There aren’t any. Absolutely none.
Nowadays, almost everybody realizes that people are a major driver for a successful implementation of any project. If we would ask the question: “Should we do something about change management?”. Most of you will answer: “Yes!”. However, if we would ask the question: “When should we start with it?”. The answer is less clear for most of you. People tend to wait till the moment everything is clear in full details, till we exactly know WHAT to do, so we are surely not confusing our people. But is this the right moment?
Experience taught us that the sooner you start with change management the better. This means you can start doing change management from the moment you know WHY you need a certain project. This means that when you have a challenge you want to solve you can already start. Let us explain why it makes sense to start introducing change management already at the WHY phase…
… my problem vs. our problem?
At the start of the project, we often assume we all have the same problem statement in our mind. However, nothing is farther from the truth. We forget that people tend to have a different perspective of the problem – or even don’t see the problem at all – because they analyse it from their own role or background.
Therefore, before jumping on the train of the future: let’s first reflect on the current situation, let’s share our visions with each other and let’s create one common understanding. And most important of all: let us not do all of this in a pure rational way, we are not doing a business case exercise here! Show your colleagues your problems, let them see or feel it and let us all find together a gut-smacking goal so you all start from the same page!
… make it their story!
To have a successful project, you need people who are willing to go that extra mile. The best way to make your people passionate about the project is to let them help building it. Who does not prefer writing your own story over receiving a script from someone else?
We believe there are three guidelines to compose a successful cast (or change team) for our story (or project): (1) Build it as soon as possible. Even from the design onwards? Yes, great! (2) Make it diverse. People from the key project team, key users, management, and many others – they can all be in it! (3) Involve them. In everything. In your communication strategy, company letter messages, your project planning and much more. Let them go through the change journey themselves, learn them to understand and handle it, and let them be the real promoters of your project towards all stakeholders involved. Nothing more convincing than the message and motivation of people who went through it themselves.
… but time is money?
“I agree this all makes sense, but we have to move fast, so we will not have time for this!” Indeed, involving the change agents from the beginning will take more time and yes, it would be far more ‘efficient’ if we start with a very small group who makes a design, who thinks about communication and who does nothing at all about change management at the beginning. However, the risk related to this approach can also be big: no buy-in and ownership by the people you need to execute all your very nice ideas! Thus, involving them as soon as possible is maybe an extra effort in the beginning, but we ensure it will pay off during the rest of your project and even way beyond!
So where did you start your change management track: already in the why-phase, or only after the what-phase?