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Lessons Learned From 2 Decades of Real-World Implementation Projects

 

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of speaking with Diana Smith, one of our seasoned IT project management experts and consultant at Minerva. In our first session, we talked about the key elements of Organizational Change Management (OCM) and why we need it in IT projects.

Luckily, Diana agreed to another session with me. This time, we are diving into Diana’s favorite implementation project to date and the valuable lessons she learned.

Diana has 20+ years of experience helping companies of all sizes in an array of industries succeed with their IT implementation and process change initiatives. Her logical approach and adherence to the five core elements of Organizational Change Management help businesses and people adapt to change.

In this free-form discussion, we spend some time talking about how organizational change management works in practice where Diana shares her best pieces of advice. She touches on the importance of communication and documenting processes and remembering to take the time to listen to people affected by the change. Particularly, she shares what she learned and how you can use her experiences in your daily work.

 

Communication is key

Never underestimate the importance of good communication. In OCM best practice, individuals or teams create and coordinate communication.

Whether you have one person driving communication or a team depends on a few factors including how large the change initiative is, how long they expect the change to take, and the number of people and locations affected by the change. For example, a few workflow changes affecting just one department may only need one person. This person communicates why the change is important and distributes updates and materials at each milestone.

On the flip side, a complete transformation project affecting the enterprise at large will need multiple communication team members. The team is not necessarily involved in the implementation. Instead, they oversee and approve training materials, newsletters, videos, and memos. They evaluate workshops during User-Acceptance-Testing, amongst other things. A key point Diana has brought back repeatedly is the importance of keeping “the why” at the focus for the duration of the project. When people feel connected to the reason for change, change is easier. The communications team is also responsible for continuously delivering “the why” in a variety of formats to help keep enthusiasm and momentum for the duration of the project.

When delivering software training to end-users, Diana has met many employees leaving the training room full of enthusiasm. It is a good idea to capture and broadcast that enthusiasm to the entire company. This is a vital role for the communication team. They are an invaluable part of sharing the wins and energy with the organization, which is needed for user adoption and acceptance. Below are a few ideas Diana shared on how to do this repeatedly while keeping communication fresh.

 

#1 Share success stories

Success stories are powerful because if you see someone you work with whom has seen what is coming, full of enthusiasm, that excites and empowers other project participants.

It also makes the upcoming change more tangible and less scary. Nobody likes change, but now that the change has passed the first level of approval from a colleague, it cannot be that bad.

 

#2 Prioritize messages from top management

As powerful as personal success stories, messages from top management on why change is coming, what it is, and what is means, are more impactful in a video message from the CEO, VP, and other key stakeholders.

Take this one step further in projects with a longer duration where groups that have not worked together before are introduced to the leadership from other departments. Share stories around what it will mean to work together with shared goals in the future. Forming these relationships early on and continuing to build upon them will serve everyone involved well into the future.

 

What happens after Go-Live?

Normally, consultants roll up the job after Go-Live, and it is the responsibility of the internal OCM team to take it from here.

In Diana’s case, there were a lot of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) gathered at the beginning of the project. During training, teams received knowledge-based questions. The implementation and training groups became the foundation for feedback questions to departments. The team would ask for feedback like:

  • Does the system work as expected?
  • Is it helpful?
  • Does it make your job easier?

These iterative questions also helped improve training delivery by focusing on early-stage feedback before moving to broader scale deployment and training.

The communications team took the feedback and created a website with an FAQ that could answer questions coming from employees, eliminating the need for synchronous communication. The website continued to grow and ultimately guided employees that could not attend training.

 

Key takeaways for implementing change

Diana’s 5 pieces of advice:

  • Bring flexible training material and make sure it is editable because projects change. Examples can include PowerPoint slides where you can change the screenshots or a storyboard.
  • Accept that projects change constantly. All the way to the very end. Even Go-Live dates can change.
  • Prepare for the unknown and try to take out all the potential gotcha’s, like bad WiFi connections, or not enough people can fit in the assigned room, sound and laptop problems, etc.
  • Test everything. Make sure it works.
  • Enjoy yourself. When you are delivering a message, nobody will listen if you are not prepared to deliver it with humor. And it has got to be fun.

 

What is your advice?

What are your takeaways?

Do you have experience with change initiatives? What tips would you add to this list?

Want to share your story with the community? Drop me a line, I would love to talk to you and help get your story out.

 

About the author

Jennifer Moore

Jennifer Moore has more than 15 years of experience in Business Transformation across different industries. Her extensive experience includes helping companies navigate complex regulatory requirements through software solutions. She has been developing and deploying large, multi-faceted enterprise software project, driving revenues as well as market adoption.

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