Thoughtful Change Management is a Crucial Component of any Successful Project

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When things get busy and challenging on a project, sometimes change management is deprioritized or neglected, which can take a project off track if stakeholders are not properly engaged. Thoughtful change management is a crucial component of a successful project – especially for technology implementations where users are expected to not only learn  a new system, but to re-learn how to complete their job functions using a new tool.


Our national retail client wanted to drive more localized, data-driven product assortments across their portfolio to better tailor the product mix and meet the unique needs of their customers. To provide a more localized experience, our client needed to replace a dated and inflexible merchandising system and prepare current users of the system to operate in new ways. This effort was a high priority objective for the organization.

Our client was in the middle of User Acceptance Testing (UAT) when a large group of users was first exposed to the new system. Though the users agreed that the current software was dated, inflexible, and in need of replacement, this first exposure caused them significant doubt that the new system could enable them to effectively perform their job duties. These key stakeholders did not see the path forward with the new system and wanted to halt the implementation.


As the client’s Change Management and Training team was already working on several projects, Forum was brought in to help balance their workload and help get the project back on track. The first step was to establish a change management strategy to bring stakeholders along with the new system implementation.

Though there are many change management methodologies available, this team used the ADKAR (Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement) change model as the framework best fit with the client’s culture. The ADKAR methodology provides a blueprint to move people through the change curve, capturing how changes can be successfully understood and adopted.

Here are some highlights on the effort to successfully bring end users along in the change journey:

Awareness – The internal merchandising teams knew that the current home-grown tools were not scalable and lacked industry standard efficiencies. To bring awareness for the tool implementation, the team chose to  create engaging video content that showed the current situation, the upcoming changes (at a high level), and the benefits that would be seen across the organization. This content created a mental connection between the current state and the future state so the users could recognize how the new system would help them perform in their roles.

Desire – The desire for change was already in place, however extended milestone dates and less than ideal user interfaces had fueled some of the resistance and frustration from users during the UAT. We bolstered the  desire for change by 1) connecting back to the original problem the solution would address,  2) providing an honest and clear picture of what the future state reality would look like, and 3) addressing concerns as they were identified throughout the process to demonstrate commitment to delivering an effective solution. This process increased end user trust and cultivated a strong commitment to the solution.

Knowledge – We leveraged multiple, innovative tools to communicate information in diverse ways to ensure it could be absorbed and applied for all users. Throughout UAT, we leveraged subject matter experts with deep knowledge to engage users in understanding how each department would benefit from this tool. This allowed us to keep training material fresh and relevant by having a strong pulse on the end users’ needs.

Ability – A strong partnership between the Change and Training team and program teams enabled a crucial link between the tool itself and the new ways in which users would employ the tool. We helped prepare users for go-live and adoption by providing training and a supportive environment to test their new knowledge. Partnering closely with the program team on communication and messaging enabled us to connect business requirements and the solution for end users which facilitated end-user understanding and acceptance.

Reinforcement – Leadership was engaged to share their perspective on the long-term benefits of the new system and processes and how they aligned with overall company strategic objectives. These voices served as powerful reminders that this implementation is moving the organization forward to better serve customers and internal teams.  Since retail product assortment is seasonal, users will participate in regular training refreshes to ensure that knowledge is not lost between seasons and that adoption continues.


After three months, the original group of resisters were vocalizing their support and excitement about the increased effectiveness the tool could bring to their roles. By understanding and internalizing the benefits of the tool, end users not only felt prepared for this change, but also became advocates of the change. End users became active problem solvers who regularly identify and implement improvements. This momentum effectively paved the way for adoption and a successful organization-wide rollout.

Leveraging a culturally suitable change management approach provided a framework for the organization to not only drive more localized, data-driven product assortments across their portfolio but also established a platform for the organization to continue to manage change.

What did you do in your last technology implementation project to ensure change management success? We would love to hear from you and continue the conversation!

About Us

Chelise Jacobson is a client service focused consultant with strong project and product management, communication, data analysis, and business analysis skills. She combines creative thinking and analytical skill to successfully facilitate effective collaboration with a wide variety of stakeholders.

Marissa Iannarone is an associate with Forum Solutions where she helps her clients deliver on their strategic initiatives. Marissa is the founder of Lean Into Blockchain and a Blockchain Hyperledger Community Member where she advances cross-industry blockchain technologies around the world.

Forum Solutions is a management consulting company that works with Seattle’s business and nonprofit leaders to build and implement effective strategies for transformative growth and sustainable results. Forum offers clients the right skills for every job: strategic expertise, lean execution and agile resourcing – improving businesses at any level – from the executive suite to the individual contributor.