Avoid These 5 Project Steering Committee Traps During Change image

Avoid These 5 Project Steering Committee Traps During Change

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How organizational change is managed can make the difference between employees successfully riding each wave or feeling caught in a stomach churning whirlpool.

If your employees are worn out by change and the expected benefits from your initiative are not there, start with a look at the top. In our experience, projects guided by a well-functioning Steering Committee with a strong focus on change management and governance, benefit from higher adoption rates and productivity gains, and result in a more engaging employee experience.

Here are the 5 biggest traps we’ve seen Steering Committees fall into – and our tested tips to avoid them:

Trap 1: Voice of change management not represented at Steering Committee 

It’s a given on any change project that IT, Finance, business leaders and others are at the tablet to  represent the needs of the business. The voice of the people impacted by the change should have a strong and vocal advocate on the Steering Committee too.  Otherwise, change that is not coordinated, sequences and paced can create employee confusion and churn, especially when the organization is undergoing multiple change initiatives.

Avoid this trap by:

  • Identifying a change sponsor. We’ve often seen the CHRO or other senior HR leader successfully lead this charge along with other leaders with an aptitude for change. On other projects, the COO or an equivalent senior operations leader with broad people responsibilities make for excellent change sponsors.  Key parts of role include tapping into the manager and employee perspective and willingness to tackle tough issues head on.

Trap 2: Steering Committee agenda tilted to project and technical issues, not people

Often Steering Committee agendas are so heavily focused on time, resources, budget and technical issues that change management feels like an afterthought, relegated to a few bullet points in the Steering Committee meeting. As a result, people-related issues can grow from small spark to full-out forest fire.

Avoid this trap by:

  • Building change management into the project milestones
  • Asking for change management to be a regular agenda item – and not at the end of the meeting
  • Capturing people-related risks in your risk and issues log

Trap 3: Steering Committee leaders with a narrow understanding of what change management can (and cannot) do

In the best governed projects, change management is built into the program from the start and includes more than the standbys of communication and training. Too often, we’ve heard sponsors who believe: “just tell people what to do and they’ll do it.  A destination with a lack of direction and detail can leave leave employees scrambling to learn what’s changing, why it’s changing and the tools and information they need to successfully work in the new ways. Or worse, employees may give up and find ways to work around the change or maintain the status quo.

Avoid this trap by:

  • Recommending change management coaching and training for sponsors. We’ve seen sponsors convert into change management advocates as their understanding expands.
  • Building in enough ways to engage with impacted employees throughout the change. This way, you’ll hear, understand and be able to address their concerns.
  • Being clear on the role of Steering Committee and project leaders to engage with employees all the way. Effective change leaders share information and engage with their team to manage questions and concerns.

Trap 4: Change management is continually moved to the back burner 

Faced with slipping timelines or a testing time crunch, it’s easy for the Steering Committee to switch in for fire-fighting mode and push out the people aspects of the change to manage in the future. As a result, the runway is too short for some key change management activities, such as leader and employee engagement, to be effective. When employees’ issues are not prioritized or addressed, change feels like it is being done to them instead of with them. The best changes happen when everyone is on board and driving toward the same outcome.

Avoid this trap by:

  • Creating urgency and understanding of the change impacts on their employees. Reviewing an impact assessment or specific details around a change, for example, can help Steering Committee members see the employee perspective and understand the need for change management.
  • Finding ways to influence Steering Committee leaders based on your culture and the people.  Consider one-on-one touch-bases with key leaders  with in advance of the broader meeting to reiterate the importance of people aspects during change.
  • Create a second forum for SteerCo members to meet to talk through business and people readiness issues separated from data and testing and system readiness topics

Trap 5: Putting the accountability for change all on the Steering Committee’s shoulders

As strong as your Steering Committee might be, it’s still not enough to create change. You also need to engage the next level of leaders to influence and drive the change effort together with their teams. Research shows people want to hear from managers – not senior leaders or the project team—when an aspect of their role is changing. When this doesn’t happen, there is a disconnect between the overall change initiative goals and resulting individual changes for the employees.

Avoid this trap by:

  • Spreading the leadership around. Work with the Steering Committee to identify and bring together the next level of leaders, representing the different impacted teams.
  • Empowering the leaders to cascade key messages, FAQs and engage with their teams
  • Giving leaders accountability for change metrics

It’s worth the effort to align and enable your Steering Committee when managing change. Your Steering Committee can be a life saver during times of change and the difference between employees feeling feeling caught in the churn or swimming confidently to the shore.

If you are looking for more support around change management, connect with us.