Ask the Expert – Rhys Evans, Senior Consultant, talks Change Management

Each month one of Hart Square’s expert consultants will share their experience of delivering projects for our clients – what works well, and how to avoid potential pitfalls.

This month’s resident expert is Rhys Evans, Senior Consultant at Hart Square.  Rhys has been with us for almost 5 years, delivering major transformation projects for the Bar Council, UK Theatre, Royal Society of Medicine, Public Health Dorset.

In this month’s “ask the expert” article, Rhys discusses if change should be considered a key element of a technology project?

How should change be considered in a technology project?

At Hart Square all the projects we work on are built around the desire to bring about a positive change to client organisations. But what that change means to the people involved can vary greatly based on your position, experiences and expectations.

For the change initiators it is the movement towards a new vision; for the more practical it’s a transition from one set of systems, working practices and business processes; to some it’s the disruption of something you have learned to live with to be replaced by something unfamiliar. In the face of a challenging transition the ‘better the devil you know’ mentality can be hard to break down.

As change projects take months, or in some cases years, to deliver, the way these different views are understood, managed and addressed throughout has a huge bearing on success.
A food-oriented colleague likened the impact of a technology change project to an individual who cooks every day with a small, simple microwave. It’s seen that there is the possibility to do more and better, so the microwave disappears overnight and gets replaced by a fully-fitted restaurant standard kitchen and a training session.

Without the right engagement throughout, our microwave chef struggles adjust to this new environment and can easily become overwhelmed, disenfranchised and ultimately, hungry. The supportive advice that ‘Michelin star chefs use these tools to do amazing things’ is of little comfort here. The downfall is not necessarily the boldness of the vision, but the manner of the engagement with those who matter to the project.

So how do we go about proactively managing change?

Firstly, start early. At the outset of a programme or project there is a vision, a roadmap and stated outcomes and beneath this the different groups affected by the project:

  • the executive board
  • the project delivery team
  • the internal users
  • the governing bodies and
  • the members or customers

Each group will harbour their own set of hopes, aspirations, fears and misgivings about the project and its impact. The early phase of a project is the right point to engage with these groups, unpack those considerations and put in place plans for how to engage them at the right time in the right way throughout the project.

Secondly, ensure you have the right person or people in a position to do this work. The badge of ‘change management’ is frequently namechecked in project governance discussions but is less frequently defined as a set of specific responsibilities and resourced as part of a project makeup. Working within a constrained budget often results in the change management aspect being either seen as a collective responsibility amongst the executive tier of the governance structure or bundled in with the responsibilities of the Project Manager.

In both cases while they have a part to play in the change management it’s all too easy for the practical aspects of delivering the project to dominate time and headspace, marginalising the focus on change management. This can be addressed by a ensuring a specific role with the right skillset engaging with the project a purely from a change perspective.

Finally, ensure that change management is a two-way street. The complexity and sophistication of the technology involved in a change project can distract from the reality that they only succeed if they allow people to do things better or do better things as a consequence.

The knowledge and experience of internal and external stakeholders are vital project resources. Part of change management is unlocking and leveraging those resources rather than the change being applied to them. This includes working across the very keen and change ready to the more removed and harder to engage stakeholders – all have a role in the project but may need different environments and techniques to get the best of them.

It all comes back to the early vision and aspirations for the big change that’s going to move your organisation forward. Bold and positive change is rarely made without difficult times and a lot of hard work.

If you make the management of change part of the solution rather than the problem and prioritise it appropriately, each bump in the road becomes easier to navigate and those involved better positioned to make that vision achievable.

If you would like to discuss this further, please email Rhys at info@hartsquare.co.uk