Programme and project change management

Change can be defined as the means of transforming the way a business functions with new structures, systems, procedures, products, or services as well as where improvements are made.

What is change management?

Change can best be described as:

  • transformational – concentrating on transforming the way the business functions; putting in place new structures, systems, procedures and product or service offerings
  • incremental or tactical – where improvements are made to what already exists

For many organisations, change is about responding to fluctuations in the dynamic environment within which they operate. Change management refers to this reactive, anticipative or proactive response to change.

An organisation needs to understand the need for change and the nature of the change required. Organisations need to develop the ability to respond to the forces that drive change (change drivers), in a planned and managed fashion.

Programmes are closely tied to the strategic direction of the organisation, the policies, strategies and initiatives that are being influenced and shaped by the change drivers. Programmes and projects are the main vehicles of organisational change and should be identified, defined and prioritised to implement and deliver the changes and benefits required.

Programmes are designed to deliver benefits by implementing changes in culture, structure, infrastructure and processes and both internal and external services. Programmes do this by initiating, aligning and monitoring projects and other related activities. These are needed to create new products or service capabilities and effect changes in business operations.

Purpose of change management

Although seen by some as a threat, change provides an opportunity for an organisation to improve and deliver business benefits as a result. Change management is the provision of a planned and systematic approach to preparing, communicating and implementing change to the organisation.

Change leads to new structures and policies which in turn create new systems and environments. It is therefore vital to explain this to people at an early stage allowing the ability for people to adapt to the changes. In some cases work on benefits identification and realisation can help to put the building blocks in place for the change management process.

In its change management toolkit, the former Office of Government Commerce referred to an organisation’s readiness for change and advocated the organisation readiness chart as a way of preparing for a change. This posed the questions:

  • what's the history or change in the organisation?
  • is the right culture in place and do people behave in the right way?
  • is leadership strong enough for the change?
  • where is the likely resistance to change?
  • where will the barriers to change appear?
  • do people have the right skills?

The organisation readiness chart may be useful where:

  • there are inconsistent views among the leadership team about what it will take to change
  • there is acknowledgement of the need to change but no clear view as to what should happen next
  • proposed change activities do not appear congruent with the case for change; typically change effort is underestimated
  • the organisation is change weary yet needs to rise to further challenges
  • the organisation has not undergone any significant change for five years or more
  • the organisation has undergone a sudden, dramatic change of circumstances where significant change is needed

Note that one or more of the above conditions may apply

Change management roles and responsibilities

The main roles, with their associated responsibilities, within change management are:

  • stakeholders - the named individuals and groups who have an interest in, are involved in, or who are affected by the change; their understanding, commitment and leadership will be critical success factors in taking the change forward
  • business change manager - responsible for benefits realisation from start to finish and for ensuring the implementation and embedding of the new capabilities delivered by the programme or projects; typically this may be more than one individual and may also be known as the change agent
  • change implementation or programme board - plan and manage the change overall, agree direction, provide funding and support to the change manager
  • senior responsible owner - responsible for ensuring that the programme or project meets its objectives, delivers the projected benefits and manages and monitors changes
  • programme manager or project manager - applying standard programme and project management approaches to the specific requirements of the programme or project; reporting progress and changes through highlight reports and end stage assessments
  • change development co-ordinators - local level support within the organisation for communicating and promoting the change.

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