Tag Archives: stakeholders

Empowering leaders to lead during change and transition

Managing change is more art than science because change deals fundamentally with peoples’ emotions.  Often, companies are reticent to engage in change management activities until all of the details about the change are known.  Leaders may do this for a variety of different reasons, but most commonly it’s because there is a level of comfort that comes with having most of the answers.  What’s harder is leading through change and transition when things are still a bit nebulous.

Take as an example a publicly traded company that was acquired.  Given the publicity around the deal, all employees were aware of the possibility and started formulating scenarios about what it would be like, feel like, etc.  However, it wasn’t until the deal went through that emotions kicked into high gear.  The questions that employees raised to their leaders were typical for this type of change, e.g. Will I still have a job? Will I need to relocate? What’s going to happen to our culture? What’s in it for me to stay?

When presented with these questions, and in the absence of detailed plans for what was going to happen next, most of the leaders shied away behind closed doors.  Employee frustration turned into employee impatience, especially for the high performers who didn’t feel the need to wait out the change process.  Employee retention became a huge problem; one which exposed the company to a high level of operational risk.  The company recognized what was happening and engaged us to create a series of workshops designed to address employee concerns by empowering their managers to be change leaders.

The workshops were kicked off while the company was largely still in the Endings phase and had three main objectives:

  1.  Share the change management approach
  2. Agree the role that each manager was going to play throughout the integration
  3. Create an action plan in response to the organizational issues resulting from the merger

We used a modified version of the William Bridges change curve (see below) to anchor everyone’s understanding of the change and where there might be a disconnect between individual contributors and managers.  We began by asking each manager to plot himself on the change curve.  We then had each manager plot their team on the change curve.  Over the course of the 15 workshops that we facilitated, it became clear that leaders were further along the change curve than their teams.  It also became clear that part of the challenge was that leaders were communicating from their vantage point, with better understanding and more clarity on the future direction of the company, while their teams were still in the “endings” phase, mourning the “loss” of their culture, ways of working and in many cases their colleagues.

We coached the leaders on the different roles that they would need to play as they and their teams moved along the change curve.  In the Endings phase, leaders were told they would need to listen, show empathy, and affirm the need to move forward.  During the Exploration phase, leaders would need to first educate their teams on the change and then engage them into the process once more details were known.  Finally, in the New Beginnings phase, the leader as a coach, would bring his team up the curve through further engagement and empowerment.

While the workshops did not provide pragmatists in the room with a checklist of things to do and say in response to the transitory period in which most people found themselves in, participants found value in having discussions with fellow managers about how their groups were feeling and learning of different ways to handle the uncertainty.  People also found great comfort in knowing that others were feeling the same way and were grateful for the fact that their leadership team had taken the time to organize these workshops to provide the forum for sharing the difficult emotions that arise during the merging of two companies.

The key to the success of these workshops were as follows:

  • We started at the top and cascaded the approach and the messages to ensure consistency
  • We empowered managers to create and execute action plans to effect the changes that could be effected
  • We created a feedback loop to ensure that leaders were aware of employee concerns and questions and used the feedback to guide future communications

Precillia Redmond
PA Consulting Group


ITIL Service Strategy and Project Management – a contrast in execution

The purpose of these updates is to continue to show how these two best practices, ITIL and project management provide synergy to improve effectiveness and drive overall maturity for organizations to meet the needs of the business.

In this article I will focus at a high level what service strategy and project management can leverage to drive the synergy between these two approaches to enable the outcome of a service strategy or the development of a business case. This high level evaluation will be based on the three criteria noted below:

  1. Identify the integration points between service strategy and project management
  2. Understand the service strategy and project management roles
  3. Sample project management artifacts to support service strategy

As a reminder, in my previous article I discussed the similarities and differences between ITIL and project management. ITIL is a lifecycle approach utilized to align IT services to the needs of the organization. As opposed to project management which is a waterfall approach defined as a temporary undertaking to deliver a unique goal.

Now let’s evaluate service strategy and project management as these approaches intersect each other they enhance an organizations maturity with the principles of quality management.

The purpose of service strategy as noted by ITIL is to recognize that customers do not buy products as much as they buy the satisfaction of needs. This is accomplished by noting three key objectives.

