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Making Change Stick

~ By Michelle LaBrosse

A conceptual sign on change

Are you tired of hearing people say the only constant is change? I think we all need to keep saying it to remind ourselves we have to always be ready to keep changing. Here's the rub: how do we make change stick? How can you, as a project manager, use your skills to create business processes that have staying power?

Let's face it: sustainability today is really about adapting to change and being able to be effective in the face of change. I've now weathered several business cycles as an entrepreneur, and I have found my Project Management skills to be invaluable as I've tackled change and made positive changes in my own business.

Here are my top Seven tips for making change stick:

1. Make Change Relevant to the People Who Need to Participate in It

Part of your job as a project manager is to make sure people not only know where you're going, but that they also understand why they are going there. What's in it for them? Why does this change matter? Why does it lead to something positive? Think of yourself as the Chief Change Officer on your team. Don't just say: "We have to change this process." Explain why, and make it compelling.

2. Paint a Picture of Success

Make sure people can see what success looks like. If your change initiative is successful, what will the outcome be? Show your team what the result will look like. Think before and after pictures. We are all suckers for those!

3. Plan for Fatigue

"Change fatigue" is a normal part of any process change, so be ready for it. When you start to see people slacking on their goals and rolling their eyes in meetings, you are there. Shake up assignments. Assign new team leaders to different tasks. Do a team-building exercise that gets the creative juice flowing again. Celebrate the successes you've already accomplished. Use the old red thermometer technique to show the progress you've made and how far you need to go.

4. Keep Senior Leadership Engaged

If your team sees that leadership no longer cares about this initiative or it is off their radar screen, they will lose interest. It's your job as a project manager to keep your leadership team up to speed and excited about what you are doing.

5. Keep Budget Levels Consistent

Nothing stalls change more than large fluctuations in budget. Keep your budget levels consistent so your team can manage its resources accordingly.

6. Clarify Accountability

When business process-change lasts for over a year, you need to continue to clarify accountability. If resources change or people's responsibilities change, then revisit the project plan and focus on the accountability for activities and goals.

7. Spend Time Focusing on How to Institutionalise the Change

Once you've reached your milestones, look at how you are going to make this change permanent. What are the ongoing resources required? What can be automated? How will you measure the ongoing ROI and impact? What are the pulse points you will regularly look at to make sure your business process is thriving?

Change is only as intimidating as we make it. Use your Project Management skills to not only manage it, but to make it stick, and give your organisation the impact you desire.


Michelle LaBrosse PMP, is the founder and Chief Cheetah of Cheetah Learning. An international expert on accelerated learning and project management, she has grown Cheetah Learning into the market leader for project management training and professional development. In 2006, The Project Management Institute (PMI) selected Michelle as one of the 25 Most Influential Women in Project Management in the World, and only one of two women selected from the training and education industry. Michelle is a graduate of the Harvard Business School's Owner & President Management program for entrepreneurs, and is the author of Cheetah Project Management and Cheetah Negotiations. Cheetah Learning is a virtual company and has 100 employees, contractors, and licensees worldwide.

Visit Cheetah's fan club on Facebook for a daily Cheetah Tip to Keep You Tops.


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