, ,

Getting it Right: Critical Success Factors for Change Management Initiatives, Part 1

There are multiple Critical Success Factors (CSFs) that a successful Change Management (CM) program needs, so I decided to devote two separate blogs to the concept. After working with several public sector clients, helping spearhead their change initiatives, I have identified the following CSFs:

  1. Effective program management
  2. Strong support from the executive champion
  3. Clear goals and specific performance targets
  4. Experienced program manager
  5. Availability of resources
  6. Deliverables every two to four months
  7. Inspiring the team
  8. Measuring the effectiveness of the communications
  9. Sharing knowledge
  10. Training

In today’s blog, we will focus on Numbers 1-5.

These factors are listed in a random order. Depending on your project, some of these factors may have a higher level of urgency, and therefore should be prioritized. In fact, it’s typically a good idea to prioritize these factors to ensure that they secure the commensurate level of effort required to fulfill them.

  1. Effective program management. CM is typically a component of a larger program. The program manager must have the capability to plan and control multiple interdependent projects and have the authority to allocate resources and resolve project conflicts. If the program manager is not empowered with this authority, not only will the CM initiative be jeopardized, but the entire project could be at risk.
  2. Strong support from the project’s executive champion. In my previous blog (https://www.govloop.com/profiles/blogs/the-impact-of-ignoring-change), I discussed the benefits that visible executive leadership can provide and the adverse project impacts that may occur if the executive sponsor ignores CM. The champion must have a personal stake in the outcome of the project’s strategy and in the specific sub projects required to implement the strategy. The champion must be actively involved from the start to the implementation. In a recent project I worked on for Boise, ID the city manager was the executive sponsor of an e-gov project I was leading. He was involved in all they key decisions and reviewed all the documents we produced, including a final report exceeding 100 pages. (Yes, we did a lot of data collection). Other team member noticed the manager’s commitment and were inspired to put forward a similar effort.
  3. Clear goals and specific performance targets. The team must have clearly defined goals that can be measured against specific performance targets. The targets should represent tangible benefits the municipality receives and be utilized to determine project success or failure. When I was working with the City of Carlsbad, CA on their CRM project, some of the metrics they utilized included: securing specific resources (personnel) and program funding (budget), establishing site visits with existing call center implementations, and developing multiple communication tactics that utilized several different channels.
  4. Experienced program manager. The program manager should have previous experience bringing departments together to achieve a common goal. In some instances, the program manager may need to be an external contractor. Going back to Carlsbad, they reviewed all the internal candidates to lead their CRM implementation and based on the skill sets required are considering utilizing an external contractor because of the size and scale of their initiative. Remember, external contractors may have led several large, enterprise-wide projects. For them, program management is a core competency.
  5. Availability of resources. A sufficient number of people with relevant skills must be available when needed. The availability of personnel is a key success indicator of the resolve of the municipality’s leadership to see this project to a successful implementation. When I was working with City of Cleveland, the program manager worked closely with the project’s executive sponsor to get the appropriate resources attached to the project. As with most city employees during these times, employees are stretched quite thin and competing priorities can force employees to commit to fewer projects. This is where the executive sponsor comes into play. Typically, they are empowered to reset the employee’s priorities and key tasks so they can become part of the project team. The executive sponsor in Cleveland intervened is few instances as did the city manager in Boise that I referenced earlier.

Let me close with the following questions:

1 – Can you think of other critical success factors?

2 – Can you provide examples of any of the factors in action?

Tune in next week for Part 2 of the Critical Success Factors.

Spencer Stern specializes in assessing the business and process impact of new technology-based solutions, ranging from enterprise-wide software systems to wireless communications networks. In 2008 he launched Stern Consulting where he continues to focus on assessing the financial impact of large-scale municipal strategic implementations. He can be reached at: [email protected]

Check out my previous Change Management Blogs at:



For more information, please visit:


Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply

Avatar photo Bill Brantley

Good post! You might be interested in my dissertation where I studied an organizational change initiative. My findings touch upon some of your critical success factors but I think you might want to include “organizational alignment.” I agree that vision is important and so is communication but the key to implementing the change is aligning the organization and its members toward the vision.

Adrian Rathbone

Very interesting, and very valid at present. You may also wish to include “Engagement and Buy-in” across the whole organisation not just at Higher and middle management levels. The impact of change is too often underestimated by Senior Managers particularly when they enter into significant Business Tranformation covering revised operating models, new working practices, changing ICT infrastructure / products and property requirements – when they all come together at the same time it’s easy for staff to bury their heads and blame others ! We are very often the “glue” that pulls all of these things together. Look forward to reading 6 – 10.

Spencer Stern

Hi Bill,

Thanks for link. I am very excited to start reviewing the dissertation. I think it’s fantastic that you pursued such a rigorous approach in this highly topical area.

Spencer Stern

Hi Adrian,

Agreed. Thanks for your post. Next week’s blog will address middle management’s role. We are on the same wavelength 😉