Getting A Grip On Change

Simplify By Focusing On The Essence And Put It Into Practice!

Everyone is talking about change, the speed of change, the growing complexity of change, et cetera. You read the latest books, follow a course and loaded with all this new knowledge you feel ready to beat this challenge. But the day after, you return to your office only to find a huge list of actions waiting to be dealt with. And of course your colleagues may notice that you act a bit differently  -- ‘Must have been on a course and learned something new’. But luckily for them your new -- changed --  behavior will be back to ‘normal’ again after a couple of days ... in the end resulting in: ‘No Change’.

Recognizable? If your answer is ‘Yes!’ then keep on reading; this series of articles is for you!

Change How We Change

Of course you should keep up with all the modern techniques and latest developments or you may miss the train (or boat … Yes, we will talk lots about traffic in this series of blogs on Change). For supporting you in getting a better understanding there are a lot of sources available: websites, tools, books, YouTube video’s, e-learnings, seminars, trainings, … you name it and it’s there. This is of course very interesting and mostly it will provide you with useful knowledge why certain things typically work out the way they do. It may also provide you with insights about what you can change in your way of working to do a better job in changing.

But having the knowledge is not enough. You need to put it in practice to really understand ‘Change’; what it really is and how it really works out successfully in my environment, with my colleagues, in our market, with my product, …. And the only way to get there is by starting it! But for doing that, and for taking the first hurdles with less problems we first need to make it simple again. This is crucial for creating an organizational wide understanding of changing as a group. And that’s what the next series of blogs will do. By making it simple: clarifying some ground rules and based on that help you in clarifying what your priorities are and where to start best.

For us, ‘Leadership in organizational project management’ basically means creating a common understanding about Changing your business. We do that by simplifying it, thus bringing it back to its core essence, and of course by putting this into practice! Because pragmatism is what counts and that’s what we like at Threon.

Give It Some Thought First

When I worked together with one of our customers, who strives for ‘Excellence in project management’ the feedback we received was ‘Very pragmatic! You make it easy again’. And to be honest: everything which has to do with ‘Change’ is really no ‘rocket science’ at all. You simply need to allow for a bit of time to make an effort and to give it some more thought.

And we often see in practice that that’s just the issue: when dealing with ‘Change’ you first need to give it some thought! Mostly we deal with ‘Change’ too much on a routine basis. And we only start realizing after the start that the planned change seems to be a bit more complex than we thought at first sight. But then the first damage is already done: misunderstandings, disappointed stakeholders, and already some first conflicts arising. Not very supporting in routine situations; definitely even more disruptive when dealing with ‘Change’.

So when you want to realize a ‘Change’ effectively you better recognize it as early as possible. The first step of doing that is by starting to understand the ‘Change’ better so you can align your communication accordingly. Managing expectations is key!

For doing that we need to answer some basic questions first:

  • What really drives this change (need & urgency)?
  • What will the change bring us? (expected high level benefits)
  • Are we really willing to make the expected effort (no pain-no gain)? 
  • What will we lose when we complete this change (expected high-level dis-benefits)?
  • Do the expected benefits outweigh making the expected effort and the expected losses (high-level business case)?
  • Whose support is needed to complete the change and really start realizing the benefits (commitment and ownership for the change)?    
  • What is the best approach for realizing the change and the benefits (high-level change & benefits realization plan): e.g. Instead of trying to change in ‘one-go’ (big-bang, ambitious and high-risk change), can’t we create a more stepwise approach (Agile; first crawl, then step, then run)

This allows us to quickly assess the change and passing the first hurdle of ‘accepting and selecting the 'Idea for Change’. It will provide for a clear confirmation by the organization: 'Yes, we are willing to put some effort (scarce capacity!) in developing this idea further!'. Having to pass this hurdle saves us spending loads of effort on projects which never had a chance to be completed for supporting a change anyway. The need for change, driven by benefits, should drive our projects. It’s not the other way round (because we’ve finished the project we should change …)!

After having refined our ‘Change and benefits realization plan’ a bit further, thus reinforcing the business case and the ‘Change’, we can create the project plan: what do we really need as enabler for that change and how are we going to create that. And when diving deeper into the business drivers, the benefits, the change, the enablers (= projects),  the project approach, we will gain much more insight and use that knowledge to improve our plans  (=progressive elaboration).

For doing that there are already loads of predefined processes, tools and techniques available (Portfolio, Program and Project Management best practices); we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. But you also need to be selective in the application of best practices; it’s a means and not a purpose.

And Then: Practice Practice Practice!

When discussing this with our customers we always start with gaining a better understanding of their practice: their environment and their priorities. Then we group and place their challenges in a logical order (prioritize) and we simply start discussing and exchanging knowledge and experience. We show them possible alternative ways for dealing with actual issues, using generic best practices added with Threon experience. But we also ensure  that they maintain the strengths of their current pathway. Because bottom line, the purpose is to change from good to better, not to worse…

Meeting with S&N @ Lindau, March 2015

That way we not only create a learning environment for exchanging knowledge. But by linking it immediately to practice we also establish the foundations for new and better routines in ‘dealing with change’. That is creative (creation!) and fun to do. And it also explains the positive feedback mentioned earlier. Because we primarily learn ‘on the job’; by being creative and putting it into practice.

The Benefits

When dealing with ‘Change’ in our environments in more professional and effective ways, the likely outcome  is that we start appreciating ‘Change’ again and we establish a ‘Change’ embracing environment. And that’s what we need nowadays, because more ‘Change’ will be there, every day and everywhere. And luckily somewhere in the human nature there is this desire to change, to improve, to grow, to extend. Otherwise, without this drive for change, we would still be living as cavemen and hitting each other on the head with bats…. To be honest: I’m happy with the changes my forefathers have realized so far: I like my current environment much better.

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