Leveraging Change Management

Lessons Learned at a Global Pharmaceutical and Diagnostics Company

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Global life sciences organizations continue to face more complex and demanding issues and environments. As new initiatives continue to affect these companies’ cultures and processes, project managers must be equipped with the necessary skills to address sources of change and successfully navigate through them – at the team level and throughout the organization’s hierarchy. These companies will need to ideate solutions to embrace change management, a discipline of transitioning people within an organization from a current state to a future one, but how do you introduce a new way of thinking within your organization? One way is to get everyone together in a room and talk about complex initiatives in the context of change management.

Integrated Project Management Company, Inc. (IPM) hosted an international roundtable discussion for a global pharmaceutical and diagnostics company on the topic of change management and brought together leaders from the organization’s project portfolio management functional group. The goal of the discussion was to share perspectives on how to tackle common challenges in managing projects with a significant change management element – something the global giant is confronted with daily. This forum provided opportunities for employees to increase change management capabilities and become even more adaptable in a constantly evolving industry.

The following key takeaways can help you during times of significant change to effectively address challenges and facilitate a smooth transition to your future state.

Embrace Stability

Project teams need to “come home” and feel safe. Project Managers can help create this environment.

  • Create a spot of refuge
  • Recognize everyone is facing similar challenges, discuss them and acknowledge difficulties without fostering a negative environment
  • Identify actionable items as a way to address challenges and ensure individuals involved have a clear understanding of next steps
  • “Manage up” and influence the individuals who have more control over change. Encourage these stakeholders to communicate their vision – the greater the understanding, the greater the buy in
  • Evaluate the organization’s capacity to take on additional change and make recommendations accordingly in order to always maintain a stable environment

 

Engage the Team

It’s a Project Manager’s job to recognize the stages of change adoption within their teams.

  • Allow team members to provide feedback and voice opinions and concerns
  • Acknowledge feedback; repeat what you hear back to members
  • Position members as change agents, not victims
  • Understand the level of authority and ownership of immediate supervisors; recognize their ability to communicate important messages disseminated from upper management and relay the organization’s change readiness back to upper management

 

What to do with negative team members:

  • Give them the opportunity in private to embrace change so they do not disrupt group dynamics
  • Listen to what they say and recognize that they may have legitimate input that could prove useful
  • Spend significant time collaborating with late adopters, but recognize “bad apples”
  • Move swiftly to remove negative team members and address issues quickly; this will greatly increase the team’s overall health

 

Over Communicate

Communication is the most critical piece of change management. Talk. Talk. Talk.

  • Ask yourself the importance of the message. Are you touching on the company’s strategy? Vision? If so, in-person communication is probably best
  • Consider all interpretations of the message. If there’s a chance someone will read an email “between the lines,” carefully assess whether it’s the best mode of communication
  • Set aside time on the calendar for real face-to-face discussion with your teams; conduct “health checks” to unveil problems
  • Make a point to listen and encourage upper management to do the same
  • Beware of “high risk gripers”; make sure they feel listened to without poisoning the entire team
  • Focus on new and insecure team members most
  • Provide feedback back up the channels so senior management understands individuals’ feelings at all levels of the organization – a change “heat map” might show pockets of acceptance or resistance
  • Remind senior management of the importance of a communication plan to ensure they aren’t working in silos

 

Embrace Ambiguity

It’s a delicate balance of being comfortable with ambiguity and getting too comfortable with it.

  • Identify people who are comfortable with ambiguity and use those team members to help pull others along
  • Realize that organizations may be inherently adverse; make strides to educate. Understand and communicate the true “what’s in it for me” for the various groups and communicate it often
  • Prepare teams to be as flexible as possible
  • Make assumptions in an effort to manage ambiguity and move forward until you learn otherwise
  • Be patient with “new” organizations trying to find their new vision; take solace in the certainty at the project level when possible

 

Identify change management opportunities.

Every organization can improve its ability to cope with the change associated with complex, cross-functional initiatives. The question is, do you have the right processes in place to get your organization to function as an adaptable, smooth-transitioning unit? Without the ability to embrace change, preventable losses are bound to occur. However, learn to thrive in the face of change and become comfortable within evolving environments and the possibilities are endless.

In the case of the global pharmaceutical and diagnostics company, IPM concluded that the organization should establish a change management governance structure that details change etiquette techniques such as gaining acceptance from senior management, dealing with escalating issues, and establishing the role of a change manager. In addition, it was recommended that they introduce a collaborative platform inclusive of the project management group and change management organization to capitalize on the synergies between change and project management best practices. The company will be able to overcome challenges and barriers to success with a continued focus on the development and implementation of an enhanced project management organization.