Inspiring And Enabling People
To Make A Difference
Leading a change project is a great opportunity to learn a lot about yourself, your colleagues and your organisation. Let’s start this article with the most important of the three, you! Amongst the many attributes you will need during the change journey one that is critical to your success is determination. Of course determination can range from ‘grim’ to ‘stubborn’ however my suggestion is to set your dial to ‘flexible’.
‘Flexible determination’ is what is needed if you are to survive the many twist and turns and ups and downs most change projects have to endure along the way. It is also a key attribute to help you bring your colleagues along with you on the change journey. It enables you to stay on course and remain open to new ideas. It allows you to explain the why, when, what, who and how of the change process whilst encouraging you to ‘entertain and consider’ thoughts and views that others may have along the way.
Then, with your dial suitably tuned, you need to get your colleagues on board. At the start of any change journey the final destination can seem far away and shrouded in mist. It is important therefore to spend some time working with your colleagues to bring this destination clearly into focus. What Stephen Covey calls ‘starting with the end in mind.’ To do this I use ‘Imagineering’ which is a technique similar to engineering except it uses your mind and your imagination as the raw materials. Organise a workshop with your colleagues in an open environment away from the hustle and bustle of day-to-day activity. Then reset your internal time clocks and imagine the project has finished and it has been a great success. Give everyone some quiet time to bring this to life in their minds. Ask them to consider what is different?; what has been achieved for the organisation?; what obstacles have you successfully overcome together?; what are they proud of?; what is still left to do?; how do they feel now?; etc. The resulting discussion will create most of the raw material that you will need to craft a suitable Project Charter.
The Project Charter ,(or project brief as it is sometimes called), is a key document that you should build with the team that will help you make the change a reality. It represents the starting point for the journey and should contain the collective thoughts and views of all the team. I encourage teams to ‘sign’ this document as a symbolic way to demonstrate they are committed to the journey ahead. It also needs to be ratified by the Project Sponsor – the senior manager who is acting as the link back into the strategic process from which the change project should be born.
Project Charter’s come in many shapes and sizes but the key sections are:
Purpose – a short paragraph explaining why this project is necessary – this clearly has to answer the ‘why bother?’ question that will inevitably be asked once the journey starts.
Objectives – Clearly expressed statements of intent that are SMART: Specific to the project (unique if possible); Measurable (you need to know the starting value so pick something you measure now); Ambitious (why waste your time doing something that is easy to do life is too short); Realistic (a relative word what is realistic to you might be hopelessly optimistic to me and vice versa – get the team to discuss and agree this level); and Time-bound (objectives need dates otherwise they are just dreams).
Scope – a section explaining what you will and more importantly what you will not consider and work on during the change journey ahead. The Scope Out section enables you to manage expectations early and is key to your success. It needs to contain all the areas that other interested parties may assume you are going to tackle but in fact you are not.
Milestones – the significant achievements you intend to deliver with dates – it is important to make the milestones statements of achievement not simply big tasks.
Deliverables – what will exist at the end of the project that does not exist now – make them tangible if possible.
Risks – what might prevent you succeeding and how you can prevent or mitigate these things before the project gets going?
Once the Project Charter has been ratified by the Project Sponsor then the journey can begin in earnest.
Clearly the better the quality of the thinking in the planning phase the easier the journey will be. Try hard to involve as many people as necessary in the thinking stage as involvement is a great way to build commitment and commitment is the most elusive thing you need to secure during the change journey. It is the fuel that propels the journey forward and locks change in place along the way.
It never ceases to amaze me how people are all for change and how they think it is a great idea until they realise that they may also have to change themselves. As an ‘Agent of Change’ building personal commitment to change in your colleagues and across the organisation as a whole will be your biggest challenge by far. The habits and rituals surrounding the way people work are very pervasive and will fiercely resist any attempt to be changed. Think about it yourself for a moment. When was the last time you changed a habit? How easy did you find it? These are the forces you have to overcome when you are leading a change project. It is perfectly natural for people to resist change so expect it. Making the process inclusive, enjoyable and liberating can help. I am firmly of the view people want to do a great job and they have many ideas on how to remove the day-to-day frustrations that exist in all organisations. The latency to improve exists, it is your job to tap into this and unleash the potential people have to improve.
Finally, it is prudent to expect the unexpected and with enthusiasm and flexible determination in your locker the journey should be both challenging and enjoyable. Leading a change programme can be a very rewarding career move and if the opportunity comes along my advice would be to grab it with open arms!
Malcolm Follos – Managing Director of Sensei UKE and Chief Operating Officer of Sensei International. – Sensei is an award-winning global consultancy which helps organisations worldwide to deliver strategically significant results by improving HUMAN PERFORMANCE and by optimising the value of team and leadership interactions.