Alice Mwangi, a Change Management Practitioner, shares her journey to becoming a Prosci® Certified Change Management Practitioner, her role at Merck Business Services – based in Germany, and how she developed their change management toolbox. She talks about the challenges she faced and how she overcame them with the help of her colleagues and Cedar Africa Group, Prosci’s exclusive East Africa Partner. Alice emphasizes the importance of stakeholder engagement in change management initiatives and shares her approach to ensure effective communication and engagement with stakeholders. Additionally, she highlights the significance of staying up to date with the latest trends and best practices in building a change management toolkit in Kenya and the valuable resources offered by Prosci. Here is her story;
What inspired you to become a Prosci®️ Certified Change Management Practitioner, and how did you get started in this field?
In my past experience as a business analyst, I encountered a common challenge when implementing new systems – user engagement. In many cases, users were not fully involved throughout the project, which resulted in them being surprised with the final system at the end. Because we did not quite have a structured approach for enabling users to shift into the new systems seamlessly, my colleagues and I found it challenging to navigate the transition at the end of the project without inadvertently disrupting our users.
Being structured in nature, I wanted to follow a more systematic approach to helping the people affected by my projects. Supported by our team leader, we received training on Prosci® Change Management practitioners from Cedar Africa and began integrating the Prosci Change Management methodology into our process. We put focus on the stakeholder communication, enablement, involvement and support needed to help them adopt their new systems effectively. In the end, we were better able to implement new systems and processes while minimising the disruptions to our stakeholders’ day-to-day operations, ultimately realising the benefits promised at the beginning of the projects.
How has being a Prosci®️ Certified Change Management Practitioner helped you in your current role at Merck Business Services?
Currently, I am refreshing the Merck Business Services change management toolbox, which will be cascaded to the project managers and used as the benchmark for supporting them in adopting the MBS change management process.
The Prosci® training gave me the foundational Change Management knowledge needed for the development of the change management process and tools prescribed in the toolbox—That is, core areas such as Leadership and Sponsorship Involvement, Stakeholder Identification and Engagement, Clear Communication, Training and Enablement and Change Reinforcement, all foundational principles drawn from the Prosci Change Management methodology, Prosci research and past experience.
What are some of the key challenges you’ve faced while developing the change management toolbox for MBS projects, and how have you overcome these challenges?
This task was particularly challenging as I had never before compiled a toolkit for the Change management process, despite my knowledge of the essential components that needed to be included. To overcome this challenge, I sought guidance from Nyawera, a professional with expertise in the field. During our call, Nyawera provided invaluable advice on developing templates for stakeholder assessment, change impact analysis and much more, highlighting key research strategies and resources that would be useful. With this guidance, I was able to approach the task with more clarity.
Also, developing a toolkit applicable to both technological and transformational changes presented another new challenge for me. As someone who had primarily worked on technological changes, I wasn’t sure what transformation methodologies would entail and did not know much about how change management is done in the context of a transformation. To navigate this challenge, I leaned on the support of my colleague, who is an expert in transformation projects. With their guidance, we were able to design a flexible and customisable toolkit that could be used across a variety of projects. Their insights and expertise not only helped me navigate this new terrain but also broadened my understanding of change management processes more generally.
Could you describe a particularly challenging project you worked on in the past, and how you managed to successfully implement it despite the difficulties? How did Cedar Africa Group support you?
As mentioned previously, developing the MBS change management toolbox has been considerably challenging. It required reviewing the previous process to create a new change process that would be customisable to both technology and transformational projects and compiling tools for project managers to integrate into their project plans.
I am grateful for the support provided by Cedar Africa, firstly, through the Prosci Change Management Practitioner program offered to my former colleagues and me in October 2021 and the continued access to valuable change management research and resources. These have given me the foundational knowledge required for the project. Secondly, when embarking on the toolbox development, I had the privilege of a touchpoint with the CEO, Nyawera. She offered guidance on the essential elements to focus on while developing the toolkit and research resources that have been beneficial throughout the process.
How do you ensure that stakeholders are effectively engaged and communicated with during a change management initiative, and what methods do you use to measure the success of these efforts?
