Podcast: The Power of Organizational Change Management

Estimating large million dollar technology ventures is part-art and part-science. Rick Whitten, RPI Consultants Solution Architect chats with Michael Grace, Tech Pro Unicorn, on how RPI Consultants estimates large projects and what he thinks should be your most important considerations.

Transcript

Michael Grace:

And welcome back to another episode of tech pro unicorn I am your host Michael grace and today I am joined by one of our own Daniel Jenab who is a change management consultant here at RPI. It’s a relatively new role that we’ve created to take advantage of. The demand that’s out there around providing great organizational change management services to our customers and to the world. Daniel thank you for taking the time and welcome to the podcast. Awesome.

Daniel Jenab:

Absolutely and thank you for having me.

Michael Grace:

Is there anything else about your journey or about who Daniel Jenab is that you’d like to share with the listeners?

Daniel Jenab:

Well, there are some amateur soccer stories I can share. But I think in general keeping with the topic of the podcast here. Something I’d like all the listeners to understand about consulting and change management is.

The way that I see it and why I really want it to be in change management is that I view consulting as the ultimate customer service role right? Everything we do for our customers and our clients we’re there to make a difference in their lives and ensure we may be working in technical systems. But ultimately, we’re there to improve the lives of people and in my opinion change management is the customer support division of the customer service team. So, it’s even that next level up of being even more specialized more people-focused, and ideally more. More endgame-focused.

Michael Grace:

I Love it right? because if you extrapolate a little bit on what you just said and kind of tease it a little bit. You know consultants get called into big projects that an organization typically can’t do themselves without a little bit Out. Or they’re called in to be the expert or they’re called in you know to be an integrator or an implementer and they do something they leave behind some software that they bring life and then I love what you said about how change management is really. The people side of that right? which is every company says oh our people or the difference. Our people are most important, our people are people and then they do these huge projects and they totally say Yeah, we’re not spending that to make sure that our people get there. Or they do and they realize the value of Change Management. So, I Love just kind of how you equated change management to being kind of that ultimate component of consulting that was cool.

Daniel Jenab:

Yeah, I think it’s one of those things where certain people when they think of consultants. The stereotype is somebody coming in on-site disappearing into a back room for a couple of days. And then leaving without ever talking to the department or walking the floors and talking to the people and here at RPI we. Don’t do that for starters and then I think change management really helps to create that sense of togetherness and unity in the project. Brings the gap between the end-users. The downstream people who will be impacted and the actual project team.

Michael Grace:

I love it. Let’s talk a little bit about change management. It’s kind of ah a fuzzy word if you will, right? people hear change management, or they hear project management and they’re like isn’t project isn’t change management part of project management isn’t it. Daniel’s also Prosci certified in change management as well as are all the change managers here at RPI. So what. What’s the difference like what is change management? Why is it different than project management and why is it important to projects?

Daniel Jenab:

Yeah, so I think quickly jumping on that project management comment. It’s not just project management I had a client recently ask what the difference is between change management and marketing. Um, and I think you can tie that to corporate communications as well. There are lots of various departments where change management kind of touches, but ah project management is the most common 1 that it’s tied to but as far as what change management is. How we define it to clients is that change management is blended this combination of processes tools and techniques that we utilize to help manage the people side of change and people in bold italics underlined. However. Blow up the text. However, you want to emphasize that must emphasize the people side of change, and of course, we do that to achieve desired business outcomes. Um, and to the second part of your question for why it should be part of projects, I think. Ultimately, all our projects especially in our roles as software consultants. Our projects result in people changing right? So, whether that’s changing a process a tool a software system or even. More cerebral like a mindset of value or belief and so I think a lot of the project return on investment or why a company does a project in the first place is closely tied to whether people can successfully change. And modify their behaviors to fit what we’re doing in the project. You know? So, for example, better data and better analytics for reporting. That’s only useful if people are looking at these reports if they’re running the new reports if you implement industry-leading processes. And those processes are only as useful as the number of times is getting used right? So, people need to work in the new system and not work around the new system to try to get back to the old system.

