Change is hard. Having your teams understand why you’re changing, agree to the vision, and commit to their specific role for the long game, can feel next to impossible. But it is not.     

Having worked for more than two decades in the project world, I’ve seen change management projects delivered time and time again, only to be put on a shelf to gather dust. It got me wondering: why do we keep squandering our time, money, and resources on these projects?

My quest for a good answer led me to Benefits Realization Management (BRM). With a BRM approach, projects drive strategic action by prioritizing outcomes that have the highest degree of strategic payoff. Most companies excel at strategic planning, but if the approved plan languishes somewhere, then the effort never achieves the intended goal. What’s needed is strategic action to get it over the finish line.  

With a BRM approach, projects drive strategic action by prioritizing outcomes that have the highest degree of strategic payoff.   

How does the BRM approach impact change adoption?

Create team-wide buy-in to the “why and how”

So much of change management is about getting a clear understanding of “the why and the how” of any project. If you were to individually ask each member of a team what a particular project is intended to achieve, you might be surprised at how varied the answers would be. While it’s necessary to build the kind of effective messaging that aligns everyone around the why and how, and ties it all back to the strategic plan, for real change to happen and stick, teams need the skill, will, and confidence to deliver the project across the finish line. This under-the-hood work needs to happen before the project starts—and involves project leaders answering the key questions below:

TEAM SKILL

  • Do they have the know-how?
  • Do they have the ability?
  • Have they had sufficient practice?

TEAM WILL

  • Does the change purpose make sense to them?
  • Do they agree with the change?
  • Are they willing to carry out their role to achieve it?

TEAM CONFIDENCE

  • Do they see the change as viable?
  • Do they believe in the team’s ability to get the job done?
  • Do they believe in leadership’s ability to steer the ship effectively?

Doing this work in advance creates the BRM foundation that drives optimal business outcomes more quickly and reveals any communication or skill deficiencies that should be remedied before an full strategic plan is created. 

HOW BRM WORKS

Say we’re running a retail business; our strategic plan has three priorities for the coming year: 

  1. Grow top seller volumes by 15%
  2. Establish five new marquee locations
  3. Earn an average consumer satisfaction rating of at least 4.5 stars

There’s a creative team full of enthusiasm and ideas. One potential project is to invest heavily in marketing. Another is to get celebrity endorsements. Another is to invest in a consumer app. Each would be considered by how well they fulfill the strategic plan.

The project costs are assessed from a financial, resource, and time perspective, as well as the work needed to build the skill, will, and confidence to facilitate adoption. Looking at the investment budget for the year, a determination would be made on which project most merits the funding. This process makes the purpose for each change crystal clear, so leadership has a consistent understanding and presents a united front. Frontline members would have provided their input, so their concerns and considerations could be covered in the messaging. All of this helps create the needed team will and confidence to engage in necessary skill building and tactical strategy execution.

HOW I USED BRM TO INFORM STRATEGY WITH MEANINGFUL RESULTS

When asked to optimize a business case strategy for one of Canada’s largest pension investment managers, I quickly proposed introducing BRM. Focusing on achievable, quick wins did the trick, and within two months, I won a mandate from the Board of Directors to develop and implement a BRM strategy enterprise-wide.

This pension fund went from inconsistent business case approval on subjective factors to approval on quantifiable metrics linked to the strategic plan, in just six months. And they’ve seen net assets under management grow by over 70% since.

Challenges that can arise   

Most organizations that fail at BRM try to do too much too soon. Identifying specific, realistic stages and approaches can keep the team’s strategic value awareness intact and project success within sight.  And while robust implementation does require significant upfront work, after the first six weeks, all that’s needed are bi-monthly check-ins to assess how things are going, with adjustments made from there. That time investment in getting everyone aligned around a benefits strategy is more than offset by the way the change adoption gets strengthened and streamlined. It also helps define what the quantifiable success metrics look like for everyone, so bumps in the road get identified and addressed ahead of time.

Summary

You don’t need to keep playing catch up with your change management or bend over backward to win teams over to the cause. Instead, frontload your change strategy by focusing on the work with the greatest payoff, while inclusively and transparently speaking to everyone involved using a common, shared language. 

How helpful would it be to have the ability to strategize, track, study, and report on strategic value, realization and sustainment metrics, and ultimate performance? What could you analyze with access to those metrics? How could that capability help you grow? 

For more information about how to implement benefits-driven change management initiatives, download our Project Priority Guide:     

Project Prioritization Quick Guide (BRM) PDF
Project Prioritization Quick Guide (BRM) PDF


Download Project Prioritization Guide