BY JOAN KNUTSON
In the project world, every deliverable eventually is transitioned from the developmental environment to a day-to-day operational environment. A computer system is rolled-out to the customer community and goes live, for example. A new product moves from testing into volume production and sales. A new office building opens its doors and the staff takes occupancy.
Each of these transitions causes operational and cultural change. The implementation of the computer system asks people to perform their duties differently. The release of a new product requires everyone in the supply chain to relearn how to support it. The folks moving into a new building are going to have to get used to new surroundings. The transitional phase of change management (in the sense of cultural change, not change control) must be considered.
These operational and cultural changes must be planned. Both the transition itself and its effects on the organization require specific tasks on the work breakdown structure as well as executive support and action.
Transitioning the Project
Project leaders must address four levels of change:
Operational. Obtain final acceptance from the customer. Official turn over to the operational groups. Confirm that staffing projections for providing the product/service are adequate. Confirm that the staff skills are adequate.
Technological. Ascertain responsibility for maintenance. Determine the process for updating or upgrading.
Cultural. Create a change management process to transition the deliverable to the stakeholders. Ensure the stakeholders accept the change (intellectually and emotionally) and are using the deliverable.
Organizational. Communicate clearly the ownership and accountability to the operational groups. Assign oversight responsibilities to appropriate groups.
To Do List
Deliverables must be transitioned:
People to include:
- Internal Employees
- Subcontractors and Consultants.
Transitioning the People
Leaders must ensure no one is left behind:
Internal Employees. Manage the emotional reaction—ranging from denial, anger, bargaining and acceptance. Determine where each team member will go after the project is concluded: back to their function, maintenance or support of the deliverable, on to the next project in the same or a similar program, or transfer to another functional area. Orchestrate the transition for the team members and inform them as soon as possible where they will be moving.
Subcontractors, Consultants, etc. Provide formal acceptance of their work. Release the contractor officially. Pay the bill. Close out the contract. Provide written feedback on the contractor's performance to his or her firm. Update the contractor's database, if there is one.
The project manager is responsible for the overall coordination of the project. Transitioning the project must be explicitly orchestrated with the input and support of the manager of the operational departments, the project sponsor and the functional manager. A clear set of tasks describing how to transition the project deliverable into an operational environment should be on the work breakdown structure with the prime responsibility given to the appropriate executive. The movement of the project team to other work efforts also should be orchestrated by the project manager, ensuring that each team member's new assignment is positioned for an easy, painless transition. Along the way, be sure to note lessons you've learned so you can apply them to similar efforts in the future.
Training the operational staff and obtaining a sign-off from the customer is not adequate to ensure that the output of the project will be acceptable, used and maintained. Telling the project team where members will be going after the project does not mean that they will move on with a positive attitude. Transition is letting go of what ceases to be, accepting the changes and seeing a new beginning. An old friend of mine used to say, “Acknowledge, move on.” PM
Joan Knutson has recently gone out on her own as an independent consultant. Her new company is called PM Guru Unlimited.