Michael Grace:

I love it. Um, you know I always say sometimes when the consultants leave people just find a way to go back to the way they did it before the consultants got their version 6 to version 7, I’m dating myself of the info platform.

Um, was a great example was that the right version Six was a thick client that was installed on your desktops, and version 7 took you to a web browser, and a lot of people were like how do I get that thick client back right? Because. It was faster right? I could enter ap invoices faster on a thick client by just using the keyboard I could tab, and I didn’t need a mouse right in in a web client for any software, right? It’s assuming that you’re going to use the mouse is moving you around the field versus you know, necessarily a tab key. So, I love that right? If you don’t really plan for the people and help them on that journey and help them understand the benefits oftentimes. When you leave. They’re going to be like yes people during the meetings they’re going to be like yeah, okay, yeah, that sounds great, and then as soon as everyone’s gone. They’re like all right now back to how I did it before.

Daniel Jenab:

Yeah, 1 of the most common and important parts of any change management course so learning about this in the Prosci classes is learning how to prevent Backslide. So ultimately as consultants like you said we can’t. Be around forever so we need to set our clients up with appropriate tools and strategies to prevent people from moving back into. We could call it the Stone Age, right? And it’s going a little further um, organizational change. Is basically just a conglomeration of individual change as individuals change and as more and more individuals are learning new systems and new processes eventually, we reach that breaking point, and we get to organizational change so leaving. Ouch, change management presents a higher risk of a swiss cheese future state. Um, where instead of a nice unified system where everybody’s working in Harmony. There are holes in the system, right? because individuals are dropping out in the transition period from the current. Transition to the future and it’s just it’s not possible to achieve a successful and whole future state if we have employees that are consistently looking for the application or the thick client and they’re not going to the web client.

Michael Grace:

Yeah, it um the people side of it right is harder in my opinion than you know I can learn a piece of software and I can be learning like here are the twenty Fields my software brethren are going to be upset at me here. But um. You know here’s the twenty fields and here’s what these fields do, and you know here’s how they’re used by customers and here’s the leading practice and I can learn all of that. Um, and it doesn’t change, right? like the software is the software The functionality is the functionality. This is what it does. And I can configure things in various ways to make it do other things but generally, I know what the software is going to do, and I think people are always a variable they have different needs and desires, and motivations. They’re just ah, ah, an unknown. Um, so when you look at that in your personal journey right? You went from being a project manager to really focusing on change management. Why would somebody want to do that right? Why would you be like oh forget, the people aspect I’m just going to stay over here where I know what this product is, I know what it does and you kind of went on a journey over to focus on the people side with change management. What gets you excited to do that?

Daniel Jenab:

Well, I can tell you what doesn’t get me excited and that is looking at a gigantic task list and making sure people are following up on that. Um outside of change management honestly just being a lot more fun and being able to. Have more open conversations with the client. Um, you know there is really that bond between change manager and project manager in my prosy class I would say about at least half the class was. Project managers that were either taking on a dual role as change Manager or in a similar boat like myself where they had been a project manager for a couple of years they’d been in the trenches. They’ve learned the ropes and then they decided you know what I want to move to the people side of things. Um, and I think what it is that all projects all project managers fundamentally are change managers right? So, like it or not even if they are completely different skill sets which they are you are still leading a project that is bringing change to a client. So, you pick up bits and pieces of what being a change Manager is as a project manager probably more so I would argue than ah than a technical consultant. Um, and you. Something to equate this to so you for the saying you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make a drink, and I kind of view project management as the construction crew that builds that manmade body of water and then they provide for the overall community and then the client is the horse right.

Michael Grace:

Yep.

Daniel Jenab:

And then the change manager is the 1 leading the horse to what the project manager built and while it’s leading it. It’s talking to the horse and tools and processes and hopefully encouraging that desire aspect too. Ah, encourage the horse to drink that water.

Michael Grace:

I Love it. So, change managers are people that talk to animals. Ah, ah I love it. Um, that’s right.

Daniel Jenab:

Exactly Well we are on the tech pro unicorn podcast after all.

