At the PMO Conference in June 2018, Deanne Earle and Francesca Valli spoke about how more and more organizations are linking the practices of change management in with their PMO activities.
We’ve worked with customers on organizational change management for many years, specifically around addressing the change management challenges of implementing a PMO. It makes perfect sense to us that change management is a discipline that fits within, or at least alongside, the PMO activities.
There is more and more overlap between change management and the work that the PMO and project delivery teams carry out, with many project managers acting as a de facto change manager as well.
The PMO has an opportunity to play a pivotal supporting role in ensuring that change happens and is part of the fabric of the project organization.
At the conference, Earle and Valli shared 3 tools to help PMO teams take an active role in change management in their organizations. Let’s look at those now.
1: Change Management Network
The first tool is the change management network. This is a fancy title for the people who are important in ensuring the change happens.
Identify who is important in the change management work streams. These are the people you must communicate with. Start by doing this at a project level, and then build out your understanding of the change management network by linking the change work streams of projects within programs, and then across the whole portfolio.
As well as the people working directly in the project on the change work streams, there are other communities to engage with as well. These could include the business acceptance group, and operational committees.
The objective here to ensure that project delivery teams adequately engage with change managers and the corporate change management functions. And, if there aren’t those structures in place, that project teams are able to fill the gap.
By asking the right questions, the PMO can make sure that change is adequately considered on a project and that the right people are involved.
2: Impact Assessments
The second tool available to PMO teams is impact assessments. These are reviews of the activities on the project plan. The review highlights the ‘as is’ situation, and what the ‘to be’ situation will be. Then you can use the results to establish the impact on different departments, regions, etc.
You are aiming to get a list of actions out of an impact assessment. These actions can be assigned to the relevant members of the team or business owners. People should take accountability for the change management work that needs to take place.
The change management tasks can go into the project schedule. These can be tracked by the project manager and you may want to specifically call out the change work stream on project reporting. This might not be relevant for all projects, but on those with a significant organizational impact or strategic importance it would be worth reporting on change readiness. You can adapt your standard project reporting templates to do this.
3: Business Readiness Criteria
Finally, you can use business readiness criteria. This is another tool to home in on what needs to change, and for making people accountable for ensuring this will happen.
Business readiness criteria say what is required before the organization is ready to accept the output of the project or the change. They typically include things in these categories:
- Training and development: details of what training activities need to have been carried out before there is the capability to adopt the changes.
- Recruitment: details of what hiring needs to have happened and the roles that have to be filled in order to make the most of the change.
- Processes and procedures: details of what processes and procedures need to be updated in light of the incoming changes, what they need to be updated with, and by whom.
- Systems: software tools will normally be updated as part of the project, but there may be downstream systems that need to be updated or reviewed in light of the change. There may be business readiness criteria that relate to these updates being made before the business teams are ready to adopt the change.
You, the project sponsor or change manager, are creating a list of criteria that, when achieved, will mean that the business can make the best use of the changes that are being implemented. Think of them as a bit like test success criteria, if you have experience in software testing or IT projects. When the criteria are met, you can move to the next stage which will be embedding the change.
These criteria may be built into the business case, or be drawn from the benefits in the business case. If the project doesn’t have a business case with this level of detail, you may be supporting the project and change team to create the criteria from scratch. Over time, you’ll build up a repository of change management documentation and plans that can help project managers save time.
A key thing to remember is that ‘readiness’ changes over time. In fact, it can be very fluid. The state of readiness depends so much on the capability of the teams involved. If someone leaves, or the structure of the team changes, you could be going back to the beginning with your readiness activities. This could extend to helping them understand what is coming all over again.
Earle and Valli didn’t advocate for the PMO to carry out all these activities, although if you have change managers within your PMO structure you certainly could. Instead, they made the point that it’s important to stay connected to the change management teams and framework within your organization so that you can adequately track change management activities as part of a project schedule.
This is another way to add value as a PMO: instead of simply reporting on the fact a project has happened, you can show how you are supporting the change management that will actually make the project successful through changing the way people work.
PMOs have the opportunity to move away from how they are commonly seen – as a function that provides governance and reporting – to one that adds additional value through supporting change management functions in the business.