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How to Prepare Users for Change Management

with Pamela Ann Sinclair

How to Prepare Users for Change Management

In this episode, we’re joined by Pamela Ann Sinclair, a training specialist for Cora Systems and change management expert, who shares her expertise in change management preparation. Pamela discusses her journey into the world of change management, highlighting its increasing relevance in project management over the past decade. She emphasizes the pivotal role of change management in successful project execution and provides a practical checklist of industry best-practices to ensure smooth transitions. Pamela also explores common pitfalls in change management based on her extensive experience, offering insights on how to avoid them.


In this episode we discuss “How to Prepare Users for Change Management

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Important Timestamps:

● 00:58 – Introduction to Pam Sinclair and Change Management
● 02:30 – Change Management: A Marketing Buzzword
● 05:36 – Pam on the Basics of Change Management
● 08:13 – The Two Biggest Pitfalls
● 14:58 – Pam’s Key Learning Experience
● 17:38 – Importance of Change on People


Transcript of “How to Prepare Users for Change Management”

This is Project Management Paradise. Project Management Paradise is brought to you by Cora Systems. A worldwide leader in providing enterprise project and portfolio management solutions to global agencies such as Honeywell, Boston Scientific, PwC, and the UK’s National Health Service.  

[00:00:23] Aaron Murphy: Hello everyone and welcome to the Project Management Paradise podcast, your passport to project success. 

I’m your host Aaron Murphy and today I’m joined by Pamela Anne Sinclair to discuss the topic on how to prepare users for change management. Pamela is the training specialist here at Cora Systems. She is an experienced implementation consultant and quality assurance analyst with a proven track record in the computer software industry. 

And she is certified in change management. Pamela, thank you so much for being on the podcast. How are you today?  

[00:00:55] Pam Sinclair: I’m good. Thank you for having me.  

[00:00:58] Aaron Murphy: No, thank you so much for being a guest. 

To start things off, maybe you could tell us a bit about yourself and your background and how you ended up working in change management. 

[00:01:07] Pam Sinclair: Absolutely. So I grew up in Northern Nevada and I currently live in the Lake Tahoe area. Right now I’m calling in from my little mountain cabin, and I have a master’s degree in applied behaviour analysis from Northeastern University. And I’ve also been working in the SAAS software area since I graduated in 2011, have also been a remote employee since 2011. 

And within that time, I’ve pretty much spent most of my professional experiences in professional services and most of that in software implementation. In 2019, I became ProSci certified change manager. 

[00:01:48] Aaron Murphy: That’s fantastic. You seem to have a very educated background and a master’s in psychology. Is that correct? 

[00:01:54] Pam Sinclair: Yeah, it’s a master’s in Applied Behaviour Analysis, so I did a lot of my practicum hours working at a school with children diagnosed with autism. And basically it’s teaching them skill acquisition and behaviour modification. And so when I graduated I made the jump into business and software and turns out that software implementation is a lot of skill acquisition and behaviour modification. 

So, it translated very easily.  

[00:02:23] Aaron Murphy: They went hand in hand. 

[00:02:24] Pam Sinclair: Essentially, Pretty much.  

[00:02:27] Aaron Murphy: And that’s fantastic. And you’re certified in change management. So would you be able to tell us how did you transition to this area? And how was it a trend, a topic of interest for yourself?  

[00:02:39] Pam Sinclair: Yeah, I’ve always heard of change management and it was always to me like a marketing buzzword. 

It was right up there with like innovation and alignment. Like it was just words that I heard from a marketing standpoint. And then at a previous company I worked at we were signed up for this three day course to become pro side change managers certified all this stuff. And within like minutes of being in that course, I was like, Oh, This is not a marketing buzzword. 

This is actually a process. This is actually something we should be doing with our implementations, like every single one of them. And so throughout that course, I really just learned the importance of change management and the processes around it.  

I think from like, an implementation standpoint, change management really works in with having leadership buy in and change as well as project management. A lot of our projects, especially being a PPM software tool, we’re looking at project managers and their focus is around resources, scope, time budget, did the project finish on time and under budget and from a change management perspective, I think it’s a really hot topic.  

