For all individuals, teams and organizations, change is required for growth, improvement and, at times, survival. The change might be new equipment or software, new procedures, or a different organizational structure for a team, department or division. Regardless of the change that is to happen, people will be at the center of it.
If the process is not properly managed, it’s like no power getting to the traffic signals at an intersection. Everyone might eventually navigate through the chaos, but how long will it take, at what cost, and what will be the attitude of people during and after the change process?

That intersection is where change meets the opportunity for maximum return on your investment.

According to researchers, including Prosci Inc., a leader in Change Management research and content creation, your organization’s initiatives and projects stand a significantly better chance of success with a well planned and executed, people-focused Change Management plan.

Unfortunately, too often the tendency is to forge ahead with a project’s development and implementation. That’s too late to start thinking about effects the change will have on the people who have to understand the change, accept it and become proficient. You are well into the “crash zone” at that point, so let’s back up to the starting line: the project charter.

Plan to succeed through change 

The charter and scope documents must include a Change Management section that addresses the needs of the people who are responsible for success of the change. It must also establish a dedicated team, a realistic schedule and funding to implement the Change Management plan.

First, people need to understand why the change is happening. What’s in it for them and the company, and what are the risks if the change doesn’t succeed? The highest-level leader in the organization best delivers this motivating message of leadership’s support and why all employees should also support the change.

Next, everyone must be clear about his or her individual and team’s participation in the change. They need to understand what knowledge and skills they will need, and what they will be expected to do during and after the change is implemented. People must also understand how their performance will be evaluated and what challenges they might face. Their direct manager best communicates this information.

And finally, providing training, tools and a clear future direction – including incentives, recognition, and rewards and consequences – will help ensure that the desired outcomes are sustained after the project is declared officially complete.

When everyone understands and follows the “traffic signals” of a change process, the likelihood of everyone getting through the intersection safe and sound is greatly increased – and so is the return on your investment in the change initiative.

Essay by Dean Leutscher, PMP