If you’re thinking about all the changes happening in your organization, you may be wondering when it’s the right time to start managing change. What we’re essentially here to say is: don’t wait until it’s too late—start early. Don’t wait until the start of a project to begin introducing people to the change. Chances are, they’ve already caught wind of it, and have plenty of questions and worries about what’s to come. To prevent confusion and to get a head start, you want to be the one who sets the tone for a positive change narrative by beginning your change initiative well before the official project start date.
As pointed out in this Prosci article, Change Management is not Project Management. Change Management is not a set event in the project plan; it is an ongoing process meant to support change throughout an organization. While the right moment to start Change Management will always depend on the project’s situation, the fact is that projects always benefit from starting Change Management earlier as opposed to later.
Be Proactive, Not Reactive
Be the one who sets the tone and starts the Change Management initiative in your organization. Don’t let the need for change catch up to you, and don’t let the change narrative spiral outside of your control. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure after all, so even if you don’t see the need for Change Management right away, it’s best to get started before the need does arise. Just like any good project, plan for risks, rather than having to come up with a plan on how to deal with them on the spot. According to this IndustryWeek article, starting Change Management late can produce negative consequences such as: employees being less likely to get on board with the change, extra expenses if your project starts to lag as a result of poor adaptation, and struggling to catch up to meet deadlines.
If Starting Early is the Answer, Why Doesn’t Everyone Do It?
When should Change Management start on a project? Preferably earlier than the project’s start date. If it’s as simple as that, why doesn’t everyone implement this strategy? Some people may feel they don’t have the necessary information about the change to inform their team with accurate information. It often happens that people get so caught up in all the changes and planning in a project that they forget one of the most important parts: communicating the change. While there is validity to wanting to give as detailed information as possible, as soon as a change initiative has been concretely decided on, it’s best to start communicating with your team about the project to come, even if the information is scarce. This practice creates transparency, trust, and improved communication so that your team is not feeling kept in the dark. If you are the one communicating about the change, you are better able to control the way it’s received by your team. Even if you don’t have all the details of the project, communication should remain a priority.
Why is Starting Early Worth It?
So far, we’ve talked about why you shouldn’t start your Change Management initiative too late, so what are the benefits of starting early? As previously stated, by starting early, you have better control of the change narrative. The biggest bump in the road of change initiatives tends to be people’s capacities to adapt. By having extra padding time before the project starts, your team will be given more time to adapt to the idea, and possibly bring up any qualms they have with the project. Communication is always a key point to remember, and the effort you put in will bear fruit in the end. Team members may speak up about potential risks they see or offer solutions on how to better implement the change.
Are your People Change Ready?
If you’re wondering whether your early start paid off on your team, and on yourself, you may want to ask yourself whether you and your team are change ready. Take a look at our change readiness survey in our free resources page to get a better idea. Looking at the survey in advance can also give you a good idea of where you should be before a project’s start date.
When Does Change Management End?
Since we’ve talked about when Change Management should start, the next logical question is to ask when change should end. Is there truly an end? From a Project Management perspective, the end is when the change management team pulls away, leaving the organization steady and capable of sustaining the change they just experienced. From a purely Change Management perspective, there will always be the constant need for change as people and the world around continue to evolve.
Maintaining changes is all about adapting to your surroundings. You should aim to create a culture of change resiliency within your organization. Change resiliency can be defined as a constant state of adaptability, where your organization is always prepared for the next hurdle to come. If the Change Management was handled correctly from the start, people in your organizations (both leaders and their teams) will have become more change resilient for the future.
To learn more about when Change Management ends, take a look at one our vlogs where Greg Roth, Managing Partner, talks about what the average length of a change initiative is.
Keep in mind, culture change doesn’t happen overnight, so be generous with the time you need to properly adapt and sustain the changes you’ve worked so hard on.