Project Management, Transition Management
19 July 2015
What is transition management and why is it so challenging?
What is transition management and why is it so challenging?

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In this post Anna Erdmańska  sharing her experience on transition management. 

Transition is a process or a period of changing from one state or condition into another one. In business reality it means changing from current way of working to a new one. How many projects that fulfil these criteria came to your mind now? Many, I doubt

Well, yes ” there are many transition projects around us. The world, the business, is a vivid mixture of changing circumstances. Thus successful organisations are not stable, they are agile, adaptable, flexible, driven by change or in other words  by transitions. We could also say that transition is a way of delivering change.

Transition examples

Imagine you work in a growing service centre, providing services to internal and external Customers from all over the world. Your Company is a global, fast-changing organisation addressing its products to Customers from any country, on any continent on the globe. You handle different types of projects. However, all of them focus on growing the centre you work for. So your projects are transitions, in other words migrations, aiming to transfer operations from primary countries of delivery to your centre. Of course, your centre, being a key element of a global strategy, keeps on growing. There are many business benefits standing behind that decision. So your projects aim to build new teams, departments that will impact global organisational structures and processes. In your portfolio you may also have different types of related projects, for example: transfer of data servers, development of office space in your data centre, improvement of migrated processes, new Customer on-boarding etc.

Can you already imagine the flavour of managing these types of projects? I guess so! They are highly heterogeneous, containing all, bits of sweetness, geniality, contentment and bitterness (Yummy! Almost sounds like and interesting dish!) Well, they definitely bring lots of adrenaline and diversity on the table, what I personally enjoy.

Transition challenges

Transitions are challenging due to many factors. I have listed some of them below:

  • Transitions directly impact employees and the way they work every day ? yes, this is a big challenge. People do not like changes by default. And if the change requires a breakout from the daily routine and more work at the beginning they don’t like it even more.
  • Transitions are driven by visions of higher management  thus, quite often they are not understood by a casual employee. First thing is that due to an abstract nature of vision employees very often cannot see the business benefits behind the change, so they do not understand why we are pursuing the change. Second thing is that at the beginning there is a vision and a general goal . and many unknown aspects of the way the reality is going to look like after the project. Not mentioning the path of getting there, which is even a bigger unknown aspect directly impacting many employees. In other words: transition is going from point A to point B, not knowing how the path leading to B will look like and not understanding B itself by casual employees.
  • Transitions are complex  They involve many processes, departments, teams, procedures and quite often offices from different locations or countries. In other words, they are complex on both content and management sites.
  • Transitions elicit organisational changes  They create new roles at the same time cancelling some of current roles.
  • Transitions very often make people redundant  majority of transitions are related to laying off people. People are made redundant either due to moving the process they worked on to different location or due to a substantial improvement and automation of the processes.

This list could easily evolve to a much longer one.  However, my experience tells me the substantial elements have been addressed.

I am sure all of you have participated, observed, or been directly impacted by more than one transition already. What was your experience? Did you like it? Was it managed properly?

Would you like to read more on transitions?

With excitement, I am looking forward to your comments,

Anna Erdmańska, Transition Management Expert

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There are 5 comments

  • Aleksandra says:

    I completely agree with the article above.
    I think the main challange in transition management is establishing cooperation with the people who have been managing the processes so far and will probably get laid off due to the transition. They are key to the success of the project, because they are subject matter experts that very often have been doing the job for many years.
    Engaging them as the main stakeholders in the execution phase of the project is crucial, but can be very challanging.
    Do you have any advice on how to do this?

    Thanks,
    Aleksandra

    • Anna Erdmanska says:

      Hi Aleksandra,
      Thank you for your comment. My experience tells me the same – people are key to success in transition projects.
      Well, when it comes down to the motivation part, yes, it is quite challenging and there is no one unique and ever effective recipe for it. What helped in my projects:
      – an organisation practice to assign two project managers: one on the so called send site and the other one on the receive site – people on the send site will be eager to work with a buddy from their office,
      – transparent communication – is a key here! No gossips, no half stories, the communiction about the change must be done at the most appropriate time, before people will be afraid and looking for another job,
      – staff release plan – a detailed and clear plan saying when people will be made available on the job market, communicated to everyone involved,
      – incentives – bonuses for staying the suggested time with the company, instead of leaving earlier,
      – promotions/transfers – finding another interesting role within the company, after the transition is completed,
      – assigning a key role in the project, also could be combined with a relocation to the receive site… – giving a possibility to gain experience in a new role and increase prospectives for finding better job afterwards,
      – and many more depending on people…

      First three elements are “must haves”, without them ay transition will fail. They all build a solid base for TRUST among the project team members. Next ones, depends on people’s individual expectations, company culture and strategy. And there can be many more…
      Well, I think this will be a great topic for next article:)

      Lots of success with your transitions Aleksandra!

  • Aleksandra says:

    Thanks for your insight!

  • Inga Śliwkowska says:

    Very good description of the transformation process and it’s requirements. Simple but to the point and highlight major part of the process.

  • Małgorzata Kusyk says:

    Thanks al lot for your comment Inga. I agree, simplicity is what we value a lot in nowadays complex business environment.

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