The go-live date is a moment of great anticipation. It’s the final stretch of an implementation – a culmination of weeks, months and sometimes years of work – and a time that marks the difference between before and after in transformation initiatives. Even with careful planning, sometimes substantive changes impact the go-live date.
Timelines often change due to market forces, budget, resource constraints, and other unexpected events. Change managers need to be flexible and adaptable, but what can you do when your project is delayed or pushed forward?
Keep calm. An initial panic is normal. Take a moment to freak out, then compartmentalize that and move forward. Think about the specific actions you can take to stay calm such as journaling, taking a walk, or conversing with a colleague. Taking action to stay calm will help you to refocus.
Take stock. Analyze the current state of organizational change management (OCM) in the organization, including where are you in the change process and how employees have been accepting of change. Understand how your project impacts or is affected by other projects in the organization. Knowing where you are enables you to make OCM course corrections as well as advise on overall project course corrections.
As part of taking stock of where you are, also think about the context of change. Were you just about to go live? Were you a few months out? What information has been communicated to date? Use change surveys and instinct to think about where the business and stakeholders are in the change process.
Also, consider other projects that will be impacted by the new date and how changing or pushing the deadline will affect others. What OCM activities need to be rescheduled? Will you need to shift dates for town hall meetings, trainings, manager updates, etc.? Think about the project activities that are impacted such as testing. It’s also important to consider the audience and the messages that need to be conveyed regarding the change in date. Will communications be interactive, in-person, posted on the company intranet or part of a monthly status report? How will you gather feedback to measure how the change is received?
Another consideration is the impact to OCM resources. A project delay may result in resources being extended or reduced. What is the plan if that’s the case? Consider advising your project and business leaders on how to reschedule and focus on messaging.
Manage your stakeholders. Leverage your relationship with business leaders, the project team, and business stakeholders. Even if the relationship is a challenging one, use the time to help them focus, release the negative, and be able to move forward. How do you know which relationship or stakeholder you should focus on first? This should be based on your answers to the questions above and where the organization is in the change process.
Consider the message. Transparent, honest communications will contribute to an environment of trust. Don't sugarcoat things that need to be said just because it may upset the status quo. This also helps people stay focused on what needs to be said and done.
Remember to think about the action plan for your sponsors, leaders, managers, and other stakeholders to move forward. Your guidance during times of change is important. They may feel overwhelmed and need a plan to formulate action.
Download our checklist for change managers who are faced with significant project delays. Use this checklist to organize your thoughts and next steps to help you take action when your go-live date changes.
Written by Melissa Parinello and Corey Balogh