Updated: Aug 2, 2019
(Originally published on Bloomberg Government, January 2017)
By Dr. Victoria Grady, Dr. Patrick McCreesh, and Dr. Michael G. Santens
In this series on change management in the transition, we have discussed the importance of a strategy, that connects leadership, performance management, communications, and culture. Of course, these efforts require resources. In a traditional corporate setting, the resources to fund the change management initiative would be hard enough to come-by. Imagine going to an IT program manager and saying, “In addition to all the items in your program budget, we need to add another $1 million to make sure we manage the change properly.” It can be a tough sell.
And in the federal government that sell is complicated by the Congressional funding process. If a new administration wants to push a significant policy change or IT improvement through a given agency, the new leaders will need to convince Congressional appropriators to give them the funds to drive the change. Additionally, the new leaders will need to make the case for why change management should be a part of the programmatic budget.
Here are three tips for how to get the funding for change management along with the program:
1. Work with the responsible agency. This sounds like a no brainer, but often administration officials seek funding for programs through circuitous routes that keep control for programs in the White House. This has two negative effects. First, it means the administration will be expending extra energy in budgeting rather than building of the budget of an existing agency. Second, if there is a new program or policy shift, working outside the responsible agency will likely reduce that agency’s willingness to adopt the change. Without the agency’s support, the change may never be implemented.
2. Intrinsically connect project management with change management. Often times change management programs are submitted with a budget proposal as an independent work stream or an add-on set of activities. In order to get the right funding for change management efforts, the requesting agency should assume the change activities as a necessary part of the project plan. For example, a communications strategy should be presented as one of the activities with a line-item attached at the appropriate time in the Gantt chart, but there should not be a separate set of activities for change management.
3. Succinctly state the ROI of change management. Many times programmatic documents to support funding requests will effectively define the need for the change and the benefit. For example, “Agency X needs a new system because there are no longer individuals to support the existing technology and it no longer allows the agency to complete their work. While the new system will cost $10 million, it will result in over $100 million of benefit to the agency.” The ROI is simple, spend $10 million get $100 million in value. However, agencies rarely make the case for change management funding. The parallel language would simply be, “Change management activities will cost $1 million. Without the funding that encourages the usage and adoption of the new system, the agency will fail to realize the $100 million in benefit and will lose $10 million in sunk cost.” The ROI here is that $1 million ensures $100 million in benefit.
Throughout this series, we have made the case for change management to support the new policies and programs of the Trump administration. The Congressional budget process is complicated and requires individual leaders to convince many stakeholders of the value of an investment in order to get funding. These three steps are not the only steps leaders must take to get funding, but they will get change leaders on the right track.