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How to identify and prepare change management coaches

04.04.19

If you’ve been tasked with leading a high-impact project for your organization, you may find managing the scope, budget and schedule is not enough to ensure project success—especially when you encounter resistance to change. When embarking on large-scale change projects spanning people, processes and technology, appointing staff as “coaches” to help support stakeholders through the change—and to manage resistance to the change—can help increase adoption and buy-in for a new way of doing things.

The first step is to identify candidates for the coaching role. These candidates are often supervisory staff who have credibility in the organization—whether as a subject matter expert, through internal leadership, or from having a history of client satisfaction. Next, you need a work plan to orient them to this role. One critical component is making sure the coaches themselves understand what the change means for their role, and have fully committed before asking them to coach others. They may exhibit initial resistance to the change you will need to manage before they can be effective coaches. According to research done by Prosci®, a leading change management research organization, some of the most common reasons for supervisor resistance in large-scale change projects are:

  • Lack of awareness about and involvement in the change
  • Loss of control or negative impact on job role
  • Increased work load (i.e., lack of time)
  • Culture of change resistance and past failures
  • Impact to their team

You should anticipate encountering these and other types of resistance from staff while preparing them to be coaches. Once coaches buy into the change, they will need ongoing support and guidance to fulfill their role. This support will vary by individual, but may be correlated to what managerial skills they already possess, or don’t. How can you focus on developing coaching skills among your staff for purposes of the project? Prosci® recommends a successful change coach take on the following roles:

  • Communicator—communicate with direct reports about the change
  • Liaison—engage and liaise with the project team
  • Advocate—advocate and champion the change
  • Resistance manager—identify and manage resistance
  • Coach—coach employees through the change

One of the initial tasks for your coaches will be to assess the existing level of change resistance and evaluate what resistance you may encounter. Prosci® identifies three types of resistance management work for your coaches to begin engaging in as they meet with their employees about the change:

  • Resistance prevention―by providing engagement opportunities for stakeholders throughout the project, building awareness about the change early on, and reinforcing executive-level support, coaches can often head off expected resistance.
  • Proactive resistance management―this approach requires coaches to anticipate the needs and understand the characteristics of their staff, and assess how they might react to change in light of these attributes. Coaches can then plan for likely forms of resistance in advance, with a structured mitigation approach.
  • Reactive resistance management―this focuses on resistance that has not been mitigated with the previous two types of resistance management, but instead persists or endures for an extended amount of time. This type of management may require more analysis and planning, particularly as the project nears its completion date.

Do you have candidates in your organization who may need support transitioning into coaching roles? Do you anticipate change resistance among your stakeholders? Contact us and we can help you develop a plan to address your specific challenges.

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Have you ever had a project derail at the last minute, or discovered that a project’s return on investment did not meet projections? These types of issues happen in the final stages of a project, often as a result of incorrect or incomplete stakeholder identification. Conversely, performing due diligence at the beginning of a project to identify stakeholders, (and updating your stakeholder register throughout the project), can minimize the risks of incorrect scope, excessive change orders, and user resistance. Identify stakeholders early to increase your chances of delivering a better result.

What Is a Stakeholder?

In some projects, the term “stakeholder” only describes those individuals with visible and formalized responsibilities on the core project team. The fifth edition of the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) more accurately defines it as “an individual, group, or organization who may affect, be affected by or perceive itself to be affected by a decision, activity, or outcome of a project” (italics added for emphasis).

Commonly Overlooked Stakeholders

Stakeholders often overlooked include those not involved in the core project team, but who nonetheless play an important role in achieving project success throughout the organization. They include: regulatory agencies, auditors, IT staff outside of the core project team, internal customers, citizens, and staff. Your Project Management Team should plan ahead and identify the appropriate time and approach to include these groups.

