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Articulating the value of investing in a strong organizational change management effort is always a bit challenging. Translating the results of successful change management into dollars saved can be tough to figure out.

An easy way to think of it is this:

The 'go live' date is not the date the project is successful. It is the date that people are productively working in the new state.

There is additional cost with each day after 'go live' that productivity dips before the business is performing back at business-as-usual. Don't get me wrong, go live is a huge success milestone. However, the investment success milestone has yet to occur.

This is because there is an unavoidable dip in work efficiency and productivity when a person has to wrap their head around the change. Even a simple change that doesn't have the stress of a job security change still requires some level of unlearning the known way of doing things, and learning a new way. That takes a toll on productivity. The dip manifests in many ways, such as longer customer servicing or task times, a spike in work backlog, or even a spike in overtime expenses. Stressed-out employees are less productive employees.

Managing the timing, length, and intensity of that dip is key, and the work of a quality change management effort. But to do it right takes time to execute with as little disruption to the business as possible. To get the best return on investment of the project, ensure you are not only investing in change management, but engage them early on in the project. Here's why:

Change Management Moves the Dip

The idea is to move the worst part of the dip to occur well before go live, so your employees are building efficiency with the new state at and after go live, instead of just beginning to understand it.

The key is to develop a group of beta users (change agents) and build their knowledge iteratively during development. The beta users then build their own team's learning in bite-size iterations, so that "training" before go live is more "pulling it all together" than learning from scratch. This model works very well with Agile IT development, but is also possible with Waterfall.

The change management team also coordinates with the other work streams in building requirements for a most efficient timeline. For example, this can include building out the training plan early so the technical and Subject Matter Expert requirements are thoughtfully considered and planned, instead of assumed and unavailable.

Change Management Lessens the Intensity of the Dip

The idea here is to build awareness iteratively and in smaller "bites," so the change is less emotionally distracting from day-to-day work, and is easier to absorb and build upon.

The change management team engages with Human Resources and company leadership to coordinate with the project to properly plan and execute when restructuring, or jobs, or skill sets, or performance measures, or any other number of personnel changes will occur as a result of the change.

Our most motivated clients willing to engage in change management early in the project have previously learned the costly way when they didn't invest in change management, and the dip took so long after go live that the project ultimately failed (either too costly or employees never accepted the new system and processes). Their investment paid off when their business was functioning business-as-usual within days after go live.

So, think of the value of change management as the reduced number of days after go live that productivity dips, resulting in a faster track to your investment success milestone of the project.