Managing projects and managing change: what’s the difference?

Jo_Hardwick_TaitBy Jo Hardwick, Global Change Manager, Tait Communications.

“Isn’t Change Management a part of the Project Manager’s responsibilities?”

This question has been put to me a number of times over the past 12 months as the Global Change Manager at Tait. And it’s a great question – one that really allows us to explore what Change Management is all about and how it inter-relates with Project Management.

In my opinion, Change Management and Project Management are complementary disciplines, with a shared objective – to maximize and realise project goals.

Successful change is a solution that’s effectively designed, developed and delivered (that’s the Project Management bit). It’s then embraced and adopted by the users (the Change Management element).

The experience I’ve gained in supporting our clients as they transition through changes in technology has reinforced my belief that the most successful projects are those that focus on the technical aspects of the change as well as the human side. Winning the hearts and minds of the user community is critical in achieving project objectives.

Even with the most successful project roll-out, a shiny new critical communications system is only a success if it’s utilized as designed, and then adopted quickly by users.

Working together, Project Managers and Change Managers can keep users fully up-to-speed with the change program by designing Change Management activities in parallel with the project plan. Together, they can make sure impacted users…

  • are aware of the changes they’ll face
  • understand the business needs driving the change
  • know how they’ll be personally impacted
  • know well in advance when changes will occur
  • become familiar with and are trained in the new technology in the best way at the right time

While these activities can never fully eliminate the challenges that inevitably occur whenever something changes, they can help to keep the equally-inevitable dip in productivity shorter and shallower than it would otherwise have been.

Planning for both technical and human aspects in change requires different skill sets, not usually found in the same person.

While Project Managers focus on applying their tools to the technical side of the change (statements of work, project charters, Gantt charts, budget estimations, resource allocations etc)  Change Managers have a ‘people perspective’ (individual change models, communications plans, roadmaps for sponsors and managers, resistance planning and training plans).

So, to answer the question, it’s a case of yes and no – change management is a key part of project management, because you need both critical elements to achieve success in any change project.

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  1. Rob Howes says:

    I read you post with great interest, as a Project Manager, a perfect project is one that is achieved on time, to a predetermined scope (no changes), and on budget. Projects by definition have a start and finished date. Any changes through the project, is normally defined as scope creep, and is the bain of a project manager and usually impacts on time and/or budget.

    Change management is a controlling process encouraging (or forcing) the adoption of boundaries, and hopefully bring about a meeting of the minds. The appointment of a successful project manager is best achieved by giving the role to someone who isn’t intimate with the actual tasks undertaken (that is the specialists function) (this minimises interference, and micro management), where a change manager should have a greater understanding of the processes involved, such as a specialist. Change management once a project has started, most likely will result in conflict.

    • Jo Hardwick says:

      Hi Rob, I love this idea of a perfect project! I hope to stumble across one some day! I absolutely agree, planning for change needs to commence early in the project – as remedial change management is much more challenging! I also like the model you propose – where a specialist project manager and a specialist change manager work together to support achieving a successful outcome. Thanks for your comments.

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