You’ve probably heard it before – implementing digital technology is simple; however, organizational transformation, adopting, and sustaining change is difficult. While there may be some technological challenges along the way, let’s look at some approaches for dealing with the “softer” change management aspect of a transformation journey.

1. Having the right people and mindset

When setting up your transformation project team, the key to success is a good mix of external implementation and domain experience on the one hand and sufficient internal process expertise and credibility to provide management support on the other. Beyond that, team members should be allowed enough breathing room to move the needle. This space will help avoid resistance to change within an organization. Humility and empathy can go a long way to foster the right mindset needed for such transformations.

2. Providing connected leadership and communication

Long-term change demands a top-down and a bottom-up approach. Change management is not just about communicating “before” and desired “after” behaviors. A transforming organization must begin with a sense of purpose. Therefore, transformation sponsors and champions must illustrate the need for change by speaking to the hearts and minds of an organization. And carefully manage the emotional aspect of the change. Because emotions often drive our actions and decisions. Hence, communicating a compelling change story is critical for creating buy-ins and preventing early anxiety and fear. Before any future process conversations, it is vital that the leadership team must have a horizontally and vertically aligned and shared vision of a transformation outcome. 

Before the transformation journey begins, regardless of the chosen framework, the right change management efforts will help provide organization-wide awareness and increase stakeholder engagement. Further, change management in the right direction will boost the overall desire to change and improve the knowledge on how to change. 

A comprehensive outline must be in place, considering the following topics:

·       What are the goals, and how do they align with the overall strategy? 

·       What are success metrics after transformation? 

·       Who are the impacted internal and external stakeholders/cross-functionals?

·       What skillsets and domain expertise are required, and where do we find them (internal vs. external?)

·       From a business side, who will champion the change and who may need assistance along the way?

·       How will the plan be executed, and who will facilitate the end-to-end process? 

·       How long should this transformation take, and what are the milestones to be established? 

·       How will we transition without disrupting existing processes, teams, and technology?

The transformation leadership team should introduce more subject expertise and rationale only when the above questions have been addressed and shared across an organization. This top-down approach will aid in involving cross-functional teams, securing internal support, and accelerating adoption.

3. The role of PMO as a catalyst and facilitator

A mature project management office (PMO) upholds or adapts to organizational practices. It supports transformation initiatives in selecting the right skillsets for individual tasks and ensures appropriate communication and reporting mechanisms to maintain overall support/buy-in and manage everyone’s anxiety. Hence, making the PMO function a key player in the transformation journey. Access to a comprehensive portfolio view, existing interdependencies, resource needs, allocation, and how initiatives align strategically creates a credible source for timely decision-making and ensures a triumphant return on investment.

4. Organizational alignment on behavior expectations

Before change management efforts reach the training stage, it is vital to ensure that an entire organization and its ecosystem are ready to support the new process and desired behaviors. There needs to be overall alignment and buy-in from all levels. Otherwise, the training efforts will not be effective. This exercise is crucial to maintain trust and support as the transformation progresses.

5. Transformation does not happen overnight

While leadership alignment and focus on the big picture are essential, it is also critical to create adequate motivation for teams and stakeholders to continue pursuing the shared vision or stated transformation end goal. Setting milestones and quantifiable targets should be a part of this process. Breaking the journey down into smaller obtainable pieces will yield more opportunities to celebrate accomplishments. Sharing these accomplishments will enhance adoption possibilities and offer everyone a reason to keep going and persevere through some of the difficult phases of the process. 

The bottom line

Transformation efforts or other large-scale projects that fail to embrace these “soft” core principles will likely face employee or stakeholder resistance, resulting in a lack of adoption support and exceeding budget constraints or reducing the return of investment. With a scalable and tailored change framework that can respond to technology or organizational challenges during a transformational journey, businesses can better manage rapid changes and achieve productivity faster.

Michael Engelke, AVP - PMO

With over a decade-worth of global experience in successfully conceptualizing and delivering product solutions, program management, change management, and governance models in technology and manufacturing industries, Michael is known for levering a robust set of tools with a talent for successfully aligning strategic objectives, product roadmaps, high-performing teams, and operational support plans for today’s and tomorrow’s business problems.

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