In a recent conversation, a project manager said she struggled to get others in her organization, especially leaders and other project managers, to use change management tools to analyze the people side of their projects.
“How do I plant the seeds of change management?” she wondered.
I decided to go with the metaphor of planting seeds to describe how to get people to adopt change management approaches and look at projects through the people lens.
Till the Soil
To get people to adopt change management, you’ll need to sow some dissatisfaction with the way things are currently done without change management. Look for examples of things gone wrong with projects that may have been avoided or improved with more thought and effort toward the people side of change. Unintended consequences? Unexpected resistance? An unacceptable dip in performance? People just not changing? Do a post mortem on past projects and point out what could be done next time to avoid these missteps.
Dig the Holes
Set the stage for change management by applying some of the methods informally. Providing people with tools without context just seems like bureaucracy. Instead, ask questions and invite them to discover the answers. Who is impacted by this project? What might their response be? What about the project might cause resistance? Who could we enlist to help us implement this project? What level of performance do we expect to maintain during the implementation? How could we equip people to make sure they are ready for change? Make people curious enough to seek the answers.
Plant the Seeds
Introduce some tools to make it easier to discover the answers to the questions they are now curious about. Start with something simple and immediately useful, that won’t slow things down too much: a change impact map, a leadership support chart, a roles and relationships diagram, for example. Validate the insights they gained by doing the exercises. Make it something they can act on, which they wouldn’t have done without the tool.
Water and Fertilize
Collect and share success stories about how people in your organization have used change management approaches to improve the outcomes of their projects. Compare these stories to the examples of things gone wrong from the “Till the Soil” step. Call out the successes that people have using the tools, so they acknowledge they were helpful. Point out when they accurately predicted a response to change or when they discovered something new. Invite those who successfully used the tools to share them with others who have been hesitant.
Keep in mind that getting people to adopt change management tools and approaches is itself a change management project. Apply the tools yourself and see where they lead you.