5 Answers to Your Most Important Change Management Questions

Henry Bennett

In a recent webinar, titled The Adaptive PMO: Manage and maintain Change Management for Long Term Success, I teamed up with Audra Proctor, CEO of the agile change management company Changefirst, to discuss how to support a successful transition to an adaptive PMO. During the session, we tackled some tough — and common — questions from attendees about the change management process. Read on to learn what mattered most to attendees and our answers to these thought-provoking questions.

1. How do you know it is time for a change?

Most organizations recognize a need for change when pain points become too difficult to ignore. This can be a challenge because it means that by the time a business decides to adapt, they are desperate for change and the punch list for success is incredibly lengthy. This can make resistance higher and onboarding take longer. Processes, methodologies and outcomes should be assessed regularly and realistically to identify problems while they are small and easier to conquer. Change should be expected and prepared for as an inevitable part of doing business, not as something to accept begrudgingly when all other options are exhausted.

2. When is the ideal time to begin training a team to decrease resistance to change and ensure longevity?

There is no specific timeline for training people in a new methodology. Every company is different, which means that timing of training can shift based on a variety of factors. And yes, you can begin training too soon. The best approach is to be proactive in addressing issues before training begins. Start by measuring your team’s readiness for the required changes. This will help you identify areas of resistance and confusion and address them ahead of time. For example, if a member of the PM team is concerned about shifting from physical spreadsheets to digital reporting, you can offer preemptive technical education and support before training on the platform itself.

In addition to smoothing over bumps in the transition, measuring readiness also spurs engagement. People are more willing to change when they are allowed to collaborate on the outcome. This helps people buy into change because they are part of the changes rather than having change inflicted upon them.

3. How do you overcome resistance to change and drive high adoption rates?

Even with proactive planning, you will still have people who are resistant to change. To combat this, it is critical not to underestimate the power of your local leadership. As Audra Proctor explains, “Often when we have to deal with groups of people resisting adoption, that’s where we have to start.”

People look to their immediate leadership for motivation and enthusiasm. If a leader is resistant, chances are that the team will also be resistant, since there is no one to reinforce the positive reasons for adoption. You need to investigate reasons for the resistance. Why are certain managers reluctant and what can be done to get their buy-in and then pass it along to their teams? You need to not only identify both the people who are going to be positive but also potential detractors, since they often yield more peer influence than you realize and they may have valid issues.

4. How important is stakeholder engagement to change management?

Stakeholder engagement is vital to facilitating change management. It is important that people don’t just know that change is coming, but also understand why it is necessary and feel they will be rewarded for being a part of a positive outcome. Stakeholders should be visible and accessible participants in the process. and the more personal you can make the connection, the better. The problem with relying solely on impersonal forms of communication is that people don’t have to listen. When you’re engaging with them in a room together, or at least over a video call, that is when you can break through.

5. How do you ensure a successful change with limited resources?

Of course, change management is easier to manage when resources are plentiful. However, the reality is that many organizations have a limited budget in comparison to what is needed to orchestrate the level of required change. Audra Proctor stresses the importance of technology in facilitating change because of its ability to improve collaboration whether participants are working from headquarters or a home office.

Projects, deliverables and plans can be shared with the click of a button. Meetings can be conducted via video platforms. Information can be communicated instantly, reducing the expense of implementation. If an organization doesn’t have the resources to implement change but desperately needs it to thrive, it’s important to reassess business priorities to see if there is room to shuffle resources for change management. Failure to do so could be more expensive in the long run, considering that an expense like a new project management tool or another technology platform becomes a waste of money if no one utilizes it to its full benefit.

In uncertain times, the ability to adapt is the key to business survival. For many companies, the Project Management Office (PMO) has become an essential partner in navigating the growth and obstacles that often occur when an organization makes the shift to become a more flexible and innovative company. An adaptive PMO is a powerful ally in the journey to success, but only if the company has the tools and knowledge they need to get the job done right. Visit Changefirst to learn more about how to make your change management process less painful and more effective.