Reviewing the lessons learned during a change process is important
for the change manager. After participating in a change initiative,
managers will benefit from looking back at the transition period
from prechange to postchange to review what they've learned, as
well as what worked or didn't work, and to think about how they
will approach their next movement toward organizational change.
Managers are encouraged to take the time to consider how the
outcome of one change initiative will affect their future behavior
in the organization, especially in change management.
What Areas Should You Review for Lessons?
Lessons can be gleaned from a number of practices and processes
involved in initiating change. In reviewing a particular experience
with change, managers should look out for ways they might improve
in the following areas:
Process (how things get done) - As a result of
something that happened during action toward change, did you
discover how to make any processes necessary for change better,
faster, or cheaper? Was the strategy clear in how to execute the
change process? Did the processes work as planned, and if not, how
did your expectations compare to what actually happened? It is a
good idea to document the impact (in terms of time, money, morale,
and so on) of not being able to follow the process as planned. In
retrospect, would you have done something differently, and if so,
why? Consider "other possible options" and why each would be worth
looking at in future change initiatives.
Technology - Did the technology support go as
planned? Identify the issues that could have been avoided, such as
not having the right equipment in place at the right time or a lack
of access to the information team members needed because they could
not get a security clearance. Differentiate these from actual
technology problems; for example, was the online search tool you
used effective for the type of research you were doing? Did your
system have enough bandwidth capacity to download the large amount
of video needed to be reviewed by the remote team in Asia? The
prior easily could have been addressed by having the right
processes in place. The latter possibly would not have been known
but, as a result of what you are doing in documenting lessons
learned, will help in future change initiatives. Also, considering
the pace of technological change, document whether there are any
new technologies that could be used. Are there ways to apply
existing technology that emerged as part of the change process and
could improve on current change practices? Look at it from the
perspective of what existed and what could have been utilized to
make a difference (that was not) and whether there was anything
that was used that had a positive impact on the overall project
(saved time, saved money, improved quality, and whatever else it is
that is used as a measure of effectiveness in your organization).
Secondly, be sure to examine from the perspective of new
innovations in technology that have emerged since the change
initiative was started, and that future change initiatives should
Employees - Were the right people selected to be
on the change team? Should you have used any different criteria in
making your selections? Were the team size and the scheduling of
people on and off the change project the most effective? Did you
end up running into conflicting schedules, and what possible
suggestion would you have
to do differently? Is there a better way to utilize these "people
resources"? Do they need training prior to the next change
initiative? When and in what ways did they work most effectively,
and where is there room for improvement?
Customers - If you worked directly with customers,
what was different from what you expected as part of the original
change plan? What impact (positive or negative) did
it have on the change project? Did you learn to work with customers
in any different ways (cooperating, collaborating, partnering)? How
are customers, and their needs,
changing? Have you developed certain capabilities that can help
them in new ways? How effective was your communication with them
(content, media, frequency, feedback
capability)? What prechange ideas played out, what really happened,
and what could have been done better?
Competition - How did the output of your change
initiative position you against your competitors? Was it what you
had planned? Why? Are your competitors doing things
differently? Have you gathered any ideas for gaining and
maintaining a competitive advantage over them, or to search the
public media channels for information about them? From a lessons
learned perspective, what other change initiatives should be
undertaken to further enhance your position in the competitive
marketplace? Give the details of what, why, and how it would make a
difference, and how the lessons learned can position you to be more
Other - Have you found anything else as a result
of this change initiative that can help your organization be more
efficient and more effective? It can be related to people, process,
technology, innovation, or even something that has not been
identified to this point.
In each of the above areas, be sure to reflect on the goals that
were set, to what degree they were accomplished, and how they were
accomplished. What happened as compared to what was supposed to
happen, and why were there any differences? The point is to
determine what should be done to correct things in the future.
Sharing Lessons Learned
Capturing, reviewing, and especially sharing lessons learned with
others can make the difference between an organization succeeding
and ceasing to exist. By addressing what works for a change
initiative as well as what does not, an organization can become
more agile and responsive to the challenges of change. Leveraging
the knowledge that goes with lessons learned allows an organization
to change more quickly and with less expense. According to a study
by the Project Management Institute, Fortune 500 companies lose
more than $31.5 billion each year because they do not share
knowledge (Logue, 2004). In addition to the money lost, learning
what went into overcoming a challenge helps individuals become
better and encourages them to be more innovative.
Make it easy for members of your organization to understand the
information they need in order to be more successful in their next
change initiative. This will allow them the knowledge on which to
base future change-related decisions. The lessons learned by
managers as part of the change process is important to share with
all stakeholders so they don't repeat your mistakes and so they do
take advantage of the things you did well.
Key Points to Keep in Mind
- Collect lessons learned along the way, for example, by keeping
a journal. Waiting until the end often results in lessons not being
contributed, or if they are, their facts
can be distorted.
- Take time to reflect on any problems, issues, and so on that
happened and why. Could the problem have been noticed earlier? Were
there any early signs or warnings? Given that this is a time of
reflection, would you have done anything differently?
- Remember to pass along things that went well. Successful
processes should also be collected. Having a standard that works
well can save time and money up front in the
- Also comment on alternatives tried and results from them. They
can often provide guidance on change initiatives similar but
different from this one. What alternatives did you look at, which
did you try, and why?
- Did you look at or have any contingency plans? Did they come
into play? Why or why not?
This is an excerpt of Chapter 10 of 10 Steps to Successful
Change Management, which can be purchased here.
George Vukotich has specialized in change
management throughout his career. He holds a PhD in organizational
development and is head of the graduate program in Training and
Development at Roosevelt University in Chicago.