Renovating Your House of Change Management

No Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen probably won’t be paying your change process a visit, but he certainly won’t “thwart the juices and desires of the great interior design public (or change managers) at large” whilst undertaking your change renovation project
No Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen probably won’t be paying your change process a visit, but he certainly won’t “thwart the juices and desires of the great interior design public (or change managers) at large” whilst undertaking your change renovation project

In my inaugural article, I talked about how aligning the change management processes – from capturing customer demand at the beginning; through project delivery; and implementation to the production environment – is important for us to be able to understand, plan for, adapt to, and deliver our customers’ needs whilst balancing quality, control, and conduct effective operation of our services.

Quite a heavy opening paragraph especially given that doing all these things can be a challenge!

I also, suggested you might want to work with what you have, which in many cases, might be “change control” i.e. assessing, reviewing, approving and implementing changes to the production environment.

It is on this basis, that I would like to share with you my thoughts and experience surrounding production-related change including things like CAB (Change Advisory Board) and assessing and risk and impact.

If you recall, we undertook a complete re-launch of process to become the “change governance framework” which included significant alterations to the way change control worked in practice.

Using Your Existing Tools – No need to knock down the walls!

Our Service Management tool – like many I’ve heard anecdotally before – wasn’t fit for purpose and was the “bane of everyone’s existence” according to many people I spoke to.

The first thing I did was undertake the entire journey of raising, assessing and approving a change ticket in the tool. Using the Systems Thinking (Vanguard) check model approach to “flow” was particularly helpful for focusing on the end-to-end process objectively as well.

In all honesty, there were not many screens to follow and completing a ticket was reasonably quick and trivial to do. However, the challenges I discovered were

  • that the level of detail in the assessments ranged from copious text to practically nothing
  • it took ages to get approval from the relevant person
  • a copious amount of change tickets were open – in many cases for several months

As part of the workshop activities I mentioned in the previous article, we utilised the wider Systems Thinking (Vanguard) check model to identify a considerable amount of confusion, waste work and failure demand (the ability to do things right the first time).

What we identified was that the process and lack of understanding of the tool were largely to blame rather than tool itself. Sure, it wasn’t perfect but it was what we had.

Succinctly, the changes that took place involving the tool included:

  • introducing a series of questions for people to complete when creating a change request rather than guessing what to put down for their assessments
  • the agreement with all change approvers that the change manager would have day to day approval for minor i.e. non-CAB changes in order to speed up the approval process
  • publishing the change schedule via the existing digital signage and making it available to all IT staff on large plasma screens so they were aware of what was occurring on a given day
  • integration of a “risk and impact” calculator that scored the risk, impact and change category – particularly helpful when knowing whether a change needed to go to CAB or not – by popular demand, a template is below

Risk & Impact Calculator to download from OneDrive

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Questions to consider – pick a colour!

One of the biggest requests I had from people in response to their queries about how to improve their risk and impact assessment, was what questions did we expect people to complete. Whilst I can’t provide an exhaustive list, you might want to consider developing a script based upon the following question set:

  • What is this change?
  • What are the high level implementation steps and back out plan for this change?
  • When do you plan to implement this change?
  • What is/are the benefit(s) of doing this change?
  • Has this change been tested both technically and by the customer?
  • What resources are involved in the change?
  • Has this change been implemented previously?
  • Have you sought the relevant technical, service and customer authority for this change?
  • Has the relevant documentation been created or updated and handed over to the relevant support team?
  • Have you communicated the details of this change to the relevant people?

CAB – what do you mean it’s not a taxi?!

As glib as the section title sounds, in some cases a Change Advisory Board in my experience has ranged from being a thorough, technically detailed meeting for several hours to a mere minutes ‘tick box exercise’. From either extreme, I’ve seen people have their changes needlessly rejected for trivial details or have simply bypassed the process altogether as they feel it adds no value.

My tips for having an effective CAB include:

  • Make sure you have the right stakeholders (including your customers, if appropriate) in the meeting to make effective decisions
  • Consider having senior managerial presence in the meeting to give it credence – if management do not respect the meeting, you can’t expect others to.
  • Have a clear and precise agenda and stick to it. Getting bogged down in every detail suggests the change isn’t ready to be approved or that the meeting isn’t working effectively.
  • Consider having a companion technical authority meeting or process for change to be reviewed before CAB. It can help with the above point.
  • The Change Manager needs to be an effective chair to ensure process is being followed but more importantly keeps the meeting moving without becoming a “talking shop”
  • Ensure the right changes come to CAB – this is perhaps the most important point as adding additional bureaucracy and process will likely be counterproductive and you may miss the critical change that ends up causing a major incident!

Summing Up

The best way to renovate your existing change management process, is fundamentally to

  • Not be afraid to look at your process from a fresh/external perspective but not to simply ‘paper over the cracks’
  • Use what you can with your existing tool – remember, it’s cheaper to apply a new coat of paint than to knock down walls.
  • Make sure CAB is delivering and adding value
  • Make sure there is a change schedule available and people can see it – think of this as your “feature wall”


Image Credit – “Laurence Llewelyn Bowen” by Andy G from Hazlemere, United Kingdom

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