I strongly believe in the importance of early and continuous stakeholder engagement. Here are ways that I have used before to ensure that my stakeholders are effectively engaged:
- Identify Impacted people and engage project sponsors to get their support in advocating for the change to their teams
- Identify key users among the Impacted people to act as change champions for the rest of their colleagues.
- Have walkthroughs with key users on the current system/processes to understand user perspectives and the impact of the changes
- Create a communication and training plan that incorporates the following:
- Channels and frequency of communication
- Awareness Creation messages
- Demos highlighting how new solutions satisfy stakeholders’ initial requirements
- Training sessions leveraging the change champions as trainers
- Collaborate with the project team to involve stakeholders throughout the implementation and testing phases
- Solicit feedback and make adjustments to address stakeholder concerns
Through these approaches, I ensured that the users were invested in the project’s success, as they were involved throughout the process. Furthermore, I fostered trust and buy-in from the wider user group by building a solid relationship with the key users.
How do you stay up to date with the latest trends and best practices in change management, and what Prosci resources do you find most helpful?
By networking with seasoned change specialists on LinkedIn, I have gained insights into different perspectives on the subject; I am also often reading relevant research from reputable industry leaders in change management. In addition, the Prosci Best Practices Excerpt, along with thought-leadership articles from the Prosci website, have helped keep me up-to-date with the latest industry insights. In the future, I intend to join a change management association to remain engaged in the developments in this field.
What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned throughout your career as a Change Management Practitioner and Business Analyst, and how have these lessons impacted the way you approach your work?
- Collaboration is critical: To ultimately deliver valuable solutions for business stakeholders and support them with a seamless transition, all project team members must work collaboratively to:
- identify the people affected and the extent of the impact,
- understand and implement user requirements,
- Develop, integrate and align change management strategy with the project plan.
- Having and actualising a continual learning and development plan is essential for building expertise in the Business Analysis and Change management fields
- Lastly, simply keeping a positive attitude and deriving a sense of satisfaction from delivering value for one’s stakeholders.
Overall, these have enabled me to work in cross-functional teams with the central focus being my stakeholders to ensure their needs and expectations are at the forefront of any initiative
In addition, I approach challenging tasks as opportunities for learning, and I keep on track with my learning plan—I know building my expertise will enable me to continue delivering value for my stakeholders.
What advice do you have for project managers and process experts who are looking to improve their change management processes?
- Involve Stakeholders early
Involving key business users from the project’s onset will help ensure their buy-in and commitment to the change. Also, valuable insights can be gathered that can inform the project’s direction and help to shape its outcomes.
- Be transparent and communicate clearly
Communicate openly about what the change entails, its reasons, the expected outcomes, and what is in it for the stakeholders. Being transparent will establish trust and build a collaborative relationship with stakeholders.
- Ask for feedback continually
Provide mechanisms for stakeholder feedback at various project stages and address any emerging concerns—This will also help in ensuring stakeholders remain engaged in the change initiatives’ progress
What do you see as the future of change management, and how do you think organisations can stay ahead of the curve?
With the rise of generative AI like ChatGPT, the future of change management will likely involve the integration of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. For instance, analytical models that analyse stakeholder feedback and predict potential barrier points enabling proactiveness in addressing potential issues.
Organisations can further leverage technology by implementing a change management tool to store data on the change management activities and then leverage this data to develop predictive analytics models. In addition, organisations can unify the change management tool with their project management software—which may set the stage for the deployment of bots to support stakeholders and send out updates during the project period.
That said, Organisations should continue to focus on creating a culture that embraces change.
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out in this field, and what do you think are the most important things to keep in mind when working on change management initiatives?
- Be curious and ask questions, seeking guidance from experts in the field
- Curating a clear learning path to build your knowledge and expertise incrementally
- Benchmark from the experience of your colleagues and thought leaders.
When working on change management initiatives, the most critical focus areas are: identifying who will be affected, how they will be impacted, how the change will deliver value for them and what needs to be done to create awareness, establish trust, build buy-in and ensure that stakeholders are ready and equipped to adopt the changes.