Evolving the Change Management Process

Undocumented & uncontrolled changes? No visibility of changes for the business? Unable to gain or track approvals?

Here are some tips to better control & manage the Change Control and subsequent software and/or infrastructure Releases.

(1) Identify & Manage ALL Stakeholders
Identify & manage all stakeholders for each set of proposed changes. At a minimum this includes:

  • Change Initiator.
  • Change Advisory Board.
  • Project Manager(s).
  • Development/Infrastructure Manager(s).
  • Release Manager.

(2) Document the Process & Tools
Document the change management process, tools, and templates with examples. Provide the necessary know-how for all the stakeholders to better document, assess and approve changes. The key objective is to confirm that all changes are consistent with current business objectives. Therefore a business risk and impact analysis must be completed when a new change record is created.

(3) Provide a Checklist
Similar to the project Gating process, for each hand-off in the process, document a checklist contains steps that must be finished before the change can be promoted to the next level. This will ensure consistency in governance for changes in your environment.

(4) Circumvent Bureaucracy
If your organization has to cope with a large number of changes, a large number of people involved in the CABs with a large set of distributed changes, then chances are that the CAB review & approval process can become bureaucratic. A better Governance structure can be leveraged to mitigate any slowness. Ensure that your Change Management process includes various ‘levels’ of authority/approval before moving to the Change Approval Board. This can be achieved based on the impact of the change. If a specific change only impacts 1 system with little to no dependencies on other systems or users, then a global change control board may not be required to review, assess & approve such change. A Peer Approval may suffice.

Also, a Business+Technology alignment group can first review and approve changes to for CAB review to ensure that they are aligned with the overall business & IT strategy of the organization.

(5) Dedicated Change Manager
The Change Manager is responsible for ensuring that all changes are reviewed and ensuring that changes flow through the Change Management Process. The Change Manager chairs the CAB meetings and ensures that all changes are considered for approval & prioritization. This will ensure that all Change Management tasks are being performed and that the right people with the right skills can focus on these activities.

(6) Over Communicate
Getting the stakeholder buy-in and more importantly, their engagement is critical for success. Informing them about the process or giving them login account to the CM tool will not be enough. Re-enforce the value and benefits of adopting a standardized change control process. Communicate Roles & responsibilities frequently. Ensure that roles associated with the Change Management process are defined in the context of the change management function and are not intended to correspond with organizational job titles.

(7) Evolve the Process
Last but not least, capture feedback and implement continuous improvement to the overall process. Acknowledge & resolve any issues and concerns. Build temporary workarounds to ensure smooth operation. Above all, create a caring, positive atmosphere, where people can work hard and have fun!


Top 10 Trends in Project Management

Here are the Top 10 Trends in Project Management according to a recent article published in Baseline Magazine. As the saying goes, “Trend is your Friend“. I wanted to share this with everyone and I hope it will help identify opportunities in your current job and organization.

I completely agree with the author’s points, especially the first one. With the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing today at its lowest finish in over 2 years, companies should revisit their Project Management metrics to identify enhancement opportunities for keeping projects on schedule and on budget.

1. Investment in project management training to counter effects of a troubled economy.

2. Better, faster project decision-making.

3. Critical thinking as a key project management competency.
Agree! See my earlier posts on Mindset and Strategic Planning.

4. Emerging relevance of the project management office.

5. Codependency between project management and enterprise analysis.

6. Project managers taking leadership roles in organizational change.

7. Communication challenges of remote team management.

8. Earning certification.

9. Navigating the overlap between PM and BA tasks.

10. Talent management’s impact on business ROI.

Here’s the link to the entire article:

Project Management – part of Business Strategy Planning

Conventional project management approach is that projects are successful if they meet schedule, scope & budget goals. Yet statistics indicate that most projects are late, over budget, and more importantly, many projects do not contribute to Business success.  Even good Projects that use industry best practices merely focus on process efficiencies.  They lack a Strategic Focus associated with better business success.  Strategic Focus involves defining and meeting the business goals as a direct result of the project execution.

Project Management needs Strategic Planning to focus on business goals achievement and creating business value, and not just achieving the Triple Constraint.  Business Strategy planning is the process of formulating and implementing decisions about company’s future direction.  Effective strategic planning can mean the difference between success and failure.  The concept of business strategy planning is not new, however, the principles should be applied to Project Management.

Projects are critical to the success of any organization and should be seen as part of the strategic business processes.  Projects are the activities that result in new or changed products, services and environments.  Therefore, they provide direct benefits to the “bottom-line“; increased sales, cost reduction, quality improvements and customer satisfaction.  Today, successful companies do recognize the benefits that Project Management can provide to their bottom-line.  Therefore, all projects should be planned strategically as part of executing the overall business strategy.  Furthermore, projects should be evaluated on an on-going basis given the changes and dynamics in the competitive environment. 

