Imagine your organisation is going through a new service transformation or is about to deploy a new IT system into use. Ideally, the transformation project would proceed smoothly: according to planned schedules and budget, while employees are getting excited about the new tools and ways of working the transformation is bringing alongside.
It is sad but true that many projects fail. The new IT system that was supposed to make our workflow smooth is not meeting the daily needs. And since the new IT system is perceived to be difficult to use, or even futile, employees continue to work in the same manual manners as they did prior to the transformation. Money and hours invested go to waste. The project team, as well as the end-users, are exhausted as their heavy transformation efforts do not deliver the desired results.
Why do so many projects fail, despite good project management?
Every large-scale transformation has two sides: technical and a human side. The latter is often referred to as change leadership. The technical side of change is about tangible assets such as schedules, budgets, and resources: is our project proceeding and built as planned and calculated?
The goal of the human side is to help people change the ways they think and operate. During a transformation project the objective is to help people move away from old work habits and embrace new routines. While project management often builds upon the technical side, managing the human-side of change is left aside in projects. As a result, while the transformation can be effective from a project management perspective, this approach leaves the people of the organization unprepared to enter, operate, and succeed in the post-transformation world.
60-70% of projects have been noted to fail if only the technical side is considered. However, when people who are impacted by the change are involved in the transformation process, the failure rate decreases to less than 30%. So, what are the tell-tale signs of a project to be at risk of failing?
- Chariots of fire: Insufficient resources for the human side. Daily tasks and other projects end up eating time for the project team and end-users, even if these groups were allocated time in the project plan.
- Lift and shift! IT and digital projects are considered as pure technical change. The IT function receives budget to secure technical experts and project management, but there is no competence and resources to secure the ultimate business objectives. Status meetings focus on following the resourcing, budgets and technical solutions.
- Going here, there, and everywhere! Prioritization has not been made. People in the organization are burdened by various, parallel on-going projects as no one has analyzed the overall number of on-going changes and projects, and their impact on people.
- Blindfolded leadership? The project leadership does not receive regular feedback on how people perceive the project. Nobody is measuring the perception and experience different target groups have on the change journey. Leaders are then unaware if people truly understand the purpose of the change, or if people feel capable of succeeding in the future. Without proper measurement, leadership cannot fill information gaps for targeted groups, at the right time.
- One more time for the masses! Project communication is mostly top-down, one-off and one-sided. Communication is boiled down to deliver leadership messages to masses by email or shared in few events from one to many. Employees are not invited to team workshops nor to Q&A sessions to build genuine engagement. Line managers and forepersons receive information at the same time as their team members and have no time to digest and prepare beforehand. Also, they are not supported in their supervisor role in the change.
So, what to do? Investing to integrated project and change management will drive the human-centric approach right from the beginning
When investing in both the technical and the human side of change, it is possible to reach the benefits of your investment on the first try. A well-led project could look like this:
- Employees have the chance to participate. The people who will be impacted by the change are identified right from the start. A change ambassador network is built, to act as one critical group for sharing information and inspiration about the change, and to bring questions from around the organization and observations about the overall spirit to the project leadership. Employees and people in different stakeholder groups understand the need for change and take part in planning it. They receive training on time, and thus will have confidence in knowing how to operate in the future. The probability of people altering their behavior increases. Not to mention, all this supports wellbeing and employee experience – eventually affects the employee brand, too.
- Employees get their voices heard. People’s perception of the change is measured regularly, and the direction of work is adjusted accordingly. The unique perception measurement and change leadership tool at Gofore, the Celkee Insight tool, helps gather real-time information and catalyze self-reflection among the respondents. When knowing which stakeholder groups need the most support dealing with uncertainty, project leadership can direct targeted actions to the right groups at the right time. The project team will arrange the time and place to provide people with an experience of being heard of by creating a space where people dare to share even difficult topics. Employees are kept in the loop on how their feedback and ideas have been taken into account in the work.
- Change leadership is deliberate and systematic. Leading the human side of change is an essential part of project management and plans from the get-go. In addition to building the business case, a change impact analysis is documented. Time and resources are booked for various communication activities. Project retrospectives and steering group meetings will address the progress of both the technical and the human change and the related risks.
Gofore has an integrated project and change management office as a service
Gofore’s more than hundred project management and change leadership experts have the competence of combining these two aspects. We have successfully helped deliver numerous business transformations and IT implementations. Our experienced consultants consider both the technical and the human side holistically through the project, from start to end and all the way to grounding the new habits after the go-live. We recognize what tools and ways of leading the change and to what extent will be useful for each phase and situation of the project.