Change Management…Not!

A friend (who is not in change management) is living through a terrible project at work. He’s been assigned to be the administrator for the new project management tool that is being implemented. His company has a “change management” department but, from what he tells me, it’s more of a “change governance” department, focused on gatekeeping projects. Nice, but his project is failing because the company does not have a true “change management” department.

Here’s an example of what he’s going through:

The project sponsor is an IT leader who intends that the admin tool support all the branches of IT. The sponsor usually uses Agile project management. So, when the project team configured the system, the only workflow they built supported Agile.

Ok, leaving aside the fact that Agile is not intended to be your sole project management model – when you’re trained on Agile, it explains when to use it and when not to use it – the rest of the areas of IT aren’t using Agile yet and haven’t been trained on it yet.

So my friend, who is heads-down front-loading data and last minute configuration tweaks, gets a phone call from a stakeholder in one of the other IT departments that goes like this:

Stakeholder: I’m going to need an hour of your time tomorrow.

My Friend (blanching because he has so much other work to finish, but committed to customer service): Uh, ok, what are we going to do in this hour?

Stakeholder: Well, I went to that week-long training session last week and none of the terms or workflows made sense. When I got back to my desk this week, I Googled some of them and realized that the whole system is built for something called “Agile” project management.

My Friend (bracing himself for approaching train wreck): Uh-huh…

Stakeholder: So I’m going to need you to meet with me for an hour tomorrow and explain how this Agile stuff works, and then walk me through the system again.

My Friend: I’m – uh – happy to do my best… Um, it may take more than an hour…

Stakeholder: Yeah, you know I’m pretty far behind on my work because I took a week out for this training. So we’re going to need to wrap up in an hour. Oh, and you may hear from [another stakeholder in yet another IT department] because he had the same problem I did.

[Sound of friend banging forehead on desk.]

This is a project that desperately needed change management expertise. What could a change manager have done, if brought in at the right time (the beginning of the project):

  • Clarify the desired outcome with the sponsor: Is the desired outcome to get everyone using the project management admin tool? Or is part of the desired outcome to get everyone to use Agile?
  • Educate the project sponsor that the role of a sponsor includes communicating the desired outcome to company leadership and on how best to do this to encourage adoption.
  • Communicate stakeholder expectations to the design team so that the design is usable by the end-users.
  • Plan for communications and training: If the desired outcome must include implementing Agile project management throughout the IT department, then arrange for Agile training to take place before the admin tool technical training. Or (less effective in my mind, but still possible) integrate the Agile training with the admin tool training.

I suggested that my friend start polishing his resume. There’s not much job security as admin of a system that everyone refuses to use.

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