Galen Low is joined by Melody MacKeand—a platform rollout specialist and change management champion—to talk through the change management process and how project managers can benefit from developing a change mindset.
- Melody held a few roles in the project management space: being a PM, a resource manager or portfolio manager, and director of project management. [1:58]
- Being a PM is in Melody’s blood. Both of her parents were project managers. She is born and bred project manager. [3:37]
- When it comes to the scale of the approach, some of the other critical factors come into play, like the scope of the risks presented by that change. [6:54]
I wouldn’t say there’s ever a project too small or a change too small to even do some basic change management.Melody MacKeand
- Sometimes what feels like a small project or a small change actually has a really significant impact and not deploying some of the processes, some of the practices can introduce a pretty high risk. [10:16]
- There’s always going to be a primary change champion, the person that’s really executing the change, but ultimately everyone is involved in change management. [11:10]
- There’s just a nature of needing to hear, needing to listen. Maybe the voices aren’t necessarily dictating a change to the plan, but there’s just something to say in listening. [13:34]
If people don’t feel heard, they are not going to buy into a change.Melody MacKeand
- Communication is required ahead of time to ensure that the team isn’t coming into a session ready to be resistant to the change. [17:18]
- There’s an opportunity in each change to bundle or roll up other good change as a part of it. [18:17]
- When you are not leading the change, oftentimes you’re not in control of the risks. [20:28]
- When you’re leading the change, there’s a lot that can go wrong. There are a lot of risks. The most common risk you run into is resistance, because there is a lack of awareness of why a change is happening. [22:11]
- The first step in handling resistors is really understanding what’s at the root of why there’s resistance: Why are they resisting? What’s the barrier? Is it that they don’t understand why we’re changing? [26:39]
- Your change resistant employees can be your biggest advocates for change if you can bring them in. [27:12]
- Those resistors can easily turn into change advocates, change champions when they feel like they’ve been heard, understood, and equipped to be involved in a way that feels really meaningful. [28:05]
- Two areas of change: the organizational change and the change that happens in your projects that is just inevitable. [30:08]
- Change is inevitable. It’s not trying to avoid it, trying to stop it. It’s assessing it, leaning into it, planning for it, communicating about it. [30:52]
- Change fatigue is real. There is a lot of change that can happen and a lot of times change happens concurrently and teams can feel very overwhelmed. [38:36]
Any education or learning someone can do on what it takes to manage change well is going to be beneficial.Melody MacKeand
- Melody mentions the Prosci ADKAR Model, a famous model for change management. [43:35]
- There’s a lot more to change management, but really the core of it is just understanding, why, what’s motivating, do I feel equipped, and what’s the impact? [45:06]
Meet Our Guest
Melody has built a career in the project management space in roles ranging from Project Manager, to Portfolio Manager, to Director of Project Management across agencies and NGOs. She now uses that experience, combined with a passion for coaching/training and a deep love of process build-out and change management, as a Senior Consultant at Teamwork, a project management platform built for client work.
Risks are gonna come up, change resistance will come up. There’s fatigue along the way. But ultimately if everyone knows that, understands that, is bought into it… I think you’ll be good.Melody MacKeand
Resources from this episode:
- Join DPM Membership
- Subscribe to the newsletter to get our latest articles and podcasts
- Connect with Melody on LinkedIn
- Learn more about Teamwork
- Learn more about the Prosci ADKAR model
Related articles and podcasts:
Galen Low: Here you are again, crafting your third change order in three weeks. At night. Or is this considered early morning?
Meanwhile, a small cog in the back of your head is wondering if all of this is leading up to a big reorg or leadership change that will lead to a reprioritization initiative that could throw your projects into a total existential crisis.
Can't anything stay stable for a bit so you can just deliver these projects in the shape that you said you would?
Sometimes as project managers, change is the last thing we want to have happen to us. But that can sometimes put us on the wrong side of change.
If you struggled with the balancing act of being open to change while still maintaining order in your work life, keep listening. We're gonna be talking through the change management process and how project managers can benefit from developing a change mindset.
Hey folks, thanks for tuning in. My name is Galen Low with the Digital Project Manager. We are a community of digital professionals on a mission to help each other get skilled, get confident, and get connected so that we can amplify the value of project management in a digital world. If you wanna hear more about that, head over to thedigitalprojectmanager.com.
All right. Today we are talking about change management and whether developing a change mindset can help project managers deliver on their goals, or whether it's better to be a bit resistant to change as we defend our projects' scope, resources, and overall priority.
With me today is Melody MacKeand, a platform roll-out specialist and change management champion who has over 12 years of experience in the project management space across agencies and NGOs.
