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Top 10 Project Initiation Questions – People Change Management
By Gail Severini

Are you launching a transformational project that demands cross-functional participation or adoption for success?

If your organization’s track record at such projects is less than stellar, or this is bigger than any other similar project the organization has undertaken, then you might want to consider how to improve engagement and commitment – traction.

People Change Management (PCM) describes the discipline of helping people change how they think about their work (in this application) and how they deliver. It encompasses culture (at the macro level) as well as models, processes and tools (at the tactical level) for improving the evolution.

How do you know if your organization is ready to benefit from these best practices? These questions are directional and are intended to undercover expectations and readiness:

  1. How risky is the project(s)? How complex?
    • Has the organization attempted this, or similar projects, before? How did they go: on time, on budget, on ROI?
    • Do people have to change the way they work? New technology, new processes, new standards?
    • How will you know if the organization meets the initiative objectives? Do you have success metrics? Are you prepared to track, analyse, report and review?
  2. Who is the Sponsor? Is he/she prepared to be active and visible? Does he/she have influence with the stakeholders? Does he/she have dedicated support?

  3. Have all of the affected employees, suppliers, business partners etc (stakeholders) collaborated on the solution?

    • How important is the stakeholders’ involvement, support or conversion? Are the stakeholders changing the way they work or are there others, e.g. front line employees? Will adoption (speed, quality and duration) of the new ways affect ROI?
    • Is there a shared vision statement? Is it clearly aligned to the desired strategic outcomes?
  4. How much impact will employee (or other stakeholders’) engagement make to your ROI? How much impact will resistance make? What are you prepared to do to get to your ideal adoption rates?

  5. How much change is the organizational current undergoing? How much change has the organization experienced in the past 3-5 years? Re-orgs, systems, etc. How do employees feel about change?

  6. Have you assessed the organization’s, these stakeholders’, current readiness for change, i.e. PCM readiness assessments? What kinds of results do you see on Employee Satisfaction Surveys, employee turnover / absenteeism?

  7. What will success look like at project end? 1 year post? 5 years post?

  8. Have you considered building this competency for re-use in other initiatives?

  9. Are there any other factors that would shape the success of this scope of work?

  10. Are there any questions we have not asked that you wish we had?

These typically uncover the tip of the iceberg. Few organizations in North America have developed beyond a level 2 Maturity Model: “Some elements of change management are being applied in some isolated projects” (Prosci Research).

There is great opportunity to capture ROI benefits earlier and more deeply (thus aggregating more of the benefits) by leveraging the three factors that most positively affect ROI:

  • Speed of Adoption: How quickly are people up and running on the new systems, processes, and job roles?
  • Proficiency: Are individuals performing at the level expected in the design of change?
  • Ultimate Utilization: Of the total population, how many employees are demonstrating “buy-in” and are using the new solutions?

This is about far more than communications and training, although they have important roles. It is about getting people past the failure to see, failure to move and failure to finish (“It Starts with One”, J. Stewart Black and Hal Gregersen, Wharton School Publishing, New Jersey, 2008).

It is about fully realizing the vision efficiently and effectively and moving on to the next major opportunity.

Gail Severini is a professional management consultant specializing in leading and managing change and strategic marketing. She draws on 20+ years with premier Canadian and off-shore financial services companies such as Royal Bank of Canada, CIBC (bank and insurance), HSBC and Butterfield Bank as well as for health care providers, post secondary education and manufacturing organizations. She is a graduate of Queen’s University, earned the Certified Management Consultant (CMC) designation in 1993, became Certified in Prosci Research’s Change Management Methodology in 2009 and has continued to invest in professional development through the Strategic Leadership Forum and Project Management Institute.

As founder of the Symphini Change Management Inc ( vision, she is a relentless advocate for managed progress, both strategic and tactical, and for mastery of change management. Symphini is a management consulting firm specializing in transforming businesses by leveraging people, process and technology through change.

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