Guidelines for Identifying Stakeholders

Identifying stakeholders is an iterative process that incorporates feedback from multiple levels of the project’s governance structure, and identifies stakeholders. When our team works on larger projects, for example an ERP system selection and implementation project, we recommend project leadership identify an Executive Sponsor, who in turn selects an Executive Steering Committee to provide executive-level support to the project by committing resources and weighing in on escalated decisions.

The Executive Sponsor chooses the Project Manager and Project Management Team. Because the Project Management Team works with the Project Manager to accomplish project tasks and reach project decisions, this team assigns staff with appropriate knowledge and other characteristics to be Functional Area Leads (FALs). FALs play an important role in selecting Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) for their respective functional areas, as FALs are typically already leading day-to-day operations for the area they will represent. These leads often have a more detailed knowledge of SME resource availability than those in the project’s executive roles, and can identify the extent of each SME’s areas of strength. Engaging FALs in this exercise can enhance buy-in and ownership of the project, strengthen the quality of the project team, and address nuances where the project structure and organization’s structure do not necessarily align.  

We recommend you create a stakeholder register to conduct a thorough inventory of the stakeholder groups involved in (or impacted by) the project’s work. Conducting this exercise identifies relevant characteristics (role in the organization, on the project, supervisory, and communication responsibilities) that can help the Project Management Team make decisions related to issue management activities, risk mitigation, communications strategies, and change management planning. Your Executive Sponsor and Project Management Team should create this stakeholder register early, and update it frequently, as stakeholders often change during a project. Taking multiple stakeholder inventories throughout the project helps set the project up for greater success, less user resistance, and better-informed decision-making.

Do you have questions about our guidelines for identifying stakeholders? Unsure about the best approach for communicating with stakeholders once identified? We can help you get started.

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We're all in this together: How to identify stakeholders and achieve project success

Here’s a challenge for you: Can you identify the number one predictor of project success?


According to Prosci, the leading change-management research organization, the answer is the project sponsor. In fact, project sponsor has topped Prosci’s biannual Best Practices in Change Management benchmark study as the number one predictor of success since 1998. Yet it’s one thing to simply name a project sponsor; it’s another to have the sponsor actively engaged in the project.

In order to achieve project success, a project sponsor must play an active and visible role, and should be prepared to assume the following responsibilities — what we call the Four C's of Project Sponsorship:

Commit resources. The role of project sponsor is best filled by an executive who has access to, and authority over, human and financial resources dedicated to the project. As organizations search for ways to “do more with less,” projects and daily operations often compete for the same resources. Because resource shortages can severely impact a project’s scope, schedule, and budget, your project sponsor should have the authority necessary to communicate a project’s priority and commit the necessary resources accordingly.

Communicate the project’s strategic purpose. Research has repeatedly shown that the project sponsor is the preferred sender of communications about the project’s strategic purpose. Indeed, the project sponsor should communicate with each stakeholder about the project’s goals and how these goals align with the organization’s strategic vision. Setting this expectation at the organizational level can provide answers to the age-old question, “What’s in it for me?” and help inform future conversations between supervisors and direct reports about the project’s impact on individual job responsibilities.

Conscript other leaders as change champions. To demonstrate support for the change across the organization, your project sponsor can empower leaders, including executives and mid-level managers, to communicate their support for the change. This support:

  • Allows the project’s messaging to reach a broader audience. 
  • Demonstrates endorsement of the change by other leaders, which enhances credibility and positive perceptions of their commitment to the organization’s success. 
  • Enables the project team to collect more feedback from different perspectives as these change champions liaise to relay information from end users back to the project team.

Command enforcement of project changes. This can be the most challenging aspect of a project sponsor’s role. Resistance is a natural reaction to change; it is present to some degree on nearly every project. Despite the most thorough efforts to mitigate resistance, certain users may choose to resist changes brought about by the project, finding workarounds or reverting to previous business processes. In these instances, it is important that your project sponsor leads and commands the effort to communicate how and why the changes should be adhered to, provide any necessary remedial training, then follow through with corrective action if needed. Although this may be a challenging task, it can boost the credibility of the project and the project sponsor, and help realize the project’s return on investment.