  • Determine customer and market place needs to align the IT organization to the business via service portfolio management
  • Provide financial management of the services that entails budget, cost accounting, and charge back decisions
  • Reduce the risks associated with the uncertainty between supplier capacity and actual customer needs by employing demand management

The purpose of project management is to provide a disciplined approach to achieve specific goals during a temporary undertaking. Project management in contrast parallels service strategy to the Initiation phase and overlaps across similar key activities that are the integration points.

The initiation phase has an overall objective to determine the scope of the project and ensure there is a well understood business situation. While there are many activities in this phase some of the activities that overlap with service strategy include the analysis of the business requirements for the customer and marketplace needs, a financial analysis of the business requirements and a project charter that defines the overall effort that can be used to underpin the services catalogue.

In general both these phases are critical to success if proper constraints are not identified and implemented correctly that in turn, will jeopardize meeting the business needs. Also note, a high degree of stakeholder management is required to align the business needs between customers, the market place and the IT organization.

To support the service strategy objectives one must consider the roles required to achieve the key activities and ensure the accountabilities are well known. Within service strategy there are four high level roles I will define that include:

  • IT Steering Group – formed to set the IT strategy, priorities, and project selection. The group is comprised of senior business and IT management representatives
  • Service Portfolio Manager – works collaboratively with the IT Steering Group to develop the service offerings based on the organizations capabilities that will be included in the services catalogue
  • Financial Manager – manages the IT services budget, cost accounting and charge back decisions
  • Business Relationship Manager – understands the customer and the business drivers to maintain a positive affiliation between the customer and the IT organization

The role of the project manager is to provide competent leadership and communication in order to successfully manage the customer, project and teams to enable the service strategy.

Now the project manager can use project artifacts based on the Project Management Body of Knowledge sections that are relevant for service strategy. Depending on the complexity of the business needs I have identified below a minimum sample of project artifacts to develop the high level service strategy objectives and business case that are:

  • Scope Management – deliver a requirements document, stakeholder matrix, scope statement and a work breakdown structure to define what will and will not be included in the service portfolio
  • Cost Management  – prepare cost estimates, budgets including investment funding requirements for the services in the  portfolio
  • Schedule Management- develop the activity definition, sequence and resources required to develop the schedule
  • Quality Management – provide the quality baseline, metrics to be used and the improvement plan to drive corrective actions
  • Risk Management – to identify risks, analyze the risks and prepare risk responses

At this check-point of the high level analysis one can begin to see the integration and the use of best practices to support the ITIL lifecycle to achieve its purpose. ITIL benefits from project management because it helps mature the capability to control the resources required by service strategy to define new offerings effectively and efficiently to satisfy the needs of customers.

In my future updates I will continue to delve into each of the ITIL lifecycles and point out the complementary project management approach to create that synergy.

Peter Tarhanidis

PA Consulting Group

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Making the Most of Internal Communications


Most companies are operating in fragile economies, under increasing price pressures, with employees who are still concerned about the stability of their professional futures. This environment makes the development and execution of an effective internal communications strategy more critical than ever. Without clear communications and a well-designed strategy, uninformed employees can easily become misguided, developing their own (often inaccurate) rumors and ideas about the state of the business.

Unfortunately, internal communications strategies can be seen as a ‘nice to have’, and they are often the first exclusions from budgets. However, having a strong internal communications strategy does not have to be difficult or expensive. In fact, many communications strategies are surprisingly simple and don’t require much resource at all.

Below is an example of an internal communications plan that we developed for the roll out of a new process management tool.

There are three main ways to ensure successful internal communications:

Understand your audience: segmenting your audience is the cornerstone of any effective communications plan. It is crucial you clarify your objectives and understand how you want your employees to react. It is easy to forget communications can be interpreted differently by different groups, so consider how to tailor your communications without diluting your message.

Ensure your leaders are visible: understanding how you want your staff to change is one thing; sustaining that change is another. In times of change, people look to their leaders for guidance, so ensure those driving the change are a clearly visible part of any communications strategy. Developing two-way communication between employees and senior management about the future strategy can also facilitate engagement and motivation.

Plan for success: you can’t prepare for everything, but it helps to have a flexible plan. Set expectations upfront about the timeline for communications and what your employees can expect when. Sustained communications will increase credibility of messages and help avoid knee-jerk reactions to anything unexpected.

And most importantly keep your messages clear and consistent.

– Teneka Polite, Change Management Consultant
PA Consulting Group

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