Why we should focus on our impacted groups

In my previous article, "The Case for Applied Change Management," I highlighted the benefits of applied change management, which include reducing time spent on change discussions, enhancing project and change management integration, addressing resistance early, and improving communication with impacted groups. It also facilitates the establishment of clear metrics by linking behavioural changes to the evolving processes or tools.

Since sharing that article, I've been asked to delve deeper into the approach of applied change management. Here, I'll begin by clarifying it.

In simple terms, applied change management's approach focuses on making change management as practical as possible for the impacted groups. This is critical because these groups are the ones who ultimately implement the change. They are the ones using the new tools, following the new processes, and working in the newly defined ways. The success or failure of projects relies on the positive adoption rate within these impacted groups.

Individuals may find ways to resist or bypass new routines, even if the change is mandatory. This resistance reduces positive adoption and increases the resources needed to return to business as usual.

By placing the impacted group at the centre of integrated change and project management, communication, and leadership efforts, we recognize the simplicity in this logic. However, it's not always easy to implement.

The foundation of applied change management revolves around the impacted group. To get started, two key initial steps are essential:

  1. Identify all the different impacted groups, which may include both direct and peripheral stakeholders.
  2. Understand their daily routines comprehensively. This involves collaborating with the impacted group members, their supervisors, and line managers. Understand their working styles, experiences with internal and external stakeholders, preferred communication methods, daily priorities, and the impact of other ongoing and upcoming changes on them.

Once these foundational steps are completed, create personas for each group to support the entire project journey, from initial information to post-implementation reinforcement. These personas should be central to the communication strategy, sponsorship approach, and project training requirements.

Additionally, detailed personas aid in identifying the most effective ways to measure the behavioural changes necessary for a successful implementation. This tailored approach, although demanding in time and effort, enhances positive adoption and reduces resistance by focusing on what the impacted groups need to fully embrace the change.

Let me share an example: I witnessed a significant illustration of the vital role played by understanding the impacted groups during strategic departmental change. The project involved merging two teams with similar daily duties, but distinct work processes. While the rationale and benefits of the change were communicated, the implementation overlooked the differences in how these teams operated.

The decisions were made at the strategic level, with line managers instructed to swiftly execute the merger and process changes for stakeholder benefit. Unfortunately, the impacted groups were not consulted in advance, and their routines were not considered.

This oversight led to greater resistance from the impacted teams. They continued with their established routines, avoiding the newly combined processes whenever possible. This resulted in resource challenges as line managers had to repeatedly emphasise the need for change, delaying the achievement of business as usual. The resistance had a negative impact on department stakeholders, decreasing their engagement.

Had the routines and work styles of the impacted groups been thoroughly understood and made central to the merger, resistance would have been reduced, and business as usual would have been reached sooner, with a more positive impact on stakeholders. This feedback was not only my observation but was also echoed by the impacted groups to the line managers and strategic directors post-implementation.

Applied change management emphasises practicality and acknowledges that project success depends on the positive adoption rate among those directly affected. I will continue to share approaches and experiences of applied change management here and on the ImplementationWorks podcast

If you would like a step by step guide on how to identify your impacted groups and how they work feel free to check these out at implementationworks.com or follow the links below. 

How to identify each impacted group
How to understand their routines and daily work 

Wishing you all the best in your change management and implementation efforts :)  




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