Project Shock: 4 Ways To Acclimate Your Staff To The Big Change

You are a CFO/ CIO/ CPO/ ERP project manager or a talent officer for a large county or a school district. You have embarked on a multi-year cloud implementation project to modernize your IT processes and systems with the intent to enhance your organization’s ability to serve your citizens most effective and efficient manner possible. This effort is a big-ticket project with your reputation at stake.

You kicked off your project six months ago, but things have been a bit rocky, due to some team friction. Your team of staff accountants, grants specialists, procurement buyers, payroll administrators, and recruiters have been struggling to figure out how they are supposed to ride the tide of this ‘Big Change’.

They know their “day jobs” like the back of their hand but this system upgrade is unfamiliar and so are these consultants that have descended upon your organization. Team progress seems to be grinding to a halt as your team and the consulting team are trying to coordinate and communicate but it seems both teams are speaking different languages.

You are anxious about how the next 15 to 18 months are going to look like. You wonder if your team and the consulting team can work out the kinks or is it just going to get worse?

When can you get a night’s sleep again?

Sounds familiar?

How do we see it at CherryRoad?

Our CherryRoad consultants see the same thing only from the other side of the table. We see the struggle, the frustration, the anxiety bubbling under the surface of client teams but there seems to be a reluctance to discuss change management, because the client leadership feels the project has kicked off, consultants are billing time, it is too late to worry about the team issues and people stuff once the project is well underway. This is not to say all clients feel this way, but it occurs more often than we would like to see because we are open to working with clients to create a positive business outcome, which we feel is more than just delivering a system on time and budget.

Detecting the Cause of Friction

What is causing this confusion on client teams? It may vary from client to client, but a common theme is the lack of focus on the real, upfront change: ‘The mind shift’.


So much focus goes onto the systems and the Go-Live, which are months, or years away from the start of the project, that the upfront change challenge i.e. ‘The actual project mind set’ takes a back seat. This is not to say state and local government clients do not do projects, in fact, they do plenty, but it is this unique combination of enterprise system development work stretched over years with people they do not know (consultants) that seems to create a huge change event that unfortunately gets way overlooked.

We see the most project shock in organizations that have been trying to do more with less for quite some time.

Is there a way out?

Here are the four ways to mitigate the project shock

1) Embrace and respond (not react) to the big change event

The whole organization needs to realize the introduction to the technology project is a change event. Routines will change, behaviors will change, relationships will change. Add in amidst all this chaos, leadership needs to step up to ensure everyone, on all teams, is positioned for success.

We recommend reflecting on the organizational culture regardless of where you are in the project timeline. How do you support team building, sharing, problem-solving, communicating? Answers to these questions can shed light on how you enable or hinder the work at the team and individual levels.

Perhaps the greatest challenge we see with state and local governments relates to rewarding project work participation. Too often government clients feel they are trapped and unable to provide rewards for such project work but how do they know until they ask? Engage with collective bargaining units to see if something can be done to ensure team players are duly recognized for their role in transforming an organization.

2) Handhold staff for skill upliftment in project management

We recommend clients take stock of their staff project skills and experiences. Formal project work can be strange for the uninitiated. This is not to say project work is rocket science but technology implementation work does not translate to the client team members’ “day jobs”. We would be happy to help translate this alien work into terms everyone will understand and be able to create for themselves.

3) Develop a Project Boot camp

If you are about to initiate a project, consider developing a project boot camp (2 to 3 days) with your staff. CherryRoad would be glad to partner with you to develop a boot camp just for you that would focus on integrating your team with ours, so we work as one core team. We would focus on your culture to ensure our team processes would align with your culture.

We would also provide a primer to your team on how we work on projects with topics ranging from project management practices, to how we document and track your requirements, turn those requirements into a system, and test them before Go-Live, not to mention all the organizational change work we would advocate take place throughout the project as well.

4) Step back to move forward – change management workshops

Lastly, if you are already working on a project that is experiencing team frustration and anxiety, you may not want to take two or three days out of the project schedule to address team issues, but we would ask, “Can you afford not to address these team issues?”. That said, we understand your concern about time so we would suggest scheduling short workshops (2 to 4 hrs) developed to address specific project issues whether it be about frustrations regarding the project methodology or the way we report status or your desire to use a Google Drive rather than SharePoint to store project documents. Regardless, these issues need to be addressed. They will likely get worse over time, even in subtle ways.

We realize no one-size solution fits all, but our goal is not only to implement a great system but to help you transform into a great organization your citizens will be proud to support. We hope the considerations we have presented get you thinking about creating the most productive teaming experience in your tenure.

To know more about our team development and organizational change leadership services, please mail us at

About the Author :

Dr. Jeff Bailey, Manager Consulting- Cloud, CherryRoad Technologies

Dr. Bailey has 30 years of consulting experience focused on helping organizations improve people, processes, and productivity. Since the early 1990s, he has worked with dozens of public and private organizations helping them develop managers into leaders and adjust business processes to enhance operations and overall productivity. Dr. Bailey has been with CherryRoad for more than a decade working on the largest systems implementation projects as a project manager and as a change management advisor.

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If you’re looking to develop your IT strategy and collaborate with IT consultants, contact Cherry Road today. We provide digital asset management and strategic staffing solutions to businesses across industries. We’re here to support your organization and facilitate success through innovate SaaS solutions and business continuity planning.


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