Practical Lessons Learned
Some practical suggestions from past experience for implementing change, especially where major software systems are concerned.
Lesson 1. Do not underestimate the time it takes to build and maintain consensus and commitment to a new management system and the changes it will involve. A significant amount of time may have to be spent to ensure support by a committed user base.
Lesson 2. Do not mistake methodologies with tools. The deployment of new software systems or tools for project management can lead to the mistaken belief that this is a sufficient substitute for sound project management practices. In fact, the deployment of sound procedures is much more important than the tools that support them, even though some practices are impractical without the necessary software system support.
Lesson 3. The installation of a new management system offers a superb opportunity to achieve lasting change. Use it as a catalyst for re-engineering current processes.
Lesson 4. Recognize the need to re-build consensus and commitment if new key stakeholders come on board during the change (project) process.
Lesson 5. Recognize that people who have already bought in to the new system may opt-out when they realize its impact on their currently existing working practices. A new system inevitably results in changes in practice, roles and responsibilities, as well as changes in job boundaries relative to corporate functional departments. As the impact of changes is gradually appreciated by those affected, the willingness to co-operate is significantly increased if senior management handles the changes with tact and sensitivity.
Lesson 6. Ensure that revised roles are clearly defined and understood when structuring the training for system users.
Lesson 7. Be very clear which functions and features are:
- Now fully implemented;
- Included but not yet implemented;
- Or feasible but not included in the current project.
Differences in perceptions can cause conflict, general uncertainty and lack of confidence amongst stakeholders due to impressions that the system is incomplete.
Lesson 8. Avoid being too definitive about the use of the new system. Some learning of the best way to use the system should be allowed, since all the new opportunities cannot be predicted in advance and people get an opportunity to learn and establish good habits. Self-discovery helps considerably in acceptance of any new system or process. Similarly, some of the project managers have useful skills and good practices, which should not be lost in the new system.
Lesson 9. Be sure to surface and explore any vaguely expressed concerns.
Lesson 10. Ensure that the product works as advertised. Minor bugs and errors in a system can create a major loss of confidence, especially among the less technically qualified.
Lesson 11. A set of new project management functions provided by the software, for example, must be backed up by, and integrated with, training in project management and clear messages about its significance for the business.
Lesson 12. Develop and communicate a clear message about where all effort is leading and why. Keep reinforcing that message because a new management system sends many messages, some of which might not be those intended by its supporters. Interestingly, you may note that:
- What is measured is valued
- What is not measured may be safely ignored!
Lesson 13. Actively manage the required changes to maintain momentum, but beware of the effects of too many changes at once. In particular, be aware of people responding to more personal changes (e.g. structure and job role) and therefore not responding to the procedural changes (e.g. project management systems).
Lesson 14. Demonstrate some tangible results as soon as possible to show people how the new approaches and tools help them personally.