Melody MacKeand: Hi, Galen! Great to be here. Really excited to chat.
Galen Low: Yeah, I'm excited as well. Great to have you on the show. I've been really fascinated about your background. It's got a lot of different things in it. And I was wondering if you could tell us a bit about your background and maybe just the path that led you to your current role at Teamwork.
Melody MacKeand: Yeah, absolutely. I've held a few roles in the project management space. You know, being a PM, being a resource manager or portfolio manager, director of project management. So I've run the gamut in the PM world. And really through that grew a love of process, process buildout, process rollout, a lot of those processes being tied to project management platforms.
I've used quite a few of them. Loved quite a few of them. Maybe didn't love some of them. And through that, you know, fell in love with Teamwork. The mission of a project management platform built for client service. So now I'm on the Teamwork side, helping organizations deploy their processes, their workflows, their projects helping them manage that change, training their teams.
So really taking all of that project management and process background, and now coming onto the other tech side and helping organizations do the same. So it's been a really fun trajectory.
Galen Low: I really love the follow through on that, where you're like, I love process, I love software. I'm gonna get a job at the software place where I can do more of this.
One of the things that you and I have been jamming on, is just change management at large. And it strikes me that it's something that you're actually quite passionate about. So I just thought I'd ask, why is change management so important to you?
Melody MacKeand: Yeah, I think early on into my career I realized I was pretty change averse. Might say, resistant to change. Know, being a PM, it's in my blood. Both of my parents were project managers. I am born and bred project manager, and that's how my mind thinks. I wanna think about every possible scenario, every possible risk, every impact, which is great in a project management role.
But when you're an employee as part of a change, maybe an organizational change or a systems change, you can be, kind of the worst enemy. And I think early on I felt that tension of, I see the vision of change, I want to be a part of this, but I'm also that person that's asking a thousand questions, getting too into the details.
And I think what I learned is, you know, I'm either gonna be an enemy or an ally, so I need to pick a side. And I started educating myself on change management best practices, realizing I really had a love for not just process build out, but how are you actually deploying that process among your teams. And then just got a lot of opportunities to be involved in change roll-out across the organizations that I worked for.
And really enjoyed learning about that process, being involved in it, maybe helping other change resistors come to the side of champion. So it's been really fun to kind of grow that side area to project management because it's so interconnected.
Galen Low: I love that you come from a line of project managers, like that's actually the first time I've ever encountered that. Not that project management is that young of a practice. I love that you have this like lineage where project management is literally kind of in your DNA there. That's very cool.
But I also love that notion, and again, I love the follow through, right? You love process, you're delivering projects, you're recognizing that change happens, projects create change, but also, change happens to projects.
And there is this world where actually, okay, well, the better we understand that change and how it impacts people, not just within our projects, but beyond it. You kind of have that bigger picture, it kind of gives you that bigger picture what we're doing there. That's super cool.
I wanted to return back to sort of the types of projects that you've run in the past. And it strikes me that throughout your career you've led a lot of sort of digital change initiatives. They've ranged from probably small and mid-size creative projects, right up to what you've been talking about with like large scale enterprise wide platform rollouts.
I'm just wondering, does the scale of change impact how you approach a rollout? And if so, in what ways?
Melody MacKeand: Yeah, it's a great question. I think scale has an impact. The core components will just exist regardless. So you know, you've got your change management plan, you've got those core entities that need to be involved for successful rollout, and likely you're going to kind of scale them up, scale them down.
So maybe you're conducting a training. And if it's a small scale change, it could be a 30 minute meeting. Large scale change, you've got an all day session with everyone involved. So you're kind of playing with the levers there of how large do you need to go in terms of your change management plan.
I think really when it comes to scale of the approach, some of the other critical factors come into play, like the scope of the risks presented by that change. Maybe even the culture of the teams involved. And that can dictate how we want to drive that change forward or how we wanna approach the change.
So maybe you've got a team that is a little bit scared of the change, and it might help to pilot that change with some initial testers, put a few projects into that, new process maybe, iron out the kinks, and then do a full roll-out. And that's really driven by, you know, how risky is your team, how able are they to just jump into a change?
And then it's also coming down to the people involved and, you know, how are they going to successfully deploy that change? You know, early on into my career, I had a project that impacted how a lot of employees submitted events into a new system. And these employees were all pretty tech averse, you know, low tech.
So just conducting a training and sending them on their way would've created a failure. So we flew out, we conducted the training and then I sat with each employee and walked them through, these are the steps that it takes to submit an event through this system. Because they needed that handholding to say, I personally know exactly how to do this at my desk on my screen.
