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Project Management vs. Change Management

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feedback-speechI will probably incur the wrath of many a Project Manager with this post, but, hey, I have had that happen to me many times when working with them on various change initiatives.

Anyway here we go …

It never ceases to amaze me how the words Project Management and Change Management can be used in the same breath. In my experience (and this is not a criticism of PMs) Project Managers cannot execute Change Management because the two disciplines require a whole different set of skills and competencies. Unfortunately this seems to be something that is on the rise and it makes me wonder whether this contributes to so many change failures. Both disciplines aim for totally different outcomes:

  • Project Management is about installation. It focuses on a plan built around events and timelines with the aim of getting from a current state (no installation) to a future state (installation achieved).
  • Change Management is about adoption. It focuses on the people aspects of the change with the aim of getting a critical mass of people to be committed to the change involved, to learn new behaviours and to sustain them willingly.

Project Managers want to deliver on time, to quality and within budget whilst Change Managers ultimate aim is Adoption/Business Readiness … the two are sometimes in direct opposition e.g.:

Project Management role:

  • Drive solution delivery.
  • Communicate progress and impact on solution deliverables and project goals.
  • Implementation and technical risk management.
  • Focuses on project time, cost, quality, scope.
  • Follows project management lifecycle.
  • Steps and tools for managing the project from start to end.
  • Delivering project solution.

Change Management role:

  • Work towards change sustainability and integration.
  • Communicate progress and impact on people readiness.
  • People-side risk management.
  • Focuses on people-side strategies and planning for change adoption and timely benefits realisation.
  • Follows change management lifecycle.
  • Steps and tools for managing and motivating people who are experiencing change.
  • Concerned with the optimal ownership, use and benefit of the delivered solution

Reference: http://changestory.co.za/the-dangers-of-changing-without-change-management/

I believe what is needed is a collaborative effort between PMs and CMs where they both take responsibility for their own activities but work together to ensure that these activities are fully aligned. I started life as a PM and gained Fellowship of the Association for Project Management and then metamorphosed into CM. While my PM skills are used to good effect when planning CM activities I regard this as a secondary skill. For the most part planning CM activities is quite simple e.g. Communication… messages to be communicated, channels to be communicated through, stakeholder groups to be communicated to and frequency of communications. On the flip side I would argue that it is nigh on impossible trying to plan activities such as culture change and managing employee resistance especially the latter as this can crop up at any time and in any shape or form. Change initiatives invariably throw you several “curved balls” during their life-cycle which will not be on any plan and these have to be dealt with intuitively and in a timely manner to ensure thing do not go off track.

In previous assignments I have worked in partnership with a PM to deliver the solution required … each responsible for their own sections of the plan and deliverables but jointly responsible for the delivery of the overall solution. Of course there can be problems regarding deliver e.g. as a CM my view is that a project should not go live until the Adoption/Business Readiness tracking has achieved it’s intended target which may be at odds with a PM’s deliverables and potentially delay a project. Having said that if you can identify the “readiness” issue(s) that is/are causing the threat to go-live early enough and then talk them through with the PM so both of you instigate actions to bring the “readiness” back on track then this usually solves the problem.

For me CM and PM model of working in partnership is the way forward but unfortunately this is an overhead a lot of organisations will not want to bear. The PM with a responsibility for change or conversely the CM with a responsibility for PM just puts too much pressure on an individual and they may not necessarily have the right experience and skill-set to manage both elements.

Some additional supporting information for you:

  • A report published by ESI, a project management teaching provider, predicted that in 2013 many organisations will hold on to the belief that their Project Managers lack key leadership skills such as communications and negotiation skills. Yet companies will keep investing their training budgets in cultivating “hard” skills, instead of instilling leadership capabilities.
  • From Prosci:
    • Top change management obstacles 2012 Edition of Best Practices in Change Management by Prosci cites “Disconnect between project management and change management” being a major obstacle to success” … study respondents noted conflicting priorities and misalignment between project management and change management teams as a large obstacle to success. Respondents reported that a lack of consensus on how to integrate the two practices became a large challenge throughout the life of projects and often resulted in change management playing “second fiddle” to project management. Specifically, study participants cited difficulty involving and getting assistance from project managers.
    • 2012 benchmark study:
      • Projects with poor Change Management stay on schedule or meet desired outcomes only 16% of the time.
      • A Project stood a 95% chance of success (defined as meeting or exceeding project objectives) when using excellent Change Management.
      • Projects with excellent Change Management are on or ahead of schedule 72% of the time.
  • From a LinkedIn Survey by Beyond Strategy in 2012:
    • How important is Project Management to Business Change success?
      • Critical = 27%.
      • Necessary = 68%.
      • Nice to Have = 5%.
    • How important is Change Management to Project success?
      • Critical = 49%.
      • Necessary = 46%.
      • Nice to Have = 5%.

So there you have it. Don’t get me wrong I am all for some kind of alignment of both disciplines and there has to be a focus on getting the solution implemented. If that means either integrating both roles or having separate roles for a CM and PM then so be it. There is an old saying that goes “horses for courses” and that’s the way it should be.

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"The only constant in life is change." – Heraclitus

Such is true for life, as it is for business. The entire ecosystem our organization operates in—our customers, competitors, suppliers, partners, the company itself, etc.—is constantly changing and evolving. Change can be driven by emerging technology, regulation, leadership change, crisis, changing consumer behavior, new business entrants, M&A activity, organizational restructuring, and so forth.

Thus, the understanding of, dealing with, and mastery of the Change Management process is one of the most critical capabilities for our organization to develop. Excellence in Change Management should be viewed as a source of Competitive Advantage.

Learn about our Change Management Best Practice Frameworks here.

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About Ron Leeman

Ron Leeman has been involved in “change and process” work for more years than he cares to remember. He has worked extensively across the UK, Europe, and globally--and has an enviable track-record of delivering organisational change and process initiatives across a wide cross section of industry sectors. In 2012, Ron was bestowed with a “Change Leader of Tomorrow” award by the World HRD Congress “in recognition of my remarkable progress in initiating changes enough for others in the same industry to follow my example”. Ron is firm believer in knowledge transfer and now wants to share his vast knowledge with those who are considering getting into or at various stages of “change” and/or “process” work or those working on specific Projects wanting to gain practical insights into “how to” type situations. You can connect with Ron Leeman on LinkedIn here, where you can view his 85+ Recommendations and in excess of 800 Endorsements from clients and co-workers alike to give you an indication of the quality of service that he has provided and can offer. Ron is also a document author on Flevy. Browse his frameworks on Change Management, Process Analysis, and Program Management here: http://flevy.com/seller/highwayofchange.

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