In our last blog, we likened a Dynamic Change project to sailing: the final destination is known, but the exact course is determined by the wind. 

The crew adjusts the sails en route to catch winds that propel the boat forward. In a Dynamic Change project, the project team acts much like skilled sailors. During execution, the team learns, adapts, and maneuvers the project through dynamic changes to the goal.

How does a project team get this kind of skill? The answer is Tip 4: Make the Project Team Part of Your Engagement Plan. Help project team members through the change cycle to release their energy to support dynamic change for the business stakeholders.

The Project Team as Skilled Communicators and Change Catalysts[1]

If we want our project to be successful and remembered as a positive experience by the stakeholders, the project team must be effective communicators and strong catalysts for change.

“If we want our project to be successful and remembered as a positive experience by the stakeholders, the project team must be effective communicators and strong catalysts for change.”

Over the years, Janet and I have learned that effective change management for stakeholders starts with effective change management for the project team. It’s a logical conclusion. Project team members are the stakeholders we need on board first because they not only guide the project, they also represent the project to all other stakeholders.

Think about it. All project engagement goes through the project team. Stakeholder interactions – from a by chance hall conversation to scheduled meetings – are done by project team members. How the project team thinks, feels, and speaks about the project creates critical first and ongoing impressions. Managing these impressions becomes more challenging in a Dynamic Change project.

It is common knowledge that stakeholders – people impacted by the project – advance along their change journeys in fairly predictable stages – going from learning about the change to understanding, accepting, owning and finally advocating for it. What we sometimes neglect to comprehend is that project team members are also stakeholders who need to advance along their own change journey.

The key, then, to having a skilled project team is ensuring that team members progress along their change journeys so they, like seasoned sailors, become accustomed to maneuvering through the changing project winds, learning and adapting as they go.

“This approach develops the team’s change resilience capability.”

Because you continue to build mutual trust and alignment (See Tip 2: Create a Culture), team members fully understand the project. You engage them in project/change plan reviews, so they can identify issues and solve problems together. As a result of this ongoing engagement, project information stays current, accurate and aligned. Team members became good listeners and facilitators, able to establish trusted relationships with other stakeholders. This approach develops the team’s change resilience capability.

Preparation and Practice: The 1-10-100 Moments

1-10-100 moments are tools that provide structure to Dynamic Change projects. The moments align to key project messaging and adjust as the project zig-zags through ambiguities and nuances. They support a communication approach that builds consistency, continuity, and team member confidence. To be effective communicators and change catalysts, each team member must use these tools well:

  • Form an impression:  1-minute in-passing moments
  • Make an impact: 10-minute agenda-topic moments
  • Demonstrate value: 100-minute work-session moments

Form an Impression:  The elevator speech – 1-minute in-passing moments

The elevator speech is for unplanned, ad hoc conversations (halls, break areas, elevators) that can influence stakeholder acceptance of the change. It answers casual questions like, “What’s happening?” or “What are you working on?”    

The speech takes less than a minute (the time to go between floors) and leaves the impression that the team member understands and is enthusiastic about the project. It states the project’s main points and easily rolls off the tongue (after practice in front of other team members).

 “I am working on (project name) that is (description) in order to (purpose) so that (what success looks like).“ Optional: “It would be great if (what we need from you).”

Make an Impact; Demonstrate Value: The presentation – 10-minute agenda-topic/100-minute work-session moments

The presentation provides structured, consistent high-level information about the project and dives into detail depending on the purpose of the engagement and the interests of the audience.

  • 10-minute agenda slot is ample time to make an impact and get stakeholder buy-in/support.
  • 100-minute work-session (focus group, design review, training session, etc.) demonstrates the value of collaborating with stakeholders to get the work of the project done.

However, regardless of a specific format, the team must recognize that each engagement sets the stage for the next. If you don’t do well in the first one, you may not get a chance for the second. If stakeholders think project team interactions are a waste of time, they’ll lose interest and withdraw support.

Conversely, successful engagements build a willingness to continue. It is critical, especially early in the project, to show you care about the stakeholders – their needs, opinions and time. This means thoroughly preparing for (and customizing) each engagement and quickly, visibly following-up on input. This kind of engagement builds stakeholder trust and partnership.

“All engagements, whether the 1-minute or 100-minute kind, are geared to outcomes. In every engagement, you need to focus on what you want your stakeholders “to know, feel, and do.”

Rick’s Story:

One of my favorite memories of a 10-minutes-to-impact engagement happened when we were trying to implement a technology that had been rejected several times before.

We had 10 minutes to speak to front-line supervisors who would likely say, “We’ve tried this before and it didn’t work!” To overcome their objections, we acknowledged the other attempts and outlined their struggles. We then explained what we were doing differently. The supervisors listened and became convinced we had learned from the previous projects and had a workable plan.

Had we not taken time to anticipate and understand stakeholder concerns, account for earlier attempts, and overcome prior errors, the supervisors could have remained stuck to the failures. We wouldn’t have gained their confidence, and they would not have provided resources to work with us to implement the technology. As a result of 10 impactful moments, the project was off to a great start.

The Wrap-up

We need to engage team members as stakeholders early on, build their trust and confidence in each other and their capacity to be catalysts for managing dynamic change with the broader stakeholder community. 

This blog post is the fifth installment in a series about managing change without a change plan.

  1. Part One: Change Has Changed
  2. Part Two: Defining Dynamic Change
  3. Part Three: Tip 1 – Assess the Situation
  4. Part Four: Tip 2 – Create a Culture
  5. Part Five: Tip 3 – Plan for “No Plan”
  6. Part Six: Tip 4 – Make The Project Team Part of Your Engagement Plan
  7. Part Seven: Tip 5 – Hone Your Soft Skills

[1] A change catalyst creates the conditions for the organization to progress change so that after the catalyst is removed, the change sticks.