And that's what was needed for them. It might not be needed for a different organization. And that's where I think we play with the levers of scale and impact of the change, because sometimes it just differs based on the people involved.
Galen Low: I can really relate to that notion of risk, right? It makes sense to have the lever built around risk. Because sometimes, and I've had a tiny project where the risk was massive because, you know, the end user was actually the executive. They were a bit, you not as tech savvy as they probably would've liked to have been.
You know, were afraid of the changes to their workflow and how they're gonna work it into their day to day. Didn't want to feel, you know, unconfident suddenly. And even though it was a tiny project, that was the biggest risk and we did have to address it as change management. Thinking back on it now, we weren't even calling it that, but we were like, Okay, what do we need to do?
So I mean, I guess to sort of tie that up and get your thoughts on it. For the folks who think that, Eh, my project's probably too small to even think about change management.
Are they right about that?
Melody MacKeand: I wouldn't say there's ever a project too small or a change too small to even do some basic change management. You know, really the core of it is, Why are we changing? What's the impact? What are the risks? How are we changing? How are we communicating about that change?
You know, those things all exist in the world of change management. Something could be a quick email or it could be a meeting across an entire organization, introducing a change that's happening. So I think those, those components can always exist, even if it feels really small. Because like you said, sometimes what feels like a small project, a small change actually has a really significant impact and not deploying some of these processes, some of these practices can introduce a pretty high risk.
Galen Low: I love that. Let's dive into change and some of these risks. And I think a lot of people, especially, you know, in the circles I travel in, you know, it's like, Okay, your project is at a certain scale and change management is a line item. And there's somebody, it's like, let's have somebody leading that change management aspect of things.
And it's not really a project manager's responsibility and frankly, maybe not anybody else's responsibility on the project team. But I'm just wondering, like in your experience, is it better to have just sort of one person centrally leading the sort of change management effort? Or do you think it's a bit more of a shared responsibility? And if so, what does that look like?
Melody MacKeand: Yeah, so there's always gonna be that primary change champion, you know, the person that's really executing the change, but ultimately everyone is involved. If you're impacted by the change, you are involved. So you know, if we look at senior leadership of an organization, those are the stakeholders, those are the people sponsoring that change.
They are getting people excited about the change. They're ensuring that people understand why we're changing. I think oftentimes a senior leader might green light a change, you know, sign off on it and then say, I'll see you on the other side. But really it's them being involved at critical moments so that people can see, Okay, there's buy-in at every point in this process.
And then you've got your change champions. They're obviously highly involved. But then you've got people managers, project managers, people that are impacted, either their people are impacted, their teams or their projects are impacted. And those are the people that you know, they can advocate for the change.
They can help support the change. They can communicate about the change in ways that can either drive people towards being excited or being scared. So they have a really high amount of impact on the success of change. And then all those frontline employees, the people that are impacted by the change, they're responsible for engaging with it, adopting it, using it.
Maybe calling out the risks that leadership or the change champions don't see. I mean, those people, they have a pulse of what's going on. They can really bubble up those risks easily. So everyone involved is a part of that change. Maybe they don't feel that way, but ultimately they are involved.
Galen Low: It seems to me that from a change management perspective, like you might not know exactly what you're stepping into, all the nuances of the organization and the teams and the individuals undergoing change.
And it seems like you might actually have to react to it a bit on the fly. For example, if frontline employees, they're like, actually, Oh, we get a voice in this, like here are some concerns that we'd like to voice. Like how does that find its way back up and without sort of creating chaos in the change that's that's being planned?
Melody MacKeand: Yeah, I think there's just a nature of needing to hear, needing to listen. Maybe the voices aren't necessarily dictating a change to the plan, but there's just something to say in listening. You know, if people don't feel heard, they are not going to buy into a change. So even at every level, people should feel like whoever they're going to, maybe it's the champion, maybe it's their manager.
They should feel very comfortable saying, Hey, I don't understand this, or I'm confused about how this impacts my role in this way. And all of that really needs to bubble up. A good change champion is going to create those feedback rhythms in a way that feels a little bit more controlled. So maybe we're not in an all day training session and someone stands up and says, I've got a hundred things that I'm frustrated by.
You know, you wanna kind of avoid those types of scenarios and that's why you create feedback loops. You know, you can conduct office hours to say, I'm gonna sit at this desk for two hours every week and anyone can come to me with your questions, your frustrations. No judgment here.