Mastering the Four C's of Project Sponsorship will allow project sponsors to more successfully take on other important responsibilities, such as providing support and encouragement to the team, giving direction on escalated decisions, granting security to allow changes despite initial decreases in productivity or returns in investment, and clearing barriers to project success.

When the Fours C's of Project Sponsorship are executed from the project’s outset, the value of a project sponsor is substantially increased. Our Local Practice Area has experience in advising clients on how to add or restructure the role of project sponsor — even in the midst of the most challenging projects — to leverage the benefits of this role for the project’s success. Take charge and reach out to us. 

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The four C's of project sponsorship

As the Project Management Body of Knowledge® (PMBOK®) explains, organizations fall along a structure and reporting spectrum. On one end of this spectrum are functional organizations, in which people report to their functional managers. (For example, Finance staff report to a Finance director.) On the other end of this spectrum are projectized organizations, in which people report to a project manager. Toward the middle of the spectrum lie hybrid—or matrix—organizations, in which reporting lines are fairly complex; e.g., people may report to both functional managers and project managers. 

Problem: Weak Matrix Medicaid System Vendors

This brings us to weak matrix organizations, in which functional managers have more authority than project managers. Many Medicaid system vendors happen to fall into the weak matrix category, for a number of different reasons. Yet the primary factor is the volume and duration of operational work—such as provider enrollment, claims processing, and member enrollment—that Medicaid system vendors perform once they exit the design, development, and implementation (DDI) phase.

This work spans functional areas, which can muddy the reporting waters. Without strong and clear reporting lines to project managers, project success can be seriously (and negatively) affected if the priorities of the functional leads are not aligned with those of the project. And when a weak matrix Medicaid system vendor enters a multi-vendor environment in which it is tasked with implementing a system that will serve multiple departments and bureaus within a state government, the reporting waters can become even muddier.


Solution: Using a Project Management Office (PMO) Vendor

Conversely, consulting firms that provide Project Management Office (PMO) services to government agencies tend to be strong matrix organizations, in which project managers have more authority over project teams and can quickly reallocate team members to address the myriad of issues that arise on complex, multi-year projects to help ensure project success. PMOs are also typically experienced at creating and running project governance structures and can add significant value in system implementation-related work across government agencies.

Additional benefits of a utilizing a PMO vendor include consistent, centralized reporting across your portfolio of projects and the ability to quickly onboard subject matter expertise to meet program and project needs. 
For more in-depth information on the benefits of using a PMO on state Medicaid projects, stay tuned for my second blog in this series. In the meantime, feel free to send your PMO- or Medicaid-related questions to me
 

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The Power of the PMO: Fixing the Weak Matrix

Law enforcement, courts, prosecutors, and corrections personnel provide many complex, seemingly limitless services. Seemingly is the key word here, for in reality these personnel provide a set number of incredibly important services.

Therefore, it should surprise no one that justice and public safety (J&PS) IT departments should also provide a well-defined set of services. However, these departments are often viewed as parking lots for all technical problems. The disconnect between IT and other J&PS business units often stems from differences in organizational culture and structure, and differing department objectives and goals. As a result, J&PS organizations often experience misperception between business units and IT. The solution to this disconnect and misperception? Defining IT department services.

