Category Archives: Change Management

Change Management

Managing Staff

Managing Staff

Topic 1. Overcome Team Resistance to Project Management

It’s one thing to build a Project Charter and the schedule. It’s another thing to effectively manage the project. If you could issue the plan and the work assignments and have everyone complete his activities on time, your life would be much easier. However, the process of managing the team and the schedule becomes complicated because of the people element involved. People are unpredictable. To understand how the project is proceeding and to ensure that it stays on track, controls are needed. You may need to go around and ask people how they are doing. You need people to tell you in Status Reports and status meeting how they are doing. You need to keep updated statistics on work completed, in-progress and not started.

Unfortunately, team members do not always respond well to these management and control processes for a number of reasons. 

  • They may think the processes are cumbersome and keep them from completing their deliverables.
  • They may feel they will be punished for bringing bad news or doing things incorrectly.
  • They may not feel the project management processes are effective.
  • They may have a normal human tendency against processes that feel like controls.
  • Team members may have tried to follow the processes, but found they were not complete or they were not supported by other people.
  • They may feel that the project manager is not following the procedures, so why should they.
  • They may see people going around the processes without consequences.

Knowing and recognizing these normal human tendencies will help counter the resistance you may encounter on your project. The project manager needs to communicate the processes effectively, including their overall value to the project. Once discussed with the team, it is important to apply the project management processes consistently so that they can be adopted successfully on the project. 

Topic 2. Address Staff Performance Problems with an Early First Meeting

It can be difficult for a project manager to deal with team members with performance problems. You should first determine whether the behavior is impacting the project in terms of its deliverables or its deadlines. If so, the situation needs to be addressed for sure. The next question is whether the behavior may cause problems in the future.  If so, then you could consider this a project risk. There are a number of potential risks including:

  • A risk that the behavior will, in fact, lead to missed deadline dates in the future.
  • A risk that the behavior will alienate the rest of the team and that overall cohesion and morale will suffer.  This may cause the team’s performance to suffer as a result.

If the manager perceives the employee may become a significant risk, he should address this situation proactively. The place to start with personnel problems is usually to take the most direct route – a face-to-face discussion.  In this discussion, the manager can discuss his perceptions of the employee’s behavior and why it will (or may) cause problems on the project.  The manager understands the risks to the project and should communicate these risks to the employee.

One of the benefits of the first meeting is that the manager can share the concerns, and the employee will have a chance to tell his or her side of the story.  You never know how these first discussions will progress.  Sometimes they are difficult and don’t accomplish what you hope. However, sometimes the person you are talking to will agree with you and tell you the reason for his or her behavior.  As a manager, if you know the causes, you might have some ability to help fix them.

The employee may have a problem in his or her personal life (which may or may not be shared).  There might be personality problems between the employee and other members of the team. If you can get some sense as to the cause of a problem, you have a chance of determining a remedy.

In fact, there may be a number of remedies that the manager and employee can work on together. This includes trying to build up the employee’s communication and people interaction skills, providing continued people-coaching, or changing the employee’s job in a way that will allow him or her to excel.  The exact solution will depend on the give and take that comes out of this meeting.

The meeting should end with some concrete commitments for addressing the problem.  The project manager needs to feel comfortable that the employee will again start to engage constructively with the rest of the team. If they cannot agree on these points, the meeting will not have been totally successful and a further escalation may be necessary. 

Change Management

Provide Leadership to Implement Critical Change Requests

Provide Leadership to Implement Critical Change Requests

Scope change is not inherently bad or good. However, the team can react to changes in positive and negative ways, depending on the state of the project. A typical reaction from most project teams is to just go ahead and make the approved changes. However, there is another reaction that can be more problematic – the team may not want to make any more changes. This is the scenario for this column. This situation could occur for a variety of reasons.

  • This may be a long project, perhaps requiring overtime, and people just want the project to end.
  • The proposed changes will require a lot of work, and the deadline date is being held firm. Again, overtime may be required from the team.
  • Members of the project team and the client have not had a smooth relationship on the project. There may be project team members that do not want to help the client further.
  • The changes require major upstream rework – including changes to requirements, design, and other phases that have already been completed.

All of these situations (and more) result in a scenario where the project team is not motivated to support scope changes. This puts the project manager in a tough position where he has to get the rest of the team on board for one last charge.

Frankly, it’s a tough sell. The team is usually tired and they are not motivated. In fact, morale may be poor. However, this is the time for the project manager to show leadership. Since the cause of the team problems is probably complex, the solution should be multi-faceted as well. Here are some things for the project manager to consider.

  • Explain the facts first. Do not start with a rah-rah speech right away. First meet with the team and explain the background and circumstances. Then talk through the changes that are needed and why they are important from a business perspective.
  • Acknowledge the pain. The project manager must acknowledge the problems. Let the team members know that you understand that they may not want to make the changes. Don’t dwell on it – but acknowledge it.
  • Be motivational. Now is the time to motivate the team. Appeal to their sense of working together as a team to get through this adversity. Let them know the value they are providing to the company.
  • Talk to everyone one-on-one. In addition to the team meeting, talk to the entire team one-on-one to understand where they are at mentally. Listen to their concerns and get their personal commitment to work hard and keep going.
  • Get management and the sponsor involved. Now is also a good time to ask your manager and your sponsor to talk to the team, thank them for their work so far and ask for their continued help getting through the changes.
  • Look for perks. Little perks can help a team get through motivational and morale trouble. These can be as simple as donuts in the morning and pizza for those that have to work late overtime.
  • Make sure the clients are in there with you. Normally if the project team is working extra, the clients are sharing the pain as well. However, the project manager should make sure they are.
  • Communicate proactively. Keep everyone informed as to the state of the project and the time and effort remaining. If the project manager starts getting closed and secretive with information, it causes many more problems to morale.
  • Celebrate successes. The project manager does not need to wait until the project is over to declare success. Look for milestones, or mini-milestones, as opportunities to celebrate a victory and give praise to team members.

A project manager needs to have more management and leadership skills than simply telling people to “do their jobs.” This is a tough situation and requires good people management skills to get through successfully. Success is never guaranteed, but utilizing some of these tips can help you get through a tough situation. 

Change Management

Change Management Theory

The change management theory that is the most effective is the one that can implemented the change successfully without any disruption in to the daily work routine of the staff. Unfortunately this does not occur to often. To help increase the odds of implanting the change in the most effective manner, the creation of a change management plan is needed.

The creation of such a plan has to take into account the change management theory of little disruption. This will then require that the project manager who is creating the plan to know their staff. The information needed is their ability to learn, follow orders and their ability to accept change. This knowledge will help set the path to which is the best way to introduce the changes and how to introduce them.

The change management theory is usually a generic model that looks great on paper. This does not always mean it is practical to follow precisely within all organization. Adjustments need to be made for the staff and their real life expectations on accepting the change.

Change is not something that is general welcomed. Most workers get set into a groove or routine and do not want is disturbed. The average change management theory does not take this into account. This is the responsibility of the project manager to make the two meld together so the implementation can occur seamlessly. While this is difficult, it is possible.

What the project manager has to include from the change management theory into their change of management plan is the goals and scope of the change. These have to remain unchanged so the final results will be achieved as wanted by the upper management. This is where the disruption usually takes place even if the change is for the good of the staff that have to use it.

The change management theory is a great thing to have on paper, but can rarely be followed precisely. The staff are living beings with feelings and emotions along with different learning capabilities. All of them must be taken into account when formulation your change management plan.