Why every project manager must understand change management

If you are a Project Manager right now looking for the next course or discipline to pursue, I would suggest change management. We, as Project Managers, are consistently associated with change efforts of all kinds touching every level of the organization, yet, we seldom have the proper tools and therefore are ill-prepared to support our stakeholders.

In recent years, I have been examining the project management landscape and have realized that if I wanted to keep up with the profession or even be a step ahead, I was going to have to be better or at least understand change management way more when dealing with project implementations in the context of organizations.

Part of every good training program for a project management professional should include not only change control but change management concepts. It is important not to confuse these two concepts as being the same as they are very distinct and have vastly different repercussions on projects. You will notice that in terminology, one will see the word organizational added when we are talking about the second instance. The