Politics. Teams might be reluctant to challenge entrenched interests. A state governor announced a program to implement common systems across all state agencies. The project team recognized that the resulting new business processes and job content would be so different that the only hope of success lay in a massive change management effort to get buy-in from the people who would use the new system. They were confident that, given enough time for communication and training, workers and middle managers would embrace the changes. Unfortunately, prior governors had allowed each agency to build its own IT capability, and none of the agencies wanted to relinquish IT staff and funding. Since the governor was unwilling to confront the entrenched bureaucracy, the team backed off and eventually reproduced each agency's legacy package in the new system. The governor declared success, and the bureaucrats retained power.
Even when change management is employed, other factors can dilute its effectiveness. In one case I'm aware of, store managers at a regional grocery chain were essentially crew schedulers whose performance metrics demanded optimal staff scheduling. When the position was upgraded to include P&L responsibility, corresponding metrics and compensation plans remained the same, and the project team had to drop a major component of its change management effort. Predictably, schedules remained optimal, while profits dipped.
Successful projects require organizational acceptance to achieve their full potential. Even otherwise well-designed projects often fail when change management is neglected. Be proactive! Require high-impact projects to include a change management analysis and plan. Otherwise, you risk impacting your project's acceptance, business benefits and ultimate success.
Bart Perkins is managing partner at Louisville, Ky.-based Leverage Partners, which helps organizations invest well in IT. Contact him at BartPerkins@LeveragePartners.com.
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