Every project changes somethingProjects are a vital part of implementing change. Bigger transformational change is split into smaller projects with sub targets supporting the joint future vision. But when it comes to the point of closing a project, somehow the importance of the project is lost. Project is of course closed; proper documentation is done with report to the upper management. But closing is more like a protocol in project methodology and people are often just vanishing somewhere. Project manager might not know what will happen to him or her, and project team members are going back to their normal daily lives. The question is, how the change effort continues after the project when people are gone?

The project itself is not the purpose; the target to be achieved related to the bigger picture is. But when project is done – either successfully or not – something strange happens. All the work stops there. And that is the point where the major work begins – to change the behaviour of employees to make the change permanent. That requires a structured and long-term approach to the project closing as well.

Handover to the operational organization is part of the closing process. Often that means establishing workshops for providing the project related knowledge and documentation to the operational teams – but knowledge cannot be transferred within couple of days. The persons who have the deep knowledge, project team members, are usually not involved with the change effort after the project. People are changing positions internally or joining another project, or even leaving the company.

Lead the change of people

During the implementation projects, change is very much focused on the middle management and team leads. But after the projects, leaders should take the lead, showing the way forward. Leadership, training and coaching is needed to lead the change of people. It is leaders’ task to keep the big picture on mind and focus actions towards it. Leaders need to show example, follow the progress and make the corrective actions. All this is needed to reach the joint vision, the ultimate target for the change effort. But after the change implementation projects, it is easy to loose the focus, especially if there are no supportive actions on place.

People have different timespan for their learning curve. You cannot expect people to be immediately ready to work according to the changed processes and systems, without any support along the way. Training is needed to train the new processes, systems and way of working. But equally important is to support the managers for example via business coaching. Every manager is individual and as they are in a key position, their personal support and empowerment is of utmost importance for successful change.

Success of the change effort can be measure only years after the implementation projects, which is quite different to measuring project success immediately after the project closing. You can take the lead to establish changes intentionally, or left changes to happen without direction. It’s your choice.

Mervi Lamberg
Consultant & Business Coach
noname Consulting, Finland
@MerviLamberg