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  • Writer's pictureAndrea lenke

Maintaining Engagement as Part of Change Management

Joe Wynne is a versatile Project Manager experienced in delivering medium-scope projects in large organizations that improve workforce performance and business processes. He has a proven track record of delivering effective, technology-savvy solutions in a variety of industries and a unique combination of strengths in both process management and workforce management.

When significant change occurs, you need the affected employees in the organization to support it--and you also need the project workers to support it. You need everyone “engaged” in the effort for it to be successful. Engagement is a complex topic and is commonly discussed in gantthead’s Eye on the Workforce blog (my favorite!), but for the purposes of the tactics described here, it is important to know these three factors critical for employees to give their best performance and discretionary time:

  • Being able to see impact of their work

  • Involvement in decisions that affect their job

  • Confidence that they can achieve what is expected

When the big organizational change projects come, any or all of these factors can be drained right out of the workplace. Business side workers feel they have to accept changes forced on them by management. Project workers are frustrated by the ridiculous deadlines forced on them by some unknown market-driven reason. The impact of everyone’s work seems to be subsumed into a giant organizational shift where there is fear of negative impact on their role no matter how hard they work.

This is the climate where you are supposed to manage your project. If only there were tactics you could use in your routine project management that would simultaneously build up employee engagement…

Tactics to Solve Project Management Problems and Build Engagement Potential Problem: All risks are not easy to identify. So many organizational change projects present new situations to business leaders and even functional experts are not sure what to expect.

  • Tactic 1: Involve large numbers of individuals from throughout the organization to identify potential risks. Use surveys or other automated method. Allow respondents to remain anonymous if they want. This is a crowdsourcing technique that has been proven successful, but you have to get as many as possible to participate to get the wisdom of the crowd. Use crowdsourcing technologies if they are available.

  • Tactic 2: Use participative analysis techniques to involve those who can meet in a single room.These techniques are proven, yet not used enough.

  • Contingency diagrams allow meeting participants to identify “how we can fail at this effort.” For some reason, putting the question in these terms results in a significant brainstorm of relevant ideas. As a bonus, this activity allows you to get a feel of what participants are worried about. Build their confidence that the project will be successful by getting their help to avoid the potential risks.

  • Affinity diagrams allow a group to identify and categorize a large amount of ideas in as little as 90 minutes for your further analysis. This can be very useful for a tough risk analysis.

Potential Problem: Requirements are not prioritized.Everyone wants everything ASAP for this critical and urgent change effort! Okay, fine. You tell them that--for planning purposes--you’ll have to determine the order of development and execution. (It’s a white lie.)

  • Tactic 3: Expand the list of participants in the ranking process.Use surveying or other technology (crowdsourcing technology is great) to go beyond the usual suspects in order to rank the importance of certain features and functions, for example. Add in the opinions of stakeholders that may be left out, but are directly affected by the results of your project, such as finance, accounting, sales, marketing, strategic planners, infrastructure architects and so on. For that matter, add in those who are indirectly affected by the results of your project. For the survey to work, show the requirement list clearly and allow participants to easily and numerically rank each item (or the ones they care about). The details can be planned out by a business analyst.

Bonus Tactic: Publicize your use of these techniques and that the results were used in the project to make it more successful.

These are just examples of how to use participative tactics to maintain engagement when the organizational climate is draining it away. Use them to inspire other similar tactics you can use in other circumstances. And once you are successfully using tactics such as these to effect change management, you will find that you are also building your reputation as a leader, setting yourself apart as a project manager with the necessary skills to add more value to the organization.

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