A Conversation with Change Management Executive, Dana Bellman

This week I sat down with Dana Bellman, one of the many seasoned Change Management Executives on the team here at Watershed CI. It’s rare that we get an opportunity to hear from people such as Dana, as their day-to-day workload keeps them extremely busy and, as in this particular case, away from the office and onsite with his various clients.So, while we grabbed a cup coffee together, I thought I’d take advantage of having him around and try and get to know a little bit more about him and his personal thoughts regarding the business and practice of Change Management. It is my pleasure to share with you an excerpt from that conversation.

PGG: Dana, it’s great to finally share some time with you, and I’m always interested in hearing people’s thoughts on their line of work. Having said that, I was wondering, what is your personal approach to change management?

DB: The management of change should not happen in isolation of, or as an adjunct to, the management of the initiative (which is quite often the case). Projects and programs, by their nature, will force change on some stakeholders or stakeholder groups, and some proportion of those stakeholders will impact the outcomes of the project. Given that, the management of change must be seen as an integral part of the initiative. The development of initiative management methodologies (e.g. projects, programs) and the management of initiatives will have greater success rates when change management and project management are seen as an inseparable whole and closely integrated – hence Watershed CI’s philosophy.        

PGG: That’s great Dana, and thanks for that succinct response. As I look into my own experience around project or initiative based work, the evidence points to the need for constant clear communication in order to keep everything moving in the right direction and everyone involved in the loop. Perhaps you’d share with us your personal approach to communication?

DB: Communicate, communicate, communicate – or, to paraphrase the 1992 U.S. Presidential election – “It’s communication, stupid!”.
Impudent language aside, it is essential to the success of your initiative, no matter the size or complexity, to develop a comprehensive communication plan, start communicating early and communicate often. A predecessor to any good communications plan, however, is a thorough understanding of your initiative stakeholders – how they are impacted by the project and how they impact the project. A good stakeholder analysis goes hand-in-hand with a good communications plan.   

PGG: That’s too funny Dana. If my memory serves me correct, that statement is but a twist on a campaign statement “It’s the economy stupid” written on a whiteboard by Bill Clinton’s lead strategist, James Carville, in an attempt to focus the team on their real mission. It is a great analogy as it relates to what you see most important about the need for quality communication. Now, if possible, I’d love hear about a successful change management project you led.

DB: Projects impact people and people impact projects. Change management and project management are therefore best thought of as an integrated whole. As such, all my successful projects are successful change management projects. In one particular instance, an Ontario College public website redesign was deemed a success by the many stakeholder groups (e.g. students, professors, administrators, general public) due to their upfront inclusion in all aspects of the project that potentially impacted them.   

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PGG: That’s great Dana, and I totally agree with your design on involving people early on in the process and keeping them first and foremost throughout the transformation effort; nice work. While I do appreciate that you’re very busy, and thanks by the way for taking the time to chat, if I could ask one last question. I’m interested to hear what success looks like to you?

DB: Establishing and maintaining a “trusted advisor” relationship with our clients. To do that, we have to consistently provide, not only what they ask for, but what they really need. 

PGG: Thanks very much Dana, and I look forward to chatting with you again soon; I wish you continued success.

Dana Bellman is currently engaged with one of North America’s leading power companies working on multiple transformation programs and projects.


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