The benefits of defined IT services

  1. Increased business customer satisfaction. Once IT services align with customer needs, and expectations are established (e.g., service costs and service level agreements), customers can expect to receive the services they agreed to, and the IT department can align staff and skill levels to successfully meet those needs.
  2. Improved IT personnel morale. With clear definition of the services they provide to their customers, including clearly defined processes for customers to request those services, IT personnel will no longer be subject to “rogue” questions or requests, and customers won’t be inclined to circumvent the process. This decreases IT staff stress and enables them to focus on their roles in providing the defined services. 
  3. Better alignment of IT services to organizational needs. Through collaboration between the business and IT organizations, the business is able to clearly articulate the IT services that are, and aren’t, required. IT can help define realistic service levels and associated services costs, and can align IT staff and skills to the agreed-upon services. This results in increased IT effectiveness and reduced confusion regarding what services the business can expect from IT.
  4. More collaboration between IT and the organization. The collaboration between the IT and business units in defining services results in an enhanced relationship between these organizations, increasing trust and clarifying expectations. This collaborative model continues as the services required by the business evolve, and IT evolves to support them.
  5. Reduced costs. J&PS organizations that fail to strategically align IT and business strategy face increasing financial costs, as the organization is unable to invest IT dollars wisely. When a business doesn’t see IT as an enabler of business strategy, IT is no longer the provider of choice—and ultimately risks IT services being outsourced to a third-party vendor.

Next steps
Once a J&PS IT department defines its services to support business needs, it then can align the IT staffing model (i.e., numbers of staff, skill sets, roles and responsibilities), and continue to collaborate with the business to identify evolving services, as well as remove services that are no longer relevant. Contact us for help with this next step and other IT strategies and tactics for justice and public safety organizations.

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The definition of success: J&PS IT departments must define services

People are naturally resistant to change. Employees facing organizational change that will impact day-to-day operations are no exception, and they can feel threatened or fearful of what that change will bring. Even more challenging are multiyear initiatives where the project’s completion is years away.

How can your agency or organization help employees prepare for change—and stay motivated for an outcome—many years in the making?


Start With the Individual

Organizational change requires individual change. For the change to be successful and lasting, an agency should apply organizational change management strategies that help lead people to your desired outcome.

With any new project or initiative, people need to understand why the project is happening before they support it. Communicate the reasons for the change—and the benefit to the employee (what’s in it for them)—so each individual is more inclined to actively support the project. Clearly communicating the why at the onset of the project can help employees feel vested in, and part of, the change. As Socrates said, “The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not on fighting the old, but building the new.” A clear vision can inspire each employee’s desire for the “new” to succeed.

Shift to Individual Goals

It’s a challenge to maintain your employees’ motivation for an organizational change occurring over the long haul. Below are some suggestions on how to sustain interest and enthusiasm for multi-year projects:

  1. Break the project down into smaller, specific milestones. Short-term goals highlight important deadlines and create tangible progress points to reach and celebrate. The master project schedule should be an integration of the organizational change management plan and the project management plan so any resource constraints you identify in the project management plan also become an input when identifying change management resources and activity levels. This integration also highlights the importance of key organizational change management milestones and activities in an effort to ensure they are on a parallel tack as traditional project tasks.
  2. Effectively communicate status updates and successes. In large, agency-wide projects, there are often a variety of stakeholders, each with different communication expectations and needs. The methods, content, and frequency of communication will vary accordingly. Develop a communications strategy as part of your organizational change management plan, to identify who will be responsible to send communications, when and how they will be sent, key messages of the communications, and what feedback mechanisms are in place to continue the conversation after initial delivery. For example, the project team needs a different level of detail than the legislature, or the public. Making the content relevant to each stakeholder group is important because it gives each group what they need to know so they don’t drown in a flood of unneeded information.
  3. Create buy-in by involving employees. A feeling of ownership naturally results from participation in a project, which helps increase enthusiasm. Often the time to do this is when discussing changes to business processes. Once you determine the mandatory features of the future state, (e.g., financial controls, legal requirements, legislative mandates) consider including stakeholder feedback on decisions more focused on preference. It is important for stakeholders to see their suggestions accepted and implemented, or if not implemented, that there was at least a structured process for thoughtfully considering their feedback, and a business case for why their suggestions didn’t make it into the project.
  4. Conduct lessons learned assessments after each major milestone. The purpose of conducting lessons learned activities is to capture what worked and what didn’t. Using surveys or other feedback systems, such as debrief meetings, allows stakeholders to voice their thoughts or concerns. By soliciting feedback after each milestone, leadership can quickly adapt to challenges, address any misunderstandings or concerns, and capitalize on successes.
  5. Reinforce how the project meets the goals of the agency or organization. Maintaining enthusiasm and support for a long-term goal takes a constant reminder of the overall organizational goals. It is important for senior leadership to communicate the impact of the project on the agency or organization and to stakeholders and keep the project at the forefront of people’s minds. Project goals may change during the duration of the project, but the project sponsor should continue to be active and visible in communicating the goals and leading the project.

