Some years ago I was contracted to do an assessment of a multi-million dollar bi-country project that was falling behind on its targets. The project was designed to bring about a significant improvement in health practices and health standards for newborn, child, and maternal health and survival. The United Nations had set the acceptable standards, the two countries who funded the project expected significant results. A lot of money was invested.
It was critical to figure out what course corrections were necessary to get the project back on track so that the goals were met and the money well spent.
The Director who engaged me for this contract had previously relied on our team in similar situations. He said that there was something off that would make the difference necessary, but the team couldn't figure it out. The team members were great, dedicated, knowledgeable. My analysis took several weeks. The project had multiple geographic locations and multiple sites to be considered.
After the analysis was done, there were a few smaller recommendations that were made. The project was fairly well run and in many ways the team was doing the right things to achieve their goals. From this perspective, it had become obvious why they couldn’t figure out what was off or what to do about it.
The Need for Change Facilitation
The biggest challenge that was identified in the analysis was a significant lack of understanding about change and how change can affect a project like this (or any project or organization). This is a common challenge because leaders are taught to manage projects from a project management perspective, not from a change facilitation perspective. Yet, from the moment that goals are set and a project begins, change is constantly happening. Change that is internal in the organization - including changes that occur as a result of working on the project. Change that is external to the organization - like changes in technology, the global economy and local, national or international politics. Project management efforts rarely account for this constant change, whereas a focus on change facilitation is always working with the change that is happening. When working with the change that is happening,
So I made a perhaps surprising big recommendation from the analysis. This was to shift from a project management perspective to a change facilitation perspective in leading this project.
What did this mean?
Change Facilitation Focus Organization-Wide
To bring about the change required for improved health practices by the health facilities, health professionals, families, and the people giving birth, the project staff themselves needed to have a better understanding of:
- how to work on their project from within a change facilitation framework
- their own skills, concepts, and knowledge for assisting people to change individually
- skills, concepts, and knowledge for each individual for assisting organizations to change, the big organizations and the small organizations involved including family units
- growing their own skills as project staff to undergo their own change needed to work beyond a project framework to get this project to meet its goals
Work was done to support the project staff to develop this knowledge and skills. Working from this change facilitation perspective shifted the way in which the project was led and managed. This small change had big impacts and by the end of its time, the project was successful in improving health practices and health standards for newborn, child, and maternal health and survival.
Considering Change Facilitation For You
Whether you are part of a large organization, project team, small-medium sized business, or any other organization of people working together towards a common purpose, approaching your goals from a change facilitation perspective rather than a project management perspective can also have a lasting and successful impact. How might this change things for you?