Project/program management and change management are distinct studies today with different approaches and deliverables, yet conceptual overlap between the two allow for project/program management practices to leverage and benefit from change management as a study. This is an area that was recently focused on by the Project Management Institute (PMI) white paper, One Solution for Project Success: Project and Change Management in the PMBOK® Guide by T. L. Jarocki (2014), which identifies at a high level the opportunity areas within the project life cycle where change management concepts and tools may be integrated.
This paper focuses on specific change management tools that can enhance pre-existing project/program management deliverables. The intent is to provide a tactical overview of certain tools that can be immediately leveraged by the project and program manager to improve overall outcomes and value generated.
A consistent challenge that project and program managers face during the life of their efforts is planning for and dealing with the stakeholder reactions to the changes produced in the program. The reactions can thwart schedules, compromise the quality of delivery, and even impact the perceived value of the program. A project or program that hasn't carefully planned to deal with the human element can find roadblocks and resistance in places that weren't expected. The program manager may discover she is spending most of her time struggling to communicate with disenfranchised, resistant, or avoidant stakeholders, as an example.
Change management is “a comprehensive, cyclic and structured approach for transitioning individuals, groups and organizations from a current state to a future state with intended business benefits” (PMI, 2013). The study and practice of change management works to productively structure the anticipation, organization, and response to individual and group reactions to the introduction of a change to an environment. The focus is largely to capture an element of project management that tends to be less tangible and provide a systematic way to include those elements in the project plan and management processes.
Change management as a practice is often most clearly systematized in the role of the change manager. A change manager may work at various levels of a program or project, and may have a reporting interrelationship with a program or project manager(s). The formal relationship typically is decided by the organization, and is often reported to be at the program manager level, albeit inconsistently (Algeo, 2014). The change manager is introduced and oriented to achieve particular outcomes of an effort through this systematic approach referred to as change management. And the change manager is responsible for identifying, planning, organizing, and delivering the change. This work is often enhanced through the use of specific template approaches and tools in order to ensure gaps are minimized and to support more effective planning.
Integrating Change Management Tools to the Program Management Life Cycle
The use of change management (CM) tools by portfolio, program, and project managers has been cited to provide multiple benefits, including the following by thought leader Thomas Jarocki (2014):
- Instead of the initiative being divided between project management and change management, there is one path for achieving business objectives and organizational value.
- Because change management activities are seamlessly embedded within the project life cycle, change management is not seen as a separate or adjunct activity that can easily be defined or deemphasized.
- It provides the ability to leverage joint opportunities so that stakeholder engagement activities become more streamlined – for example, providing project sponsors with change leadership coaching along with project status updates.
- It provides the project team with better insights into understanding organizational impacts and stakeholder concerns, so the team can modify its approach and design decisions and proactively minimize potential resistance. (p. 6).
This paper will review four different CM tools that may be used:
1. The four frame model, to be used during the initiation of a program or project in order to understand stakeholder “frames” or perspectives. This tool is introduced to enhance scope definition and overall planning.
2. The support for change instrument, most effectively leveraged early during initiation and planning phases of an effort. This tool is geared to assist the manager to understand organizational readiness. The outcomes are intended to assist with identifying and preparing program sponsorship and leadership, as well as resource planning.
3. The force field analysis, a tool that is commonly used by the project team to collaborate around various hurdles and challenges, as well as identify possible support mechanisms, within the organization.
4. Kotter and Schlesinger's (1979) six methods to manage resistance, which call out six specific approaches to respond to change resistance, and can be leveraged by managers throughout the program and project life cycle.
Change Management Tools
The Four Frame Model
Arguably all of the PMI project management process groups can be enhanced by organizing and leveraging the four frame model into the project or program initiation and planning activities. The tool is oriented to enhance the project team and leadership understanding of stakeholders, which can result in a higher quality stakeholder management plan, project management plan, project schedule, definitions of deliverable quality, and procurement plan (if additional resources are required to account for change management activities to support change adoption as a project output). The four frame model approaches any change effort with a diagnostic review of the effort, context, and stakeholders through four different “frames” or perspectives.
The project or program manager may leverage the four frame model during the initiation of an effort in order to more effectively understand the effort environment to better prepare for reactions, establish a more robust stakeholder matrix and risk assessment, and plan more effectively for resource/time requirements associated with responding to these “frames.” The tool is used by asking stakeholders, particularly tier 2 and tier 3 stakeholders as described by Jarocki (2014), to describe their organization, and how it operates, by providing an image in the form of a simile (“my organization is like the blind leading the blind”) and then to expound on what exactly they are trying to capture in this description. An example of the questionnaire is displayed in Exhibit 1. From the image produced, the manager can trace the stakeholder's frame and thus incorporate consideration of the changes to be produced from that frame. The project manager, for example, can incorporate into the communications plan additional forms and styles of communicating that speak to the stakeholders’ interpretation of the organization.
Each individual's response is mapped to one of four frames. Included in this model are the structural frame, human resource frame, political frame, and symbolic frame:
1. A structural frame views organizations as physical structures like a machine designed to produce something particular. In that machine are processes and flow of activities that is assessed as broken or functional, and if there is an issue, the “machine” must be restructured to be fixed.
2. The human resource frame focuses on the interrelationships of the people working in the organization. This frame will take into consideration personal fit between a person and the organization's intended outcomes from working together.
3. A political frame orients the viewer to see an organization as a site where individuals interact in pursuit of a broad range of objectives, some of which overlap and agree and others that do not. Politics do not carry a negative connotation in this frame, as one consideration is that different objectives coming from different people or sources may not agree with the organization but may enhance it.