Michael Grace:

That’s right and unicorns are animals too. Um, however, mystical, and magical. We might be but I loved a couple of things of what you said, and I have some opinions obviously on ah change project managers act as change managers. Um. So, I’m just going to kind of make a statement and I’ll get your reaction to it because um, project managers, right? at the end of the day, they’re trying to drive a project done on time and under budget. They are focused on what you said you know the task list right? They’re like are you done with this when will you be done with this. Their goal is to drive shit done for lack of a better analogy. So, um I struggle, and I totally see lots of project managers that get certified. They get their pumps, and they get a Prosci certification and they’re like I can do both, and I challenge you. That you might be able to go through the motions of doing both but you’re going to do 1 of them poorly and it’s probably going to be change management because in my experience change management is driven by a pm who’s also responsible for that project then becomes communication plan. Training plan testing plan. Okay, I’ve accounted for the people. The people are going to come in and we’re going to tell them what we’re going to do. We’re going to test it and we’re going to go live and maybe it’s a go-live plan. It becomes very tactical as to drive that task list done. And it’s not really focused on the true people aspect of you know where our people are. what’s that journey they’re about to go on you just don’t have time for that right? You’re like just trying to drive stuff is done and people. Might not be ready for that. So, I’ll pause there and get your reaction to that thought that project managers probably aren’t the best people to also be doing your change management efforts.

Daniel Jenab:

I would challenge that point in a sense, so I do agree with you. But I think if there is no change manager on the project then it does fall to the project manager to do that whether the project manager really wants to or not. Must be responsible for it but the ideal situation is that there are very 2 distinct roles 1 of a project manager focusing on the 3 pillars of project management. So, scope timeline and budget. But you notice there are no people in those pillars right. And then the change manager is focusing on the people side of all those things and really yeah, we can. We can look to RPI as an example, our projects are getting bigger and Bigger. We’re getting 2 3 four million dollars.

Michael Grace:

I Love it.

Daniel Jenab:

Yeah, ERP implementation projects these project management tasks are completely a full-time job and oftentimes more than a full-time job. You know a traditional project manager on these large projects where you most desperately need change management. Just because of the organizational impacts that the project manager won’t have the time to successfully do that role.

Michael Grace:

True. Yeah, it’s um, you know I think a long time ago change management was just a fuzzy word as I called it. Its people were like oh that’s that touchy-feely stuff that’s like everybody. Come together and have a group hug and you know oh we got to. We got to have fun and party games and we’re going to name a project and you know and they just didn’t see the science behind it. Um, you know I think 1 the Prosci. Methodology gave some credibility to the practice of change management and I’m super appreciative of that because I think it needed it and then 2 you know, maybe just talk through the kind of like what that is. The assessment process, right? because we go through our methodology goes through and do an assessment, so we understand the people’s side and where they are and the journey they’re about to go Through. Maybe talk a little bit about kind of. What that is just for the folks that might not know art methodology and why how we kind of go through that change management piece.

Daniel Jenab:

Sure. So yeah, there are really 3 core elements in our change management process assessing tailoring and enabling but the assessments. The first part really sets up all the other parts and helps us determine our strategy moving forward. So really. Assessments focus on determining the client’s specific needs. They help figure out the change management governance model. We look at the organizational risk matrix to see how ready or on the flipside resistant the organization is to change and just getting our plan set. We have a couple of assessments that we introduce in our first phase of the project the initiate and plan phase 1 of them is the pros site change Triangle so the pct assessment and that really focuses on the interplay between sponsors project managers change managers. Um, to determine an overall success score for all those components and what we do is we set a baseline at the start of the project and as the project continues, we reiterate that we go back. We continuously ask our questions. And analyze our scores to make sure that things are moving in the right direction and if they’re not then that’s where the tailoring comes in right? So okay, we have a plan, and it turns out that hypothetically our change of management score during our build and development phase is lower. Okay, so what do we need to do there. Do we need to release more communication? Do we need to work with the project management team a little more to get meetings with sponsors? Um, really it all just goes back to the constant analysis of performance. Not just on the client-side but on our side. To ensure that we’re delivering the highest service possible.

