Change definitely happens, and it is happening faster and faster as technology comes to market in shorter amounts of time and as taxpayers and other stakeholders increase their expectations accordingly.
This fact of life is endorsed by Canada’s Blueprint 2020, an effort of the Clerk of the Privy Council to “build tomorrow’s public service together.” This is a commitment supported by the prime minister to evolve Canada’s public service and help it adapt to the rapid rate of change in the world.
You might ask how your agency can be more efficient in managing change. What competencies are necessary to succeed and stay with – or even ahead – of the changing environment?
PMI’s Pulse of the Profession In-Depth Report: Enabling Organizational Change Through Strategic Initiatives points the way toward the competencies of organizations we call Change Enablers.
These Change Enablers see twice as many of their strategic initiatives (which by their very nature drive change) meet original goals and complete them on time and on budget, compared to organizations that are not as competent at organizational change management.
Practices of Change Enablers include:
• Having well-defined milestones and metrics;
• Having senior management committed to change;
• Establishing and communicating concrete ownership and accountability;
• Using standardized project management practices;
• Having engaged executive sponsors.
Using each of these practices, though important and used frequently by Change Enablers, is not enough. PMI’s research finds that effective communication of why the organization is using these practices is also critical. Key to making an organization good at change management is creating an effective communication plan, properly executing that plan, and identifying, measuring and communicating the intended benefits of change.
Delivering strategic change is only half the story. The other half is about sustaining the change permanently. This will deliver the strategic benefits the change was initiated for and sustain those benefits into the future.
Change Enablers demonstrate several practices that allow their changes to be implemented and sustained:
• Managing strategic initiatives through projects and programs with standardized project and program management practices;
• Engaged sponsors who actively rally senior management to commit to change;
• Managing people through change.
Executive sponsors are essential to succeed at change. They should be actively involved with the initiative, coaching employees and executives as well as promoting and sustaining a focus on the critical nature and urgency of the initiative.
It’s not surprising that, according to PMI research, lack of leadership is one of the biggest causes for organizational change failures, second only to insufficient communications.
Project Management Culture
Stakeholder engagement can be achieved through good people management. And those managing people can get them to adopt and embrace change by incorporating a project management culture and mindset to address the hearts and minds of employees.
As stated by PMI vice chair Steve DelGrosso, director of IBM’s Project Management Center of Excellence, “there is only one way to instill [a culture of embracing change] into an organization, and that is from the top. The most senior leaders in the organization must constantly remind their teams that transformational change is healthy for any organization.”
Metrics of Change
Although you, as a public sector executive, might not have to worry about profits, you do need other ways to quantify whether or not your initiative has enabled sustainable change. PMI data shows that customer satisfaction and cost reduction are the top two metrics routinely used to evaluate the outcome of organizational change.
However, Pulse research further reveals that project and program managers believe that customer satisfaction and employee morale or retention are by far the top change-success metrics for them.
Money and Morale
Organizations report that only 52 percent of their strategic initiatives are successful. While a failed project might cause large financial losses, a failed strategic initiative (which might include several projects or programs) has an impact far beyond the financials. When an organization or agency embarks on change, it is likely that systems, processes, vendors and perhaps even the overall organizational mindset or mission will be impacted.
PMI has resources to help your agency on the road to becoming a Change Enabler. Visit www.PMI.org/ChangeManagement to take advantage of reports, articles and white papers. A link enables you to purchase Managing Change in Organizations: A Practice Guide. Start now to manage – and embrace – change.