[00:04:00] It focuses on the people side of change. It’s having people adopt this new software tool, this new process. And having those tools allows for the adoption to occur.  

[00:04:05] Aaron Murphy: Amazing. So it wasn’t just a buzzword after all.  

[00:04:12] Pam Sinclair: I’m still shocked that I thought it was.  

[00:04:14] Aaron Murphy: It seems like it has become more important over the last 10 years. 

And as you said, like it does tie in with all aspects of the project, especially when you want to come in delivering under budget so that you know that there’s profit.  

[00:04:27] Pam Sinclair: Yeah, within the last 10 years, I really think that change management has become an actual process that’s incorporated into projects. 

And I look at this mostly from my background of doing software implementations. But from that perspective, I swoop in, I show up on site or in a conference room, virtual conference room. And what I’m doing is I’m asking real people to change their jobs. I’m flipping their life on its head. 

[00:05:00] They’ve been doing this job for 30 years. They’re experts in what they do. And I show in as a third-party vendor and I go, guess what? We’re going to be doing something different.  

And so having a baseline of change management, a process in place from the inception of projects or a software implementation, just having basic change management tools in place allows for a better likelihood that these experts, these people are going to be able to adopt this new method and feel empowered to use the tools that we’re training them on, and they can still continue to be experts. 

[00:05:36] Aaron Murphy: Amazing. And when it comes to change management, what are the basics? Would you, for example, have maybe a four or five checklist of items to consider when it comes to industry best practice?  

[00:05:47] Pam Sinclair: Oh, for sure. That just the foundation of change management is that the individuals were asking to change. 

[00:06:00] They need to be aware that this change is occurring. They also have to want to change and they have to be willing participants to adopt the new process that we’re implementing at their organization or within their role. And then they also need to know how to change, how to use the tools. How to adopt the new skills and behaviours that we’re implementing and bringing to their day to day life. 

[00:06:21] And then the last one is probably one of my favourites. It’s that there needs to be ongoing reinforcement for that change to stick. By definition, reinforcement is the increased probability that the behavior will occur again in the future. So, making sure that the users understand. the whole idea around this change, the whole idea around how to change in the tools, and then making it sticky for them so that they continue to behave in that manner in the future. 

[00:06:54] Aaron Murphy: So your master’s degree does come in handy for that bit. 

[00:06:57] Pam Sinclair: Yeah, I maybe even learned that definition in undergrad.  

[00:07:02] Aaron Murphy: And just out of curiosity, when You’re implementing a change management or even in implementations. I’d say there’s probably this fear of change that it’s always associated. Is this something that’s common in this process? 

[00:07:18] Pam Sinclair: Oh, yeah, most. So, I am the outlier here. I’m the person who has a month-to-month lease because I’m like, I might want to change. But most people are resistant to change. Most people want to just show up, do the job. They get comfortable. They like what they’re doing. They understand it. They feel like an expert. 

[00:07:39] They want to know how to do their job well. And when we come in with a new software, a new tool or a new process, it is really hard to get everyone on board. And you do get a lot of resistant attendees and sessions. So it, it’s having those basic principles of change management outlined earlier in the project does help set it up for success. 

Learn the keys to effective change management by accessing a complimentary copy at 

[00:08:13] Aaron Murphy: That’s amazing. And what’s a big pitfall when it comes to change management?  

[00:08:18] Pam Sinclair: So I actually have two, two pitfalls. And it’s the beginning and the end when we’re looking at the change management cycle. And the first one is lack of communication and then lack of ongoing reinforcement. So having a very basic communication plan in place from the time that a project is kicking off allows for users to know that this change is happening.  

[00:08:32] So again, from a software implementation standpoint, having a senior executive or a sponsor or stakeholder of the project, make an announcement that we purchased a new software and that way as the trainer or the onsite consultant, I don’t walk in and say, hi, everyone, welcome to the training and they ask me, what are we doing here? And I say. Oh, we’re training on the new software. You’re going live on Monday. And they look at me like, what are you talking about?  

[00:09:05] So having that just very simple communication plan allows for people to be aware of the project. It also allows for the people involved in the project to be aware of anyone who is resistant to the change. 