Change is difficult—change that is years in the making is even more challenging. Applying a structured organizational change management process and using these tips can help keep employees energized and help ensure you reach the desired project goals.

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Change management: Keeping employees motivated during multiyear projects

Most of us have been (or should have been) instructed to avoid using clichés in our writing. These overstated phrases and expressions add little value, and often only increase sentence length. We should also avoid clichés in our thinking, for what we think can often influence how we act.

Consider, for example, “death by committee.” This cliché has greatly — and negatively — skewed views on the benefits of committees in managing projects. Sure, sometimes committee members have difficulty agreeing with one another, which can lead to delays and other issues. In most cases, though, an individual can’t possibly oversee all aspects of a project, or represent all interests in an organization. Committees are vital for project success — and arguably the most important project committee is the steering committee.

What Exactly is a Steering Committee?
It is a group of high-level stakeholders that provides strategic direction for a project, and supports the project manager. Ideally, the group increases the chances for project success by closely aligning project goals to organizational goals. However, it is important to point out that the group’s top priority is project success.

The committee should represent the different departments and agencies affected by the project, but remain relatively small in size, chaired by someone who is not an executive sponsor of the project (in order to avoid conflicts of interest). While the project manager should serve on the steering committee, they should not participate in decision-making; the project manager’s role is to update members on the project’s progress, areas of concern, current issues, and options for addressing these issues.

Overall, the main responsibilities of a steering committee include:

  1. Approving the Project Charter
  2. Resolving conflicts between stakeholder groups
  3. Monitoring project progress against the project management plan
  4. Fostering positive communicating about the project within the organization
  5. Addressing external threats and issues emerging outside of the project that could impact it
  6. Reviewing and approving changes made to the project resource plan, scope, schedules, cost estimates, etc.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Utilizing a Steering Committee?
A group of executive stakeholders providing strategic direction should benefit any project. Because steering committee members are organizational decision-makers, they have the access and credibility to address tough issues that can put the project at a risk, and have the best opportunities to negotiate positive outcomes. In addition, steering committees can engage executive management, and make sure the project meshes with executive management’s vision, mission, and long-range strategic plan. Steering committees can empower project managers, and ensure that all departments and agencies are on the same page in regards to project status, goals, and expectations. In a 2009 article in Project Management Journal, authors Thomas G. Lechler and Martin Cohen concluded that steering committees are important to implementing and maintaining project management standards on an operational level — not only do steering committees directly support project success, they are instrumental in deriving value from an organization's investments in its project management system.

A steering committee is only as effective as it’s allowed to be. A poorly structured steering committee that lacks formal authority, clear roles, and clear responsibilities can impede the success of a project by being slow to respond to project issues. A proactive project manager can help the organization avoid this major pitfall by helping develop project documents, such as the governance document or project plan that clearly define the steering committee structure, roles, responsibilities and authority.

Steer Toward Success!
Steering committees can benefit your organization and its major projects. Yet understanding the roles and responsibilities — and pros and cons — is only a preliminary step in creating a steering committee. Need some advice on how to organize a steering committee? Want to learn more about steering committee best practices? Together, we can steer your project toward success.

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Success by steering committee

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