I just wanna hear how you're feeling. And, you know, that's on the side of those frontline employees to communicate, to be open and direct, but also for them to understand how they receive change. You know, some people, they want to gain access to something, learn about something, play around with it on their own, and then be involved in the change they're bought in at that point.
Some people want to map out the entire process in this beautiful visual way so that they can see that every time they're having to do a new process, that's great. And they can be the ones to advocate for that. They can even be the ones taking on the responsibility of that.
So it's learning, how do you change? How can you get involved? And then also how can you bubble up those risks and those questions?
Galen Low: I like that whole, like tailoring to the audience. That's something that you can kind of be adaptive to on the fly. But one thing that struck me as you were saying that I was like, Actually, you know what, in your current role, like that decision has already been made.
By the time you're stepping in or your team is stepping in, you know, it's Okay, well, like we can listen, but at this stage, like we're at a point where the decision's been made because, you know, here we are. But is there anything that you recommend to your clients or any organization who's doing a platform roll-out?
Like what kinds of things should they be doing in advance before the roll-out sort of starts to make change management go a bit more smoothly?
Melody MacKeand: Yeah, absolutely. Well, I think, you know, when I'm initially working with a client, they're bought in and maybe their team hasn't been bought in yet.
And that's the transition from structurally building out your processes and your workflows to training your team. And there's that gap of time and usually, all call out, you know, we need to ensure that your team even knows that the change is coming.
I think oftentimes they can hold a training session and I happen to be the one informing their team that they're rolling into a new system. Not a great approach. So, you know, have you communicated thoughtfully with your team about what this new platform will be? Why we're rolling onto it.
Usually I'll ask them to give a quick speech, you know, getting their team excited about the change. And then I can come in and advocate for it, help them, you know, maybe alleviate some of that stress because they've got an expert walking them through it.
But it does require a little bit of communication ahead of time to ensure that the team, you know, isn't coming into that session ready to be resistant to that change. We wanna have that kind of handled ahead of time. So when we have those training sessions, it's more about, Okay, we're bought in, let's do this.
Maybe we have questions about how it will go. But at the end of the day, we know this is happening and we're excited for it.
Galen Low: I think the other thing that you touched on is, that I think is really important, is this notion that this process design or process redesign is usually what the change sits within.
So in other words, in a perfect world, what's happening is these processes are getting designed or redesigned with input from some of these individuals so that by the time it's like, Okay, well we've picked this platform or also help us pick this platform that maps actually to these processes that we are designing.
Melody MacKeand: Exactly, yeah. And there's, I mean, there's an opportunity in each change to kind of bundle or roll up other good change as a part of it. And with a platform roll-out, you know, you're moving from maybe one system to another. It could, in theory be a pretty easy change, but it's also an opportunity to rethink, How are we working? How are our teams working together?
How are our projects running? Let's not just take our process from one system and move it directly into the other. Let's actually reimagine what we could do now that we have a new system. And you know, as part of that training, it's not just, here's a button and here's where you look for this information.
It can also be, What's expected of me now as an end user? What's expected of me when I'm working on a project? How can I be successful within this platform? And I think a lot of that is building good protocol versus maybe reinforcing. You know, often I hear, well, we were tracking our time in this system, but not everyone was tracking their time. And we roll that in as an opportunity of, Okay, well, now that you're tracking your time with Teamwork, here are some best practices that managers can use.
And as an end user, here are some tips and tricks so that it becomes a really easy part of your daily habits.
Galen Low: I like that. I like the notion that, of course the unknown is uncomfortable for people, right? They fear it, but actually if you can make it a creative activity. Right? Just to be like, Well, listen, let's get creative. Let's not do the things that we've always done just because we did them yesterday that way. Let's actually, take the time to see how this can work for you, where we can kind of address some of the pain points there and involve them.
We are kind of diving into, you know, some of the risks, right? And I thought maybe we could talk a bit and lift the lid on just when things go wrong. What are some of the things that folks involved in change should be looking out for? And how might they be able to address it before things fall off the rails?
Melody MacKeand: Yeah, things will probably go wrong. So I think that's a safe assumption there. I think when you are not leading the change, so maybe the change is happening to you, oftentimes you're not in control of those risks.
So maybe the change is being pushed really rapidly and likely too quickly. Maybe leadership is pushing a change, not necessarily having buy-in from key people. Those are just gonna be risky endeavors. So, you know, as someone that's impacted by the change and not necessarily someone that has a lot of influence into the change.
I think at times you really wanna say, What can I control? You know, I can't control certain components of this, but I can control my sphere. I can control how I'm impacted, how my people are impacted, how my projects are impacted. And at a minimum, I know that I can ensure that this is successful in my space. And then help others along the way so that can look like, you know, creating documentation on your own, communicating with your teams on your own.
