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  • Writer's pictureElizabeth McFarlan Scott

5 tips for flawless project execution and lasting change



Does your team have what it takes to drive lasting change?

With the year almost half over, many HR teams we work with are faced with the daunting task of executing on multiple projects and initiatives that all culminate in the second half of the year. In addition to any transformative change you may be pursuing the back half of the year is chock-a-block with required HR business as usual (BAU) such as mid-year reviews, open enrollment and the annual performance and compensation cycle. Not to mention, if you want to implement any significant change it probably needs to be executed by October before the business is consumed with year end activities and holidays. 


So, how do you ensure you land your initiatives with excellence and drive change that sticks?


Here are 5 critical success factors for flawless execution and lasting change. 


1. Invest in project and change management up front. 

Let’s face it, project and change management are not always a strong suit of Human Resources - that is unless you have invested in building the skills and capabilities in your team or secured dedicated resources. More often than not, the subject matter expert of whatever new program, process or technology is being implemented is also responsible for project management, which can be a real challenge especially with large initiatives. 


The key to successful project management is relentless attention to detail and execution. It requires building and monitoring a plan, chasing down activities to completion, capturing and following up on actions, facilitating decision making and keeping everyone informed along the way. Project management and change management are inextricably linked, so ideally you have someone dedicated to oversee both. 


When embarking on a project, don’t skip on resourcing the project and change management, whether that means freeing up capacity in your existing team, providing someone with a development opportunity or bringing in outside resources. 



2. Every HR project and change initiative is cross functional.

Almost every people related initiative touches everyone in HR in order for it to be successful. From the Center of Expertise (COE) that may be leading the change (i.e. compensation , benefits, recruiting or talent management) to the People Tech & Operations team that needs to make it a reality to the HR Business Partners that drive the change into the business- everyone is an agent of change. Therefore, it is imperative they are:

  • engaged early and often, 

  • provided with clear roles & responsibilities, 

  • equipped with the knowledge and resources needed, and 

  • held accountable to deliver 

This requires rigorous cross functional project management as well as clear stakeholder segmentation of HR to ensure everyone has what they need. 



3. Stakeholder segmentation is key.

Change is personal. For everyone touched by the change it is important to identify what they need to know, what they will see and what they have to do differently. Stakeholders include executives and leaders, the various functions in the HR team and front line managers and employees. 


Taking the time to determine what they each need to know, see and do is an important step to developing an effective change management plan. 


4. Change requires practical and tactical execution.

The most important success factor in driving change is execution. While conducting an assessment of stakeholders and understanding the psychology of change is important, at the end of the day driving change requires action. Real change does not come from delivering a set of communications and training at the end of a project, but rather from designing and implementing relevant and engaging change activities throughout the life of a project (and beyond). 


There are many different frameworks and methodologies to help you do this. One of my favorites is ADKAR. By mapping activities for each stakeholder group against each stage of the change curve (awareness, desire, knowledge, reinforcement) you are forced to think about and plan, identify what change needs to take place, and determine when and how to drive the change. 


5. Change takes time. 

At the end of the day, change takes time. It is all too easy to implement a project and move on to the next thing. But for change to truly take hold requires ongoing monitoring and follow up activity.  


  • Think about how to build sustainable change management into your processes.  Maybe that means providing real time access to support materials embedded in a process, using reporting and metrics to showcase success or embedding change drivers into ongoing training and communications, such as new hire orientation, manager orientation and HR team training.

  • Determine your metrics for success up front and actively monitor and communicate results. This could include utilization rates, efficiency gains or customer feedback. 

  • Plan for continuous improvement. Every change implemented should have an active HyperCare period, but beyond that there should be a regular cadence of review and identification of opportunities for improvement. Consider establishing monthly or quarterly reviews with key stakeholders after implementation. If the process is cyclical in nature, give yourself ample time to do a retrospective after the process and build in enough time ahead of the next cycle for review and implementation of improvements. 


Project management and change management are hard, especially when you have multiple initiatives happening simultaneously. Take the time to look at all the projects and the change you are driving in HR this year and make sure you are setting your team, and your business up for success. 


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