Michael Grace:

Yep, I mean very rarely I think do does any project start where everybody’s onboard. Everybody understands what we’re doing everybody understands their role everybody understands why it’s important and you know everyone’s like yep, let’s go do this like. Like said ten percent of the projects ever. Um so often.

Daniel Jenab:

It’s probably more common the other way around where 1 person the project sponsor understands the importance and everybody else is like hey I don’t I don’t have time I don’t have the staff I don’t have the bandwidth to do this project. Why are we doing this?

Michael Grace:

Right.

Michael Grace:

Yep, it’s interesting. Um, you know and sometimes when we do these assessments people are Shocked. You know, usually, the sponsors are shocked and or it started like. You’ll hear this right like an I t driven project and the sponsor might be in the business tower, right? The CFO is the sponsor, and we’ll do an assessment and the sponsor isn’t fully behind it doesn’t really know what’s going on. Um, you know which is a really dangerous place to be when you start a project to have your sponsor go? Yeah, I don’t know I you know it’s just 1 of the many things that I’m doing I don’t know you know like danger if you don’t have sponsor engagement. That’s a dangerous place to start a project from. Usually, those projects come off the rails they fail. They don’t get you to know the buy-in that they need to support the sponsorship and very frequently have significant problems. So, knowing that right knowing your blind spots before you get out on the road is important. Um, do you have examples right? when we talk about change management people always want to know like well tell me about that like where has this done like what you know they want to know who what where when why? like. Where has this made a difference? Do you have any examples of where change management has been involved and made a difference in a project?

Daniel Jenab:

Ah, so I do um and I honestly think that the best examples come from the absence right? So, they come from the negative of not having a change manager on the project. Um, so something that’s part of our strategy and part of our assessment focus is doing design impact assessments as part of our change management strategy, and what those do are, they’re basically documents designed to facilitate both. RPIs workstream leads and our customers were extreme leads to think about potential downstream impacts and then create a plan to mitigate those risks and before change management as part of the process, I remember very specifically 1 healthcare client. Coming to me as a project manager a few weeks before going live and asking what the training and awareness plan was for the handful of departments and these departments hadn’t been involved in the project. They had not been communicated to us as stakeholders of the project yet here. We are extremely short. Time away from going live having to scramble and create training and communication and honestly just awareness, right? So why is this project happening? Why is it coming in a couple of weeks what’s good about it so on and so Forth? Um, and that. Is a huge distraction. Not just from a project management side but from a technical consultant side as well. It’s trying to deal with go live and cutover tats while at the same time dealing with training that you shouldn’t have to be doing in the first place and you know and in retrospect as a. Project manager, you can sure you can push harder right to get a sense of these impacted apartments. But I think this really goes back to that balance between change management and project management with project management being so focused on scope budget timeline. Um, and so many things going on the technical development side. It’s helpful to have a set role carved out to identify and plan for situations like what happened in that project.

Michael Grace:

Yeah, I mean I think we could just tell stories, right? and to your point, many of them are bad right? like hey, this person wasn’t accounted for this wasn’t thought of. We thought these people were on board and then you get down to the critical moments of a project and you realize oh shoot nobody asked these people nobody made sure that this manager was going to be available. Nobody coordinated that all those people aspects right. Nobody made sure like you can give training. It doesn’t mean anybody learned anything right? So many times, I see all these trainings and I walk by training rooms and I sit in and I listen, and I look and I’m looking at the people’s face and they have no idea any.

How they’re going to go back and do their job. The trainer training the material. They absolutely delivered it. But there’s no like knowledge check and then you know weeks go by sometimes just the planning of the training is wrong. Oh, it conveniently fits into this week it happens to be 12 weeks before going live. And you expect them to go 3 months and remember what the heck they learned and then practically apply it like and then you don’t go back and ask them hey are you ready to go live. Do you know what? you’re supposed to do, or you get angry when they say no. That training was so long ago and I didn’t understand it and I’m totally lost and I don’t know what I’m doing right? and in the reality of that impact right? is maybe you still go live because you check the box right? You’re a pm you check the box training has conducted a check. Done and then you go live and then your productivity dips to near zero, right? which has a real financial impact on the organization. We just had to go live and you know the training aspect of it.