So that you know at least, you know, this bubble of my influence can handle the change really well. And then also, you know, you do wanna call out those risks. You wanna show enthusiasm for the change, but you also wanna identify, Hey, I'm seeing these risks because I'm a little bit, maybe lower on the latter. I'm more in touch with how the operations are being run.
And I just want you to be aware that these could be things that could happen. So let's actually mitigate those as early as possible. Let's get ahead of them. When you're leading the change, there's a lot that can go wrong. There are a lot of risks. I would say the most kind of common risk you run into is resistance because there is a lack of awareness of why a change is happening.
Oftentimes, it's just not communicated as clearly, as thoughtfully, maybe as often as needed. So I think you really wanna be cognizant of how is the communication being run. Who is communicating? What are they saying? Who are they saying it to? When are they saying it? How are they saying it? You know, all of those have an impact.
If you are sending a email to your organization that a change is coming and it's Friday at 4:00 PM, likely you're not communicating it well. So you wanna be aware of, you know, is this communication that needs to come from our CEO or someone in senior leadership? Is this something that actually warrants a meeting and not an email?
And how often are we communicating? I think people can feel like they're over communicating, and I would venture to say, that pretty rarely happens. I've heard it said that someone needs to hear a message five to seven times in order for it to stick. So you wanna be reinforcing that. When I deployed a change previously, I would send out a weekly summary of that change.
So here's what we communicated this week, here's what we've accomplished. Here's some wins, and here's what's happening next week, so you have a lens ahead at what's coming through. And it's kind of grounding people in, where am I at in that timeline? What has been communicated?
Maybe I missed an email that was critical this week. And then how do I, you know, create some comfort in what's to come?
Galen Low: I really like that. Where am I in the timeline? Because I've seen it, I've seen both of those things. I've seen a million times. The first one being, Well, didn't you read the memo that we sent out three months ago?
Like that days come, and then the other one as well. Just like when you see that the change isn't being communicated to the right people, someone's being left out of the loop. And especially as a project manager, I can relate to that. You need to call out that risk to say, like even just that question, Oh, have you looped IT in?
And I think just that sensibility to be like, Okay, that's a risk. And then just like adjusting your change management approach or strategy accordingly.
Melody MacKeand: Yeah. Yeah. I definitely see situations where leadership will communicate a change down. And tell middle managers, you can communicate to your teams. And then you've got very disparate ways of communicating.
Maybe one holds a team meeting, maybe one sends a Slack message that gets buried 10 minutes later. And you've got all of these different ways of communication. And maybe some of those leaders are bought in and some of them aren't, and their teams are now operating from a lower level of communication, than if it had just been handled concurrently across the group.
So you wanna be cognizant of risks like that because ultimately that's where we can see resistance to change. We can see people who maybe are going to question the change, maybe going to question why the change is happening and that can be a real big risk to your change.
That can be a real, a real risk to the success of what it looks like, because especially if those people are managers or if they have a lot of relational collateral in an organization. That mentality can seep into others very quickly.
Galen Low: I love that. Let's zero in on that because I think that's a really important piece of the puzzle.
We are always talking about, you know, change at the leadership level. And we're talking about impact to, you know, the folks who are going to, for example, use a tool or, you know, execute a new process, like in their day to day.
But there's that middle layer, and I've seen it, I've probably been one of them sometimes where, you know, like middle management change is being handed down from above and I'm gonna be like, Okay, you know, I guess we have to do this, team.
You know, like, just kind of being that resistor, like how in the past have you handled resistors at the sort of middle layer?
Melody MacKeand: Yeah, I think the first step is really understanding, Why are they resisting? What's the barrier? Is it that they don't understand why we're changing?
Is that they're incentivized to not change? Maybe they have positive motivators for a previous way of doing something and now they're not seeing that same motivation to change. Maybe they just don't hold the knowledge or the ability to make that change so there is some fear involved there. So, you know, understanding what's at the root of why there's resistance. And really your change resistant employees can be your biggest advocates for change if you can bring them in.
Bring them into the fold, maybe bring them in early on. You know, when we talk about piloting a change, those are the people that can be the testers that can give feedback. Usually change resistant people are pretty detail oriented, can be in the weeds, can give really thoughtful feedback.
So that can be really helpful on the side for change. So bring them in, get their feedback, involve them, even have them be someone that you call out publicly. Hey, this manager has been a phenomenal asset in this change and they're actually here to help you all to support the roll-out as well. You know, have people come to them with questions and they're brought in with a purpose.