It opens up the channels of communication that go in the other direction. And that way, it gives the resistant changees ease an opportunity to raise questions, to help me be drive part of the project so that it does fit for their day to day and project team can meet in the middle with the attendees. 

[00:09:39] And then it also gives a point of escalation. So if there are major concerns, be the resistant attendees or the resistant changees can roll it up to a senior stakeholder or an executive sponsor of the project to bring to light. You know what these concerns are. And then at the end of it, another pitfall is the lack of ongoing reinforcement. 

[00:10:05] And this is coming from a millennial who loves to have trophies for showing up. And I don’t mean reinforcement from like a everyone wins, everyone needs to be celebrated. And I do love to be celebrated, Aaron. I expect compliments as I go through this. But I mean the reinforcement from the standpoint of that everyone has been trained, everyone has the knowledge, and moving forward, they are able to use that knowledge. 

[00:10:34] I do love celebrating the small wins and I do think that those pieces, it is reinforcement. I do think that those should be called out at team meetings or in company newsletters, but the big pitfall within reinforcement that I see is that the project goes live. Like I said, I show up, do my training, project goes live on Monday. 

[00:10:58] The project team disbands, and no one ever talks about it again. And that’s the pitfall right there is because everyone’s been trained. They know that this is, they know what they should be doing now. And there’s nothing more that happens after that. That’s the pitfall. So, what I like to see and what I like to bring to light to my customers is the idea of having lunch and learns. 

[00:11:20] Okay, so I’m very food motivated. You tell me there’s going to be food in the conference room. You could talk about anything. I’m showing up. There’s burritos, donuts, I’m there. So having lunch and learns, having open office hours with the project team for the first couple months after I go live.  

[00:11:44] Sit downs with the subject matter, expert tips Tuesdays, sending out a newsletter or things I learned today and then the big one that I really like to see is creating a coalition of users. I call it the Cora Coalition.  

[00:11:55] This coalition will meet on a semi regular basis, maybe for the first six months It’s every other month and then it turns to quarterly and then biannually.  

[00:12:05] But what this group would do is discuss what’s going well, what’s not going well, what can we change and bringing that back to the system administrator who can then bring it back to their Cora representative to make some updates. 

[00:12:19] Maybe there’s an easier way for a page to be laid out or an easier way to run a report or extract data. Yeah. And so, this Cora Coalition. It’s that line of communication that can report back to that project team and let them know, look, we’re really trying to change, but there’s a few things that can be done better and a little bit easier. 

[00:12:50] Aaron Murphy: Absolutely, and it seems that communication from beginning to end is a key factor. And I really like the idea of the lunch and learns. Me too. I am, if there’s food there and I get to eat and listen to someone talk and learn something, 100 percent I’ll be there. I don’t care what the food is. I will eat it and I’ll have a great time. 

[00:13:09] Pam Sinclair: I don’t care what the food is. I don’t care what the topic is. You tell me there’s food in the conference room, I’m there.  

[00:13:15] Aaron Murphy: Hundred percent with you on that. A hundred percent. And it’s good that you have this like the communication part, and I suppose even setting up the likes of like maybe a team’s channel or a Slack channel where you can constantly be asking questions because you can’t get better at something unless you have that knowledge, so that’s amazing. 

[00:13:35] Pam Sinclair: Yeah, as I’ve been in software and training for, 12 years now, I have to say things seven different ways, seven different times to the same person before it actually makes sense to them. And so you can’t just walk into a training room or a conference room, a virtual conference room and say, here’s how you now use Cora PPM. 

[00:14:00] Here’s how you’re now managing your project because it they’re going to get. 10 percent of what I say, and they’re now missing 90 percent of what they were an expert in the day before.  

[00:14:14] Aaron Murphy: Absolutely, and I imagine having the likes of the Cora Assistant in the platform as well makes things easier, because I know myself, I’m a visual learner, I have to be shown it, and I have to follow step by step in order to remember how it’s done. So having a process like that probably…  

[00:14:29] Pam Sinclair: Oh, Cora’s Assistant. I refer to Cora’s assistant as my best friend. Aaron, I know you’re really upset that you’re not my best friend, but I’m sorry. I’m sorry to tell you that it’s Cora’s assistant who’s my best friend.  

