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How to effectively manage change in an organization by building relationships with project stakeholders


Read an article by Inga Śliwkowska, Business Transformation and Change Manager and a member of the IFAO Consulting team, GBS, at Capgemini Poland

At Capgemini, we support a wide range of transformation projects for our client’s business processes and organizations in view of change management. It is important that when dealing with such significant changes that affect a large part of the organization and its employees, the change manager builds partnerships with stakeholders at various levels: with project managers, operational departments, and, if possible, their teams that are directly affected by these changes.

In my professional work, I have been involved in projects related to the transformation and transit of business processes to both SSCs (Shared Services Centers) and BPO (Business Process Outsourcing), and communication and change management have always played an important role. They have manifested themselves on many levels with varying degrees of awareness of the importance of this aspect but have always been an integral part of working with the client and the teams involved in the project. Working in this area over the past few years, I have noticed that change management has become more appreciated as an important aspect of the success of ongoing projects and has become essential to the business cycle of the organization. As a result, we now dedicate to it separate resources, time, methodology, and tools that allow for it to be managed in a planned and efficient manner.

By change management we mean an approach to preparing for and providing support to individuals, teams, and organizations in making organizational changes. Organizational Change Management (OCM) takes into account the entire organization and what needs to change, while change management (CM) can only be used to refer to how such organizational change affects people and teams [1].

The role of communication in a project

In my experience to date as a change manager, I can say that it is important to inform in a timely manner both the people involved in the project and those who are or will be affected by the implementation of the changes. It is important to communicate to those affected by the change what is changing, when it is changing, how the process will work, and what it means for them. In particular, you need to give them the necessary knowledge and tools to make the transition smooth and help them adapt to the new process by introducing new technology or changes in the organization’s structure.

Building and importance of long-term relationships

In the context of managing organizational change that affects people and teams, the key aspect from my perspective is relationship building. Depending on how the change manager’s role is embedded in the project and at what level collaboration with employees on our client’s side takes place, we can talk about building relationships with project stakeholders, sponsors, department heads, teams, or members of those teams. But no matter what level of the organization we are visible at, relationships based on mutual trust, understanding, and a sense of support are, in my opinion, invaluable. Understanding the needs of people (the human side of change) and, in particular, responding to those needs effectively, helps to navigate through the changes that are taking place and to implement them effectively in the organization.

At Capgemini, in the GBS team, we support various types of business transformation projects for our clients—in view of change management and in the capacity of a change manager. These are both business process transformation projects transferred to Capgemini and projects that are a part of building the client’s GBS (Global Business Services). Due to the diversity and scope of the projects we carry out, there are many issues that need to be considered in order to realistically support an organization and its employees in implementing change.

How do you effectively manage change?

The inherent question to ask yourself is: How to do it? In my opinion, successful change management in an organization is greatly influenced by building relationships and managing project stakeholders.

What helped me develop this approach was undoubtedly my participation in a program that gave me the opportunity to analyze my profile in terms of the diversity of human temperaments using the Insights Discovery® method. This gave me a better understanding of different personality types, their diverging preferences, including my own, and how I can use this knowledge in working with different personalities. Additionally, as a team of project managers, change managers, and business transformation consultants, we explored five core talents by taking the Gallup® CliftonStrengths test. By participating in this test, we learned more about our strengths and how we can work on them – including in view of professional development. My top five talents included Relator, Empathy, and Individualization, which indicate that understanding other peoples’ needs and establishing close relationships comes naturally to me. However, based on my experience as a change manager to date, I will admit that the diversity of human characters, the circumstances of transformation and change implementation in client organizations, as well as the individual needs or interests of those impacted by these organizational changes – and many more other factors – mean that every journey through change is different and not always simple enough to build trust and long-term relationships. However, there are proven practices that can help with this and I would like to highlight a few of them:

  1. Identify project stakeholders and assess their impact. It is important to take the time at the beginning of a project or at different stages of a project to identify all the people who will be affected by the project and by the resulting changes, as well as the persons who can have an impact on these changes. This will help us properly build cooperation, create relevant communication, and look after groups of people directly and indirectly related to the project.
  2. Start working together and get to know your contacts. It is important to schedule regular meetings to build your network and relationships with the people you will be working with. Depending on your needs, these can be meetings with several people, such as the project manager and the operations team leader at the client’s location or one-on-one meetings with change agents. This practice makes it much easier for project stakeholders to manage their time, keep in touch, share information, and identify the moods and needs of their team members.
  3. Make yourself known and get to know your business partners. In order to build long-term relationships, it is important not only to stay in touch, but also to work on closeness with the other person and, as a result, create a space for frank and open exchange of information. This can result in building mutual trust and understanding the attitudes and needs of the people affected by the change.
  4. Treat everyone individually and show empathy. It is important to treat everyone appropriately for the situation they are in. Talk in such a way as to understand his or her position, abilities, and attitude towards change. This will allow you to address his or her needs (and those of his or her staff) well and develop effective methods of collaboration, but also build commitment.
  5. Keep people informed and consult about the action plan. Sharing information about the project’s progress and the related changes is critical so that those impacted feel informed and engaged and provide feedback. This will identify what stage of change they are at and the things they need in order to support and sustain the changes that are being implemented, since they are closer (than change managers or project managers) to the business and their employees. That’s why it’s so important to plan actions on the client’s side together and to take the client’s opinions and the needs of employees into consideration, so that the change management activities have a positive effect.

In my experience, the most common scenario is to work with the project team, the operations team, and the so-called change agents or team leaders at the client’s locations. They are the ones who then pass the information on to their employees, as well as return with information from local teams, communicating their needs in terms of understanding the changes. Because of that, all of the aspects mentioned above, as well as emotional involvement, both our own and that of project stakeholders, sincere relations, and a sense of understanding and care, are invaluable in cooperation and effective change management that affects business processes, the organization’s structure and, consequently, the people who work in it.

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