PLANNING FOR CHANGE
A detailed plan is essential for success. Based on initial assessments, leaders must determine specific courses of action for each stage of the process and what resources will be needed. They should then focus on winning over key people in the organization.
Despite the pressure to show quick results, leaders must take the time to develop in-depth plans spelling out what is expected, the implementation process, the cost, and what is due when. This will help their teams work more efficiently and communicate better. Insufficient support can exhaust team members and undermine a project. A well researched “resourcing plan” can help ensure that the human side of the change is addressed as well as the technical needs.
Those affected by the project need clarity about their respective tasks and the overall effort. These rules, including the decision-making process, should be spelled out up front to avoid conflicts later. Employees also need time and practice to learn new skills, change the way they think and behave, forge new connections, and assimilate new working processes. People need to be able to talk about the change until it becomes the norm. Project leaders must help coworkers make these adjustments.
Major change always entails significant risks. Initial plans are inevitably based on limited information; project leaders must recognize the risks, anticipate problems, take steps to minimize them, and make plans for dealing with those that do occur. Companies often focus on technical risks while downplaying the ways people actually behave.
Change teams must have the skills needed to execute project plans. Leaders must consider the optimum team size and what each member brings to a project. It is easier to obtain needed resources at the start of a project than halfway through. A slim budget may look appealing, but it will hinder results. After management approves team member selections, leaders must win those employees over. It helps to consider why individual candidates might be reluctant: perhaps they prefer their current assignment, worry about the impact on their career, or wonder what will happen once the project is completed.
Good leaders can help reduce team members’ fears. A good leader must be organized, able to see what is missing, have strong interpersonal skills, and know how to solve problems. They must be honest, weather challenges gracefully, and know themselves well enough to recruit team members who can supply the skills they lack. The initial team meeting should establish how the leader will manage the project and expectations concerning team members’ behavior. Humor must be incorporated to offset stress and keep people from breaking down.
If a leader is thinking about hiring a consultant to help on a project, the consultant must be chosen carefully. Project leaders must see past consultants’ personas to assess how much they actually know that relates to the project at hand, and whether they will do the work themselves or enlist less experienced staff.