with strategy and goals, you can help communicate that to your teams at every level.
Further, program managers are in a position to lead change initiatives because they serve all levels of an organization. They are the voices of reason to executives because they can gather specific, project-related data through impact analysis; they are also leaders and change agents who can rally their teams to adopt change that is for the better.
Finally, processes and people are the key determinants to success, and both should be fully engaged when managing a change. Program managers are essential to successful continuous improvement because they have the ability to facilitate that change on both the technical and people sides of the change management equation.