Get the essential soft skills: understanding change and project management

Workplaces are dynamic. From mergers and acquisitions, to the development of new products and services, to integrating new technology, organisations of all kinds and sizes go through a lot of change. Which means mastering change and project management are key soft skills that can benefit any professional.

Understanding the change management process will position you to contribute to successful change projects. It’s one of the soft skills that will stand you in good stead, whichever industry you work in. And given that most change processes are undertaken as projects, this includes understanding project management as well.

Steve SemmensSteve Semmens is a sessional lecturer in project and change management at Charles Sturt University. He’s also a business coach in Bathurst, and is the industry adviser for CenWest Innovate, one of the university’s business incubators for local communities.

We asked him to outline key aspects of the change management process that anyone can use to help ensure the success of their project.

Have a clear vision

“You need to ensure that you get everybody on board right from the start. And the best way to do that is to engage with people, particularly frontline staff who are likely to be implementing changes to a business. People will better understand the reasons for the change if they are engaged from the start. Plus, they are also likely to come up with solutions to problems that you might not even have envisaged.”

Create a detailed plan

“When it comes to making your project management plan, ensure all stakeholders are considered. This can include staff, customers, suppliers, even the local community. For instance, if you want to expand a business in a small regional community, creating jobs for local people, the community will be a key stakeholder.

“And you need to be transparent with all those stakeholders about the nature of the project. That includes its goals and its risks, because the vision has to be authentic. There can’t be a hidden agenda. If you aren’t authentic, people will pick up on that immediately. A lot of change management projects fail because honest communication isn’t put at the heart of the project.”

Collaborate with stakeholders

“Draw on knowledge from key people within the organisation. Look for key people of influence at all levels of the organisation and put them in the project team. Not only will you be able to draw on experience from across the business, but others will listen to these influencers. This helps communicate the goals of the project throughout the organisation.

“I favour empowering people to have the autonomy to carry out their aspects of the change management process as they see fit. This links back to my first point. If the vision for the project is clear, authentic and well-communicated, people will be more willing and able to design effective ways of performing their implementation tasks.”

Celebrate milestones

“Celebrate, reward and recognise those who have supported the change management project to achieve key milestones, especially the people on the frontline.

“These milestones and their related timeframes will form part of your initial plan. That way everyone has a clear notion of how the project will progress. Plus, how milestones relate to one another to ensure project success. Meeting these milestones – and so keeping the project on track – should certainly be recognised.”

Provide training and reinforcement

“The last point is training and reinforcement. Say a new software package is being rolled out through an organisation. You train people to use it properly and reinforce the reasons why the change is required. Otherwise, you risk people not embracing the new software. This can impact on your business goals.

“Reinforce the benefits of the change, and help those who may be struggling with it. As a result, you ensure everyone is brought along on the change journey at a key time – the rollout of the change.

“If you have a clear vision and a detailed plan, you collaborate with people to develop and implement it. Consequently, all levels of the organisation reinforce the authentic message about why the change is necessary. And your project is much more likely to succeed.”

Do you want to master change management?

Well, you can with Charles Sturt University. You can learn more about these essentials soft skills with our convenient single subject study program. Available for online study, so you can learn around your work and family commitments, our project management and change management subjects will give you the knowledge you need to make a difference in your workplace. And if they inspire you to take your study further – such as the Bachelor of Business (Management) – you could receive credit towards your degree for your single subject study.

Get in touch to find out more.