Rick and I think Tip #3 is important because it deals with how you actually manage a Dynamic Change project.

You’ve built the foundation – assessed the situation and created a learn-and-adapt culture.

Now it’s time to move the project forward with Tip #3 – Plan for “No Plan” – Accepting that you won’t have an exact plan to start, establish a base plan and iterate the plan as you learn with the team.

When I think about change management for a Dynamic Change project, I think about sailing. (No, I’m not daydreaming. I’m thinking about the similarities between sailing and managing Dynamic Change.) In sailing, the destination is known, but the exact course to get there is determined by the wind. Instead of trying to control the wind, sailors use it to power their sails and guide their responses. They sail into the wind by adjusting the angle of the sail in relation to the direction of the wind. Done correctly, they propel steadily toward their destination.

“In sailing, the destination is known, but the exact course to get there is determined by the wind.”

The same principle works for Dynamic Change projects. You know your base plan – the end-state, the major milestones, and, perhaps, the dates. But, because things keep changing, you don’t know precisely how you are going to get there. Like sailing, it’s best not to attempt to control the changes, but to use them to guide your activities. Make short-term (two-week) plans and course-correct as you go. This might create a slight zigzag pattern, but the general direction is toward the end-state change objectives.

“Like sailing, it’s best not to attempt to control the changes, but to use them to guide your activities. Make short-term (two-week) plans and course correct as you go.”

Dynamic Change projects give new meaning to “going with the flow.” They require flexible mindsets and learn-and-adapt thinking so that you can:

  • Experiment and use a trial-and-error approach. This means assessing change tactics (specific ways to help people be ready for the change) and change tools (communication plan, stakeholder analysis, training plan), prioritizing the highest value first, testing what works/doesn’t work with stakeholders, and changing plans accordingly.

  • Communicate quickly and transparently. This means keeping the project team, stakeholders, steering team and sponsor appraised of the changes and escalating quickly.

Basically, in Dynamic Change projects, you learn and adapt as you go, expect changes and update the plan often. Sounds easy right? Well, maybe, if you’re a sailor. But for a change manager used to working with defined plans, it feels uncomfortable. Uncomfortable or not, dynamic change projects require dynamic change planning.

 

Making a dynamic change plan

To prepare for dynamic change, work with your project team to lay out a high-level plan with major milestones and target dates. With the team, understand the interdependencies and decide how you will work together to progress and evolve the plan. The outcome becomes the base project plan and reference point for determining when and how to use Change Management tools and change tactics. Prioritize and map out your tools and tactics in a timeline. As the project unfolds, adjust the timeline based on what you learn from using the tools and testing your tactics (this could be bi-weekly or monthly).

These activities form the Dynamic Change Planning process – a framework for continuous planning-delivering-learning-adjusting. Change planning is about deciding when to initially use change tools/tactics and when to update them as priorities change and solutions evolve. The change plan becomes a cycle of change components you repeat as you progress. It’s iterative and circular, but it moves you forward.

Tips:

1

Update your timeline as the project team learns (about every two weeks). Things are too unpredictable for a long-term timeline. Like gusts of wind, make your plans for short horizons of work – lists of what’s coming in the next few weeks.

2

Use tools and templates that adjust easily to support the “gusty” and changing nature of work.

Use the calendar approach – electronic calendars instead of project planning tools.

Use post-it notes on a wall in a team meeting room. Arrange them in columns with headers of planned, in-progress, review, and complete. Move the post-it notes to the appropriate column as things change.

3

Use these tools and templates as the basis for gaining common understanding and having on-going conversations with the team (as opposed to mechanisms for driving due date completions). They keep everyone aligned and in a learn- and-adapt mindset.

“The change plan becomes a cycle of change components you repeat as you progress. It’s iterative and circular, but it moves you forward.”

Janet’s Story

While Dynamic Change projects are typically confusing, one project in particular, caused me extreme stress and frustration. I was working with a top Fortune 500 company that was spinning off part of its operations to another company. Between the two companies, project timelines and priorities kept changing. Each day I came into work wondering if I was engaging the stakeholders enough or at the right time or telling them the right things. I became increasingly anxious and worried because as hard as I tried, I couldn’t maintain a stable change plan. Finally, I realized it was an impossible task.

I called on our sponsor and other project team members for help. To my relief, they were feeling the same pressure. After discussion, we came up with the idea to “plan as we go” using the calendar approach. Each week we updated the calendar with events we knew we could plan. Simple concept, but what an impact! The relief was immediate. The sponsor and team members stayed aligned, and the business stakeholders were happy we kept them informed as early as possible. My stress level went down, work was fun again, and we maneuvered our way through the head winds for a successful finish.

Reflections

As much as sponsors, leaders, project members, and change managers want to feel in control, that rarely happens in a Dynamic Change project, and if it does, the feeling doesn’t last long. It simply is not the nature of Dynamic Change. It’s better to accept it. Don’t plan by due dates and don’t strive to have a detailed, static change plan with predetermined deliverables. Operate with a flexible process and framework to achieve your change objectives. Use a simple timeline adjusted for short horizons of work and a list of engagements/dates to know what is coming. Help the team use these tools to gain insights about the change and make continuous progress along the change journey.

Change moves on whether we plan for it or not. Contact us and we can help you and your organization understand and succeed in a dynamic and changing environment.