If you have a large organisation or wish to undertake a number of change projects it is prudent to consider running a pilot change project. A short change event that is aligned to the larger strategic goal but small enough to be an initial excursion into the overall change programme without being fully committed.
This will allow you to:
- Gather feedback on how change will be accepted within the organisation
- Assess if the culture will accept and integrate the change
- Establish credibility with a ‘quick win’
- Ensure that there is appetite for further change.
When running a pilot change project, it is useful to have a simple but robust plan of what you are going to do, who will do it and how you will sell it to the significant stakeholders.
Here is a checklist of things that you may want to consider.
- What is the right mix of people for the change team – What knowledge and skill will you require and who has the sort of tenacious attitude to carry the project to a fast and successful completion.
- Who has the credibility, the knowledge and the drive to lead the project? Is this someone in your own organisation or is a consultant a better choice. A member of your team will know the processes, procedures and people within the team which could be an advantage but exposes them if the event fails. A consultant has a fresh view, will have the skills to implement the change and can be the scape goat who takes the blame if things go wrong of the culture resists the change.
- What is the aim of the project? What does ‘a good job look like’? Have a clear idea of the success criteria and ensure it is communicated to the team so there is a shared understanding of the outcomes.
- What are the achievable stretch goals? Is there more that can be delivered than just the basic project?
- What are the achievable deadlines? Is it better to have a successful project delivered a little late or to have a project delivered on time but without the ‘bells and whistles’.
- What project methodology will you use? Is an agile approach like DSDM useful or do you need to use something with more governance such as Prince 2?
- When you run into uncertainty, what framework will you use to guide team decision making and problem solving? Do you want to formalise the approach to provide rigour and an audit trail or is flexibility more important?
- What resources are necessary for success? Allocation of resources is critical both for delivery of the outcomes you desire and to demonstrate that senior management are committed to the change event.
- How will you hold people accountable? With accountability comes a degree of commitment and a mechanism to allocate both blame and rewards for performance.
- How will you reward success? Team or individually? Based on effort or outcomes? As a result of success alone or of benefit for the organisation as even a failed change programme can be beneficial? Understanding what motivates your team, and the rewards that create that motivation will help you achieve the best from your team.
With this short checklist you can begin to plan the change event. There are, however, a number of things to consider.
Beware planning in too much detail as things will often change and planning too early means you ‘plan twice’. Detailed planning can also become reassuring even if there is no progress but it will not move your towards our outcomes. Activity isn’t progress.
Beware predictable surprises which you can identify with a little forethought.
Changes will often generate second order problems (problems that you hadn’t initially identified but arise because of the influence the change has over the system). Be prepared to deal with these and ensure you have a level of contingency because such problems use up your time, effort and resources.
It is tempting to believe that you are so familiar with your organisation that research isn’t required but this isn’t always the case. Indeed, it is rarely the case and you should understand where you have limited knowledge.
Your change initiative may cross organisational boundaries.You will need a way to access different knowledge silos within those organisational stovepipes.
Finally, the culture of the organisation has developed over years and will be deeply rooted. The change will need to overcome this cultural resistance and offer the same reassurance that the old state did.
To gain best value and quick wins, you may want to consider change as guerrilla warfare. You will need to carefully select your key points of leverage and get maximum value for minimum effort.
Dare to Aspire