And I think you can find that those resistors can easily turn into change advocates, change champions when they feel like they've been heard, understood, and equipped to be involved in a way that feels really meaningful.
Galen Low: I like that sort of conversion mission in a way, right? Because of the things that you mentioned.
You know, oftentimes it might not be because they are just going to be stubborn about it. I mean, I'm sure there's some occasions where it'll be just completely political. But in a lot of cases, I like what you said about the fact that some of these resistors are gonna be detail-oriented folks who just want more information.
Because it's just not coming through in a way that gives them that satisfaction of the knowledge that that's being communicated to them. And therefore might need to be brought into the fold, and then might actually become, you know, champions and allies instead of resistors.
I wonder if we can use this to segue into a bit of a project management lens, because I think some of those things are resonating with me, right? As project managers, sometimes we are resistant to change. In fact, sometimes we feel like it's our job to be resistant to change. Because usually we're working against a plan and we've got these deadlines to hit.
And to your point, right, the motivations and the incentives aren't always clear when people are saying, Oh, yeah, make sure this goes to plan. But by the way, change, you know, I'm gonna toss change into the mix. And sometimes change is actually the last thing we want as project managers. But you know, we had talked about this in our other conversation, whether we like it or not, sometimes our projects are impacted by organizational change that's well outside of our control.
And sometimes we find ourselves reeling, right? Like a bit like a satellite that's been knocked out of orbit. And I know you've been there too, right? When we started this conversation today, you had mentioned that yeah, you were, at a certain point in your journey, that project manager who was a bit more resistant to change.
So I just wanted to get your thoughts, like how can we, as project managers, become more open to change instead of being resistant to it? And also how is that gonna benefit us?
Melody MacKeand: Yeah. And you've hit that there's really those kind of two areas of change. There's the organizational change that's gonna flow down and affect your project teams, your projects.
And then there is that change that happens in your projects that is just inevitable. You know, a timeline shifts, scope changes, requirements change, and that's just gonna happen in your projects. I think project managers are people who want to manage that change, but they're also people that know the entirety of the impact of that change.
Well, I can forecast six months from now and how that change is going to impact things. And that's a phenomenal lens and we wanna use that to our advantage. So, you know, when change is coming and it is coming, it is inevitable. It's not trying to avoid it, trying to stop it. It's assessing it, leaning into it, planning for it, communicating about it.
You know, when it's an organizational change, as a project manager, if you know that has a high impact on your projects, get involved. Use that influence that you have on your project teams and maybe alleviate some of that fear that your teams are facing. Maybe jump in, write some documentation. I had a major systems change with a previous organization and I felt like what I need is documentation.
I need to understand what are all of the steps I need to accomplish so I can feel really comfortable with this change. So I just went ahead and created that, handed it off to the team to say, If this is helpful for you, great. If not, it's been helpful for me. So, you know, jump in, get involved. Maybe not necessarily as part of the change, but just saying, How does this impact me and others? Let me get in there.
Now, when it comes to project change, I think there's the two avenues of how are you communicating externally to your clients and how are you communicating internally. Externally, you know, you've gotta assess the impact of the change. And that's, you know, a client comes last minute with a requirement change and you've gotta kind of have that excited tone of, Oh, that's a great idea.
I'll just have to get back to the team and assess, you know, what the impact is there. Meanwhile, your head is spinning with every single implication that you can think of. But you've gotta just say, you know, This is great. I totally hear where you're coming from. And here is the impact, here are the risks.
And get on the phone or get on a Zoom call and look them in the face and have that conversation. You know, I think a mistake I've made in the past is to send that email of, Here are all of the risks to your project based off of a change that you're instilling. And it's just not received well. So, you know, hearing the tone, hearing the excitement, I think that can go a long way.
And then internally, there's a lot of acknowledgement that happens when change comes. You know, if you're working with, say a creative team, they're putting their heart into that work. This is their art. And when they produce a deliverable and it gets changed, that is really hard. So I think as a project manager, you wanna look at that and say, I hear you.
I see your frustrations. I'm equipping you with an understanding of why change is happening. I think oftentimes we just kind of say that the change is happening and we don't acknowledge the why. So bring them into that conversation and then just give them space to feel frustrated by it, but recognizing that in the end we need to accomplish the work at hand.
So let's take a moment, let's be a little bit annoyed by it, and then let's move on.
Galen Low: I like that productive conversation. And also in a way, like as we're talking about this, you know, I think what we're saying is project managers, you don't need to be like, Yes, let's change all the time. Like bring on the change and like, I hope things change every day.
