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Free Leader Guide: How to recover from change missteps

change leadership Oct 23, 2022

The most heartbreaking calls I get are those from leaders who thought they had a plan but discovered too late--often weeks before go-live--that the change activities weren't effective or sometimes even ready in time.

If you are urgently seeking last-minute support know one thing: 

Change happens on its own timeline

The go-live date is just that -- a date when the technology and processes will be live. Change will continue to progress long afterward. You can still recover by continuing change activities after go-live.

Limited time to prepare simply means getting hyper-focused on which audiences and impacts need the most support. That's pretty easy in most cases: Those that impact pay or benefits. Start there and continue with the rest, even if after go-live. 

Know it when you see it

Avoiding a last-minute misstep means knowing what to expect along the way:

  • Are we on track? How does our progress compare to similar projects?
  • What should we be doing right now?

What does good change management look like?

"I'll know it when I see it."

If you don't regularly hire change resources it might feel like a guessing game with big risk on the line. Let's be honest, the language around change management can send a bit like psych mumbo-jumbo. That makes it hard to know tangibly what good change management looks and feels like, and overlay that with specific points on the project timeline to be able to know "Are we on track?". 

Project timeline benchmarks

To establish a timeline, let's first categorize change management activities into two types:

  1. Strategy
  2. Execution

The first phases of a project through the design and build of most technology implementations focus on strategic change activities. This is the time to be assessing, building a plan and establishing the methods through which you'll conduct various involvement and education activities later. 

The strategy phase is when you establish trust and credibility through consistency and a clear message.

Throughout the build and testing phases, there should be an increasing number of stakeholders involved in the project through demos, feedback sessions and testing. The project team is collaborating to make sure people issues are brought forward to leaders and the right people are getting their hands dirty in the system. 

Individual project team members leading specific work streams will start to demonstrate confidence in explaining the change to others. They will be able to clearly answer 'what' and 'why'. That's important because during this phase of the project there will ideally be open resistance to surface additional barriers.

If you didn't establish a strong foundation during the strategy phase, the cracks in your foundation will begin to appear now.

The execution phase acts as a magnet to pull more people from 'here' to 'there' through involvement activities. 


The final push of the execution phase is when heavy 

[insert graphic strategy + execution//key activities, change curve, moment of truth point 1/3]

 Closing resource gaps

The less time you have to recover, the more experienced a change resource you need to help close the gaps.

Three categories of change resources:

  1. Consultant
  2. Contractor
  3. Internal

[Insert the graphic with the definition of these 3]

Experience with projects similar to yours is paramount if you need to play catchup. Those types of change resources will be better suited to help you gauge the risks on the table and how to prioritize. 

They'll also be able to direct others to address the volume of work needed if the development of communication and training materials has fallen behind schedule.


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