Change Management by Dr. ir Johannes Drooghaag

Change Management

A practical example I use in our Master Classes “Change Management”:

When asked by the Steering Committee to lead a project which had already accumulated 1 year delay and was 42% over it’s original budget of 5 million EURO, my first action was to understand what caused this project to go so far off track. 5-why on a large scale.

The repeating message from various sources was very clear: “Operations and especially the Operations Manager, is sabotaging the project. Not cooperating, not willing to accept the new project and making unrealistic demands and claims.”. The Director Technology added a very interesting detail: “10 years ago, when we installed the current systems, the same man was opposing that system and now he doesn’t want to replace it”. This might be someone simply opposing change, so this was the man to speak with, learn his motives and find an opening to move forward.

I decided not to invite the Operations Manager for a meeting. Instead, I wend  to his Plant and asked him for a tour of his facility. His initial reaction was to speak about the project but I asked him to first show me what he was dealing with. During our tour, I noticed people walking around with papers, writing down results from machines, others entering data on 2 terminals. This was our entry point! On the floor, where the Operation Manager was running his shop, I got a detailed explanation about having a hybrid of the old and the new system, the need to compare differences in the results, the manpower needed to create all kinds of paper records and reports, the frustration of his team and his disappointment in the project.

Back in the office, I asked for a description of his involvement in the project, what his contributions are from the beginning. The answer shocked me: “None, I was not involved until the roll-out and now my team has to deal with all the issues and extra work! I am not against this, I just want it to work and all issues to be fixed. 10 years ago we had the same and it took my team several years of the same load and double work until our old system was finally working properly. I have seen the demo version of the new system and I really like it. But not when it doesn’t work!”.

I got a well prepared list of issues, detailed descriptions, screenshots of old and new, reports of differences, backtracking of bookings in the connected ERP system. And a similar list of resolved issues with confirmations, backtracking and all details one would look for. Unfortunately, this list was much shorter. “I prepare this at night, my team doesn’t have time for this”.

We concluded our first session with a very constructive discussion about the need to analyze the contract, specifications , design and change requests to understand the obligations of the service provider and internal departments of the company. The person who was presented as opposing change stated to me “Please send me copies so I can study it and see if we are asking for too much or not. When I find issues which are not in scope we can look at workarounds and solutions and put it on the budget for next year.”. This person was not opposing change, this person was not involved in managing the change!

On my way back to the headquarters of the company, I made the following notes:

Missed opportunities:

  • Stakeholder identification
  • Team integration
  • Communication
  • Feedback analyzes
  • Design validation
  • Workforce alignment

We made some organizational changes, had tough but successful negotiations with the service provider and internal technical departments, and rolled out a Change Leadership Training throughout the organization. During the Project Completion Recognition 6 months later, the Operation Manager was recognized by the Chairman for his contributions in his role as Key Stakeholder and Test Manager.

Involve Stakeholders to Lead Change!