Daniel Jenab:

Yep.

Michael Grace:

Was tough for a variety of reasons they had a lot of turnovers we decided to go live. We knew that productivity was going to dip and payables, right? The time it took them to pay which was originally within 7 days was now like 45 days right? That is a real cost. To do business like those are that’s real money and not quantifying the amount of stress that you’re causing all those people that want to do a good job. They really want to be successful for you but you just didn’t step up to the plate and appropriately planned.

Daniel Jenab:

Well, and you know what else it tells the customer to it. It says that you were an afterthought, right? if we didn’t set out with a plan from the beginning and we’re just coming in on a week that happens to fit in the project. It says that you were not the primary focus of this endeavor and I don’t think that’s ever a message you want to give and I think change management really helps to mitigate that feeling from the client.

Michael Grace:

We’ve really, it’s a great point. We’ve really pivoted now that we have a strong organizational change management practice here at RPI that Daniel’s helping to lead. We have. Pivoted kind of how we approach change management within our statements of work prior to you know we had change management things in there right? We had a training plan a communication plan a testing plan like these are all things that are. Deliverables for those who are on the podcast I can’t see me I’m doing air quotes again around deliverables. These are all deliverables and what I love the most is that we’ve built-in and are inflexible in removing we have it disguised so that. You know if you’re a client and you’re looking at our hours estimate. You won’t be like oh like what’s this changes management stuff. We’re not paying for that. Essentially your kind of don’t have a choice, right? because we feel it’s critical to the success of the projects that we’re going to partner with our customers on and take them on this journey. We built-in Change management. But then we’ve really stepped it up into what Daniel explained right? that assessment component to me is the most exciting piece of this where we assess and then don’t, we don’t give them like a report card. We sit down with them and go hey here’s what we heard. Here’s what we understand to be the case here’s where we think the weaknesses do you or do you not ah agree and then how do we collaborate and how do we fix this so that we’re both successful on this journey together and it’s like the first things of partnership. And it’s around the people in that organization and the journey they’re about to go on it just kind of makes me warm inside along with an old fashioned but it really you know I just love to see it and where you know we’re piloting it out there and our customers are really embracing it. We just did that with a customer Daniel I think you were involved in that can you just share a little bit about how that went.

Daniel Jenab:

Ah, yeah, so this was cool and I think classic change management where myself and another change manager flew on-site for. 2 days. So just ah, a short little breather. It was in the middle of sit so very intensive testing cycle and what we did was we got bagels for each workstream when we were there for lunch. We provided lunch for the team. And we basically sat down with the sponsors of that workstream. So, finance supply chain human resources, as well as the people managers and we, just had an open and honest conversation about value propositions, right? so. You’re testing. You’ve been testing for months you’re exhausted and you kind of lose sight of the bigger picture almost so our meetings were designed to go in and pull the client back just a half step and be like okay testing is stressful. But you’re doing it for a reason and these are all the reasons and we got about 30 to forty solid positive statements from each workstream about why they’re excited and asper in the room as they’re eating bagels eating lunch air and you could just see there. Their eyes started glowing a little more they were smiling. They were laughing and they’re having a really good time talking to us and I think ultimately that’s really part of the huge benefit of changing management in these projects, right? So, the stress on the client is just. Just huge but being able to take a quick breather to step back focus on the positives and then focus on how these positives are going to be communicated to the organization is a gigantic benefit to them.

Michael Grace:

I love it we were prior to the podcast Daniel and I were having a conversation around project naming, right? and project branding and we have a lot of customers that are like oh yeah, we don’t need to do that. And I just think it’s such a missed opportunity, right? We’re not talking like oh it’s going to cost you a hundred thousand dollars to name and brand your project. It literally is a few hours of consulting to brainstorm and get some coalescence an