Excellence in project management can occur, by incorporating a Strategic Focus and Planning approach to all Projects.


The Softer Side of Change Management

A wise man once said, “The only constant thing, in this constantly changing world, is change

Change is a fact of corporate life.  Especially in IT projects, Change is inevitable in successfully enabling the goals and deliverables of the Business.  Therefore, all projects must adopt a process for Change Management.  While there is plenty of documentation, white papers, best practices and guides on this topic, most of them seem to ignore the softer side of successfully executing the process steps around the complex inner workings of today’s corporate environments.  With globalization coupled with large enterprise scale projects, the softer side is ever more critical for success.

Here are some lessons learned from the trenches:
(1) Value Proposition
Both acceptance and resistance to change will propagate, either formally in meetings or informally at the water cooler chats.  Document and communicate the business value of following a structured Change Management Process.  This will help everyone involved with the process to understand the purpose, objectives and benefits.  When communicating the value, make an effort to understand any concerns that are raised.  Create an atmosphere of trust.  Invite questions and answer them completely and honestly. For example, organize a brown-bag lunch.  Have an open-door policy where they can approach you at any time with any questions or concerns.

(2) Roles & Responsibilities
As simple as it sounds, clearly outlining the roles and responsibilities of ALL stakeholders is ever more critical for Change management.  This should include:

  • Defining each Role and Responsibility.
  • Assign each role to a qualified person.
  • Document and communicate the assignments.
  • Track & measure deliverables throughout the process.

(3) Optimize as Necessary
Many project managers lack the necessary skills and training to manage change.  Even the ones that do, they are so caught up in delivering the existing scope that managing changes often take a back seat.  Key is to provide the training & knowledge where needed.  Designate a Change Manager with the right expertise who’s job is exclusively to perform Change Management across 1 or more projects.

(4) Reward when Milestones achieved
What’s in it for me?” Provide encouragement & support for the team’s efforts when significant milestones are reached.  Project teams are more likely to embrace the change process when recognized and rewarded.

(5) Evolve or Perish
The Change Management Process works within a constantly changing business & technology environments.  Therefore, the process of change itself must evolve over time to adapt and align with the changing needs and priorities of the organization.  Conduct periodic reviews and measures for success criteria to evolve and/or fine-tune the process, tools, and templates for Change Management.

By leveraging the softer side of managing Change; we can deliver Excellence in Project Management.

Barriers to Project Success – It is about the Mindset

“Thoughts and ideas are the source of all wealth, success, material gain, all great discoveries, inventions, and achievements.”
– Mark Victor Hansen

What differentiates the outstanding Organizations with average?  What is that secret ingredient in the recipe of successful projects?  We can do everything right and by-the-book, yet we’re faced with this invisible barrier to Project success.  It is like a very clear pane of glass–so clear that we see right past it even though it is right in front of us.

This Barrier to Project Success is the “Old Mindset”.
With all the books written on Project Management, this barrier is often overlooked.  The art and science of managing projects helps deliver superior performance, however, true mastery seems to escape us.  What hurts good project managers, with good teams in good organizations is the limitations driven by an Old Mindset.  Here, the managers are doing all of the thinking, while the workers are turning the screwdrivers; the essence of management being to get the ideas out of the heads of the manager and into the hands of the team.  Focus becomes heavy on individual task completion dates and a ritual of boring status meetings, sometimes on a daily basis.  This authoritarian (Theory X) management mindset limits the team and the project as a whole.  Today’s global business is so complex in an environment that is increasingly unpredictable, fiercely competitive that survival depends on daily mobilization of every ounce of intelligence.

The central principle behind the success of the giants corporations born last 2 decades who have survived to lead into the next century is that they have embraced the power and harness collective intelligence.  Collective performance exceeds the sum of individual performances. To bring about the collective strengths of the team requires the “Managerial Mindset”

Unlocking the “Managerial Mindset”
At a young age, when I first learned about Newton’s Laws, the story I was told was that Newton was sitting under an apple tree, an apple fell on his head, and he suddenly thought of the Universal Law of Gravitation.  While this may or may not be true, it begets a question as to WHY.  So many people, and so many trees and so many falling apples, why Newton?  What is the key?  When I asked this question to my father, he said two words: “See” “Why”
There are 3 very important words that begin with a “C” and end with a “Y”.

  • Curiosity
  • Creativity
  • Community

By allowing your team members to embrace their instinctual Curiosity and sense of wonder about everyday things in our Community will provide the needed fuel for Creativity.

The Managerial Mindset can be defined as the propensity of project managers to engage in proactive behaviors in order to achieve strategic objectives.  It calls for a cross functional and cross hierarchical approach which requires delegating authority which pushes responsibility more towards the frontline where technology and customer interactions take place.

With the right mindset and the right team approach, we can deliver Excellence in Project Management.