4. The symbolic frame focuses on not formal structure and process but the culture of the organization, as demonstrated through beliefs, values, symbols, and the like. In a symbolic framework, the authors state that “what is most important is not what happens but what it means” (Bolman & Deal, 2003, p. 255).
The four frames diagnostic exercise is a group activity of organizing a team of tier 2 and tier 3 stakeholders, asking them first to capture their observations personally, then sharing them with the larger group for discussion. Project managers are also encouraged to capture their own images as well. Understanding the delta between her or his view of how an organization operates, and how the team and stakeholders perceive the organization, can provide insight to the manager on how the team members may prefer to be engaged, and adopt her or his style accordingly to connect more effectively with the members.
Lee Bolman and Terry Deal (2003) promote that managers are better equipped to analyze their organizations when they work to understand it through the eyes of other stakeholders. These are captured as “frames” or “lenses” that show different “angles” to a perceived change. The authors argue that without the ability to shift lenses, managers and leadership can become steadfastly locked into one perspective and thus limit their ability to fully understand all angles. They comment:
Organizations are filled with people who have their own interpretations of what is and what should be happening. Each version contains a glimmer of truth, but each is a product of the prejudices and blind spots of its maker (p. 42).
The Support for Change Instrument
The support for change instrument is a tool that is most effectively leveraged early in the project/program during initiation and planning.
This questionnaire-based instrument focuses on eight factors that are assessed and ultimately provide the manager with a context of the organizational readiness for the change itself. Responses to each question are ranged 1–7, with 1 being “low” and 7 being “high.” An example of these questions is displayed in Exhibit 2.
This questionnaire is most effectively used to begin discussion among the stakeholders about the degree of support that exists, for planning purposes. Outputs of this assessment should be integrated to the project management plan, risk management plan, communications, stakeholder management plan, resourcing, and budgeting. To use the questionnaire to assess the anticipated organizational climate for change, distribute the questionnaire to a cross section of people in the organization. Aggregate the scores to ensure anonymity, and publicize the scores according to role in the organization (individual contributor, manager, senior executive, marketing department, etc.). Hold a meeting with the interested stakeholders and discuss the results openly. Review where the greatest agreement is in the responses and discuss why. Then, review where the greatest disagreement exists, and discuss why. Take the results and discuss with your change initiative sponsors and team members to complete planning and preparations for the change with this new knowledge. This tool will help a manager plan more effectively for outcomes, set more accurate expectations with program/project sponsorship and leadership, and gauge resource requirements accordingly.
The Force Field Analysis
The force field analysis tool can be leveraged by the manager working in brainstorm fashion with the team, capturing the “restraining” and “driving” forces that will be anticipated through the life of the program/project.
A force field diagram (Exhibit 3) demonstrates the forward motion of a change, and then specific counteracting forces moving in the opposite direction, or “restraining,” or supporting and “driving” the change forward.
In order to complete a force field analysis, the first step is to get the participants to define the problem that is “restraining” the forward motion of the intended change. This can be most effectively completed by each individual and then collaboratively viewed. Then, do the same with the “driving” forces. When combined into one picture of forces working against and for the change, the manager is afforded (1) a sense of balance (or imbalance) between the two, and (2) the baseline from which to create mitigation plans to address each of the “restraining” and “driving” forces.
A side effect of this team activity is that it can also enhance team collaboration and common understanding of the specific challenges that are faced. When identified and planned together, the challenges faced may seem less daunting, faced as a collective team.
Six Methods to Manage Resistance (Kotter and Schlesinger)
Six methods to manage resistance as proposed by Kotter and Schlesinger (1979) is a basic but foundational list of responses that calls out six specific approaches to respond to change resistance, and can be leveraged by managers throughout the program and project life cycle.
The six methods are as follows:
1. Education and Communication – investing heavily in informing people on the rationale for change (when resistance appears as a result of lack of or misinformation)
2. Participation and Involvement – bringing stakeholders into the change process more as active participants (when resistance appears to be a result of being excluded from the process)
3. Facilitation and Support – staffing up on emotional and physical/technical support to aid in the execution of the change (when anxiety or uncertainty surfaces as reaction to the change)
4. Negotiation and Agreement – Incentivizing adoption of the change (particularly helpful when resistant stakeholders are well positioned to undermine and cause serious issues if their needs are not met)
5. Manipulation – intentionally limiting information to some stakeholders, helping with stakeholder buy-in by giving them key roles in the change process (often used when the other methods are deemed too time or resourcing consumptive for the change team)
6. Explicit and Implicit Coercion – threats of undesirable consequences to the resistors (is high stakes situations, such as the survival of the organization is in question if a particular change is not adopted)
This “situational approach” can be built upon the assessment tools leveraged earlier in the process (listed above) once the perspectives, organizational change readiness, and restraining/driving forces have been identified. This list of methods supports the team's ability to assign literal responses to each anticipated challenge, which will more effectively help planning, execution, and overall team morale throughout the process. As a project or program manager orchestrating the change, consider each of the methods for each stakeholder that you anticipate encountering, discuss with your team and sponsorship as logical, and integrate these tactics and their possible impacts on the change initiative into the project management plan, schedule, risk management plan, and budget accordingly.
Using change management tools to help the portfolio, program, or project manager set up, plan, and execute projects is just the beginning. It is equally important to act continuously on the information learned from the tools. The tools are intended to build the manager, leadership, and team knowledge base of all challenges that may be faced beyond the technical and structural ones. With a broader understanding of the total effort involved with managing the responses to change, the manager is better positioned to deliver value to the organization
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Kotter, J., & Schlesinger, L. (March/April 1979). Choosing strategies for change. Harvard Business Review, 106(14), 45–58.
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