Although change management and project management can be mutually exclusive disciplines, the combined efforts of both can create a powerful instrument for creating transformational change that produces more successful business outcomes.
Before you can help implement change management, you need to understand what this broadly used term means in the context of project management. Change management is a discipline that allows businesses to effectively identify and document anticipated changes to the business as well as to understand the ways that those changes affect individuals in terms of their workflows and processes. It also aids in preparing individuals for those changes and helps guide them toward best practices within new processes for continuous improvement.
Why change management is necessary throughout a project’s lifecycle
Strategic alignment is greatly impacted when you undertake projects. Projects make change inevitable and thus trigger the need for change management as a result of the impact to existing processes, people, and technologies. These changes will influence how the business delivers on its vision operationally, financially, and technologically, and they may even impact legal or regulatory responsibilities.
Stakeholder expectations can also become blocked as a result of changes that occur throughout projects and business initiatives. Most businesses recognize when external customers are impacted by changes to their business, while internal stakeholders may go unrecognized. Regardless stakeholder expectations should always remain in the forefront. Their expectations must be carefully monitored and managed in order to reduce lost confidence.
Process breakdowns and delivery deficiencies can become a reality if effective change management is not factored into project outcomes. All product, service, or support-related administration delivery should be carefully analyzed in the initial stages to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks. Simple details, if missed, can completely change effective delivery models and processes.
The three levels of change management (CM)
Individual change management is the most basic level, where changes can have a detrimental impact on each individual within an organization. When projects create change, some individuals adapt quickly and remain flexible, while others may react with fear, anger, and resistance. This can be a difficult area to navigate since change impacts each individual differently. These situations will require tailored communication, training, and guidance.
Organizational change management is where specific teams, departments, or groups of individuals are impacted by changes that occur. Leaders can more easily plan for, communicate with, guide, and train various groups on changes and the resulting impacts. Moving teams toward improvements and new processes can help them to more easily adapt. Team members can also assist, educate, and support each other in this effort.
Transformational management provides for managing change at a higher level and involves the recognition of the impact to the overall strategic planning, organizing, communicating, leading, and operating of the business. All initiatives and their impact should be factored in from an overall, company-wide vantage point.
Recruit a change-management expert
From the very beginning, a change-management specialist should work with the project team and stakeholders to identify and document the current processes as well as proposed changes. Look for individuals who are specifically trained and proficient in change management. This allows for a second set of eyes focused specifically in a discipline outside of project management, and this provides visibility from an operational efficiency standpoint. Doing this provides redundancy to some extent and increases the chances of solidifying company-wide buy-in. It’s important for company leadership and project managers to recognize their strengths and weaknesses and to solicit the help of change-management experts to enhance strategic initiatives.
Recognize the challenges for project and company leaders
Change almost always brings about uncertainty, fear, insecurity, resistance, withholding of information and efforts, and possibly even the sabotage of efforts by individuals. More often than not, this is unintentional but nonetheless present. These are not things that can go unaddressed. The project, portfolio, and ultimate strategic success will be greatly impacted by how effectively and expediently human interaction and reaction are managed.
Work toward addressing the human reaction to change
Clear, timely, and transparent communication is critical to mastering effective change management within and outside of projects. From the onset, leaders must factor in the anticipated changes as well as the anticipated individual and group reactions, and then leaders must address them quickly and entirely. Without this, the risk of adverse reaction and impact to projects, portfolio, and company-wide success is likely to be high. This is not the time to underestimate individual input or output or concern. Be direct and fair.
Put in sufficient time identifying, planning, and analyzing
Considering the impact at a strategic level, this isn’t something that you should rush. Take the time to identify and solicit input from all relevant business areas and involve a change-management expert from the very start. This should provide some additional risk management and ensure that possibilities and pitfalls have been properly contemplated, identified, and addressed before proceeding.
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Moira Alexander, PMP, I.S.P., ITCP/IP3P, is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of PMWorld 360 Magazine, Founder of Lead-Her-Ship Group, and author of “LEAD or LAG: Linking Strategic Project Management & Thought Leadership,” and other ebooks on Amazon. She’s a project management and IT columnist for various top-tier publications including CIO, CMSWire, TechRepublic (CBS Interactive), and a contributor to USA Business Radio and the Price of Business Talk Radio. She has over 25 years of experience in business (IS&T) and project management for small to large businesses in the US and Canada and has been quoted in various publications including Forbes. She writes about leadership, news, and project management products and services.