Changemakers: Why you need change management for successful transformation
Project managers and change managers are a powerful pair at the heart of any transformation. The synergy between these two roles is critical. Together, they connect both the technical and people-focused aspects of organisational change to see benefits.
Digital transformation, shifting economic paradigms, and geopolitical uncertainty have been catalysts for disruption and change over recent years. A Microsoft study revealed that nearly half of workers surveyed (48 percent) report experiencing burnout. And recent Gartner research reveals employee resistance to change remains high. Against this backdrop, it’s becoming increasingly challenging to drive the technical elements of transformational projects forward, whilst actively engaging employees who are central to the success of any change.
Drawing on our experience assisting private and public sector organisations with large-scale transformation programmes, we've identified four areas for change managers to maximise their impact and deliver enduring results.
Intelligent, integrated, and iterative planning
At project inception, a collective vision of success is established. However, what's sometimes overlooked is the acknowledgment that project managers and change managers will follow different, but interconnected, paths to reach the end goal. Project managers will focus on ensuring the project is completed to scope, on schedule, and within budget. Whereas change managers concentrate on communicating the importance of change, understanding its effect on people, and determining the drivers motivating behaviour change.
Collaboration is essential to ensure both groups deliver their objectives. Effective integration of the project and change plans, with frequent iteration, ensures sufficient time allocation for activities and early visibility of risks. Notably, 47 percent of projects report meeting or exceeding objectives when plans are integrated. Sometimes, change management is neglected until the project's later stages, rendering it too late to achieve and sustain the intended impact. Change management isn't a singular event. It's a dynamic, iterative process, led by a change manager, but shaped by the people experiencing the change.
Ensure consistent communication
Effective collaboration thrives on proactive and transparent communication between project and change managers. A 2023 study revealed that 68 percent of project professionals determined communication as the most important interpersonal skill to enact change and fulfil organisational objectives.
We recently partnered with a national healthcare provider undergoing a complex merger. Our experts found effective communication between the project and change teams strengthened communications with those at the heart of the change. Weekly touchpoints guaranteed the change team was equipped with up-to-date project information to craft compelling messages for employees. Monthly inclusive, accessible, and omnichannel updates were created informing the substantial workforce (~20,000 people) about the merger. This strategic approach successfully ensured that all impacted colleagues were aware of the changes before they became public knowledge.
Build a coalition of sponsorship
Successful transformations draw strength from sponsorship. Change managers rally leaders armed with skills to support both project and change teams to drive impactful change. In partnership with Wates, we designed and facilitated a 15-month leadership development programme, providing 85 senior leaders in Construction with the skills, behaviours, and confidence to build an elite culture and guide people in delivering the changes required to achieve the organisations strategic goals.
Occasionally, there’s a misalignment between technical and people-focused activities. For example, while the technical elements of a project might be poised to execute, a Change Readiness Assessment may indicate the capacity to embrace the change is not healthy, leading to tension between teams. Leadership can serve as a mediator, intervening to resolve situations when project and change managers find themselves in a stalemate.
Harness innovation for decision-making
Change managers use data throughout the project lifecycle to gauge readiness for the change, assess adoption rates, and adapt communication strategies. Modern, disruptive digital tools are reshaping conventional, uninspiring surveys to meaningfully engage audiences and collect valuable insights. Anonymity encourages honesty, and this tool provides change managers with a 360-degree understanding of how people view change.
Change managers are essential when it comes to successful transformation. Don’t make the mistake of leaving change management behind.