But we're almost at filter in a way, right? And I know a lot of folks in our community who are, you know, they're tough cookies and they're the ones who are challenging change. They're asking the questions, Well, have you thought about this? And there's this risk. And what about this and this impact?
And I think you're right. I think a lot of the times, you know, it can not be received well. But even though those people might think of themselves as, you know, defenders against reckless change, they aren't resistors to change. Actually, they just want that change to happen responsibly. Also so that they can go and go to the team and say, Yes, this changed.
I know this throws things off kilter. Yes, let's be annoyed for a bit, but I've also done my due diligence to make sure that this is the right change for us. And then to your point, really explaining the why and really being able to believe the why. Because I've seen that conversation. Sometimes, I've delivered it, right, where it's like, Well, we just gotta roll with the punches and keep going cuz we still got the deadline.
So let's redo this, you know, this part of the design, or let's rewrite this part of the code and, you know, we'll just have to suck it up. Which is not really as productive or well received as, Here's why it's important.
And I find myself asking, Oh, did I challenge some of these changes enough throughout my career? To really say, Here's why and actually know why? Or did I just kind of say, Okay, well listen, like we're moving too fast for us not to say yes. So let's just do it. And what impact that can have on a team and on a project.
Melody MacKeand: Yeah, and that's such a fine line that you've called out between being change resistant and trying to understand enough so you can equip people especially your project teams. So I think there's, there is that balancing act of, Am I being resistant or am I just doing my due diligence to understand it and be able to communicate it thoughtfully?
I think you want it kind of look in the mirror and reflect, Which one am I in this moment? Am I just being resistant for resistant sake because I'm fatigued from change? Or am I actually trying to understand? Because sometimes changes are made that just aren't the right approach. And I think oftentimes as PMs, we wanna ask, What's driving this change?
Why is there a need for change? Because often we jump to the solution without thinking too critically about the problem. You know, it's really easy to say, Well, we know that we want to go this path. Actually, if we just took a step back, understood what the problem is, we can maybe open up some other options.
I can come back to my team and say, Here's the problem. Let's problem solve alongside our client and come back to the table with three different ideas of how we can approach this. And maybe we find an approach that is even better than the one originally suggested. So I think you're right to say, Take a minute, assess, is this actually the path that we wanna go down?
And for your team, you know, being authentic both internally and with your client of, you know, I'm not trying to resist, I'm not trying to be argumentative. What I am trying to do is partner with you in this moment and make sure that we are making the best decisions together.
Galen Low: I'm reminded of a story where there was a project manager who was, not necessarily resistant to change, just very committed to delivering against a plan. And hadn't really been picking up the signals, maybe had or had not been told that things were changing around them.
Delivered a perfect project, on time and on budget and all that stuff, but that product was actually irrelevant by that point. Right? At that stage in the game, they spent all this time doing something and actually it wasn't the right thing anymore. And it just reminds me that, yeah, there's also risk in being stubborn.
And I think it's apt what you said about asking yourself that question, you know, at any given moment. Am I just being resistant to change because I'm annoyed? And am I frustrated that it's happening to me and I feel victimized by change? Or am I actually being thoughtful about it and strategic and having that deeper thought and am I probing it to say, Okay, well, is this the right change?
But still entertaining the idea that change will happen, may need to happen, and that actually might benefit my project or the initiative that I'm rolling out.
Melody MacKeand: Yeah, and from the organizational change side, I mean, change fatigue is real. There is a lot of change that can happen. And a lot of times change happens concurrently and teams can feel very overwhelmed. And I think it's, you know, it's something to be aware of. Are we fatigued by change and therefore becoming resistant to that change? Not because we don't think it's a good idea, but because we just are tired.
And you know, I joined an organization years ago, someone pulled me aside. I think a couple weeks into working there and just said, We are tired, we can't handle another change. And I think she had said, Can you not change anything for a year? And I thought, Probably not, but I hear what you're saying. You know, listen and say, I totally understand that you're fatigued and I'm not here to burn you out, to make you hate your job.
You know, wanna ensure that the change is thoughtful and the change is producing a more efficient, happy team. And we know if you are a change champion, you can see on the other side that it is going to make employees enjoy their role more, be more efficient. But it's that process to get through along the way.
And I think sometimes it just takes acknowledging, you know, you need to say, I hear that there's resistance. I hear that we're tired. I hear that we've had a lot of change recently and the goal here is not to add to that. The goal is to say that we know coming on the other side of this change, your life will be better here.