[00:14:40] Aaron Murphy: That’s okay, Pam. That’s okay. I won’t take it to heart this time, I promise. 

[00:14:43] Pam Sinclair: I’ll still sit next to you at the conference room and we can eat the food and do our lunch and learn together.  

[00:14:49] Aaron Murphy: I’m going to hold you to that and just to tie it back into implementations, from your experience working on big implementations over the last few years.  

[00:15:00] What has been a key learning experience for you on a project? 

[00:15:02] Pam Sinclair: No two projects are ever the same. It’s shocking, right? We create all these repeatable processes, and we try so hard to repeat them. Shocking that no two project is ever the same. So, what I’ve learned is you have to be flexible. And those repeatable processes just have to be tools in your toolkit. 

You’re going to modify them for every project. I modify them for every single customer, for every single personality and those tools that I like to bring to the workbench is I like to have a just baseline communication plan. It’s going to be modified for every single project, but having that baseline communication plan ready to go is extremely helpful. 

[00:15:45] Having a training outline, who’s going to be trained, what are they currently experts in and what are we going to be asking them to become experts in so that we can start that planning and communication earlier rather than later so they don’t get that invite on a Wednesday for go live on a Monday kind of thing. 

[00:16:06] And then also having in your toolkit resistant management plan, even though you’re communicating and you’re coming up with all these training plans, you’re still going to have a resistant changee. And so having a plan in place to bring to light what barriers they’re running into, helping them understand the learning objectives and the change objectives is really helpful that you’re not backtracking on that you already have that ready to go. 

[00:16:36] And then we already talked about reinforcement so having a reinforcement plan in place. And the last one that I like to have in my toolkit is governance, how are we going to not only reinforce the user’s behaviors, but reinforce the ongoing updates of the system. Like Cora, we roll out new features and functionality every two weeks. 

[00:16:55] So what’s the governance around? Making sure the sites upgraded, making sure that the users know what the new features are and the new functionality. Creating that governance team and having a plan around what that is internally is very helpful.  

[00:17:09] Aaron Murphy: I’d say every two weeks with the new features released, you will get a lot of questions, a lot of curiosity from the trainees. 

So you always have to be up to date with everything that’s happening.  

[00:17:19] Pam Sinclair: Yeah, you do. You do. And that’s part from being like a system administrator. That’s part of, of your governance as part of your job, being able to understand when to upgrade and what features you’re needing internally for your project management team to need to implement. 

[00:17:37] Aaron Murphy: Amazing. And the final question I have for you is why is the people’s side of change so important?  

[00:17:43] Pam Sinclair: The people at your company, these are your coworkers. These, you spend a quarter of your week at work, if not more, so much energy. It’s so much time. It becomes such a part of your life. That putting the people side of change front and center in a project just allows for open lines of communication. 

[00:18:11] It just, it allows for people who are resistant to change to come forward and speak up in a less emotional way versus the day of training for go live the next day. You’re going to have a few emotions in there, so it gets the calmer reactions out sooner rather than the more emotional ones later. And it also allows for a smoother transition from one process to the bigger, better new process. 

[00:18:31] Aaron Murphy: That’s fantastic, Pamela. Thank you so much for all the knowledge you shared with us today on the podcast episode. I’ve really enjoyed it. Personally, I didn’t take offense that the best friend comment. It’s okay. But if anyone would like to reach out to you to find out more about change management or even just to connect to learn some maybe checklist items that they should implement when they’re going through this process, where would be the best place to reach you?  

[00:18:55] Pam Sinclair: They should reach out to their sales representative, and they should buy more professional services, days and hours, and then request that I can fill those hours and I will give them all the tools in my toolkit. 

OR they can find me on LinkedIn.  

[00:19:12] Aaron Murphy: I love it. I’ll make sure to put a link to your LinkedIn below and anyone looking to reach out to their account manager, we’ll have to find a different process for that one. But once again, Pamela, thank you so much for your time today and thank you so much for being on the podcast. 

[00:19:29] Pam Sinclair: You’re very welcome. Thank you, Aaron.  


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