Galen Low: It's so interesting that there's two layers to it, in a way. There's some of the fatigue that is created because they've undergone change that was not managed well. And that can be really painful. But even if it is managed well, we all know that like humans are not great at change, right?
It's uncomfortable, it's destabilizing, it makes us grumpy. And so even just keeping an eye on how much change, even if we're executing it perfectly, how much change can our organization or teams bear? And then what do we do about it? And I think, you know, in some ways the wrong answer is, Oh, well, just stand still until everyone feels comfortable, because that might be never, and also an organization may fall on its face, right?
In a market that's moving really quickly or in an environment that's really competitive. But I guess it is that balancing act and maybe it all is, right? Just finding that balancing point of, Okay, we need to do this. I'm going to explain why. I'm gonna make you a champion as well, because that will paint a picture of the future rather than just continuing to sort of drag you through this.
And you don't know where the end of the tunnel is. And to your point earlier, right, where am I in this process, right? Is it just gonna be constant change? Is it because, you know, leadership is being indecisive? Is it because the economy is flip flopping? But also how is this making it better for me? And how can I sort of weather this change, I guess, in a way?
Cuz I think that fatigue is always going to exist in some way, shape, or form. But how can I get it to the point where I feel good about weathering it because I know where we come out on the other side.
Melody MacKeand: Yeah, absolutely.
Galen Low: I wanted to circle back and just to round things out. I wanted to circle back on something you said earlier.
You said, when you were trying to be more open to change, one of the things you did is you were like, I'm gonna volunteer to do documentation. I'm gonna learn about this, I'm gonna learn about what's needed. Yes, it gave you a whole bunch of detail into the process that probably, you know, satisfied that anxiety of, Okay, well, I don't have all the details.
Like I'd like to know more about it. But it also strikes me that, that's also how you kind of learned more about change management, the change process and what's involved there. And you know, we've been talking about this notion of, you know, change management being a bit of a team sport, right? There's responsibility at all levels of the organization and everyone involved.
And I just wondered, do you think that it's beneficial to sort of get more people savvy to this art of change management? And if so, how can teams equip themselves with like, just enough knowledge, right? Maybe not becoming a change management expert, but what are some ways that you can help equip your team to understand the change management process, so that they have that level of comfort and understand sort of where they are in the process?
Melody MacKeand: Yeah, I mean, really I think any education or learning someone can do on what it takes to manage change well is going to be beneficial. I think I probably was sitting at my computer frustrated, Googling change management and trying to learn anything that I could. I think if I had a little lens of, you know, here are some best practices, start with this and then move forward, would've been really helpful.
And there's, you know, there's great change management models. The ADKAR model is, you know, famous for change management. Prosci has some phenomenal, really easy to understand change management methodology. And it's simple, you know, it's not to say that I have this complex methodology that I need to learn and then execute as part of change.
These are really just questions to ask yourself. So if you are someone that's on the side of being impacted by a change, you know, do you understand the why? That is so critical. What's the impact to me? What's impact to my role, to my teams, to my project? I need to be able to answer all of those questions.
And then why am I changing? Why are we changing? What was wrong about how we were doing things in the past? What's the benefit to me, my team, my projects? What's the risks to my people and projects? And then do I really feel equipped to know how to change? Do I have the ability to change? Do I have the training, the knowledge? Do I feel confident that I can actually be successful in this change?
And then how am I being measured against that change? You know, will this impact my role, my annual review? I wanna understand, you know, what changes about how I operate within this organization as a part of this change. And if you can answer all of those questions, you're good. There's a lot more to change management, but really the core of it is just understanding, you know, why, what's motivating, do I feel equipped, and what's the impact?
And I can move on from there. And I think if anyone in the spectrum from senior leadership down to your frontline employees, if they can answer those questions, that change will be successful. You know, risks are gonna come up, change resistance will come up. There's fatigue along the way. But ultimately if everyone knows that, understands that, is bought into it... I think you'll be good.
Galen Low: I love that. I'm gonna link both those models. You mentioned Prosci, you mentioned ADKAR. I'll link those in the show notes, but I love that you put a bow on it and that the idea that these are things that you need to know and get the answers to in order to get comfortable with change. You don't have to get a degree in change management.
You don't have to be, you know, a professional champion of change. It's the simplest part of a very difficult thing, right? Change.
Awesome. Melody, great having you on the show. Thank you so much for your insights. I really enjoyed our conversation.
Melody MacKeand: Yeah, absolutely. It's been great to chat.
Galen Low: So what do you think?
Is it more important for project managers to embrace change? Or is our job to defend against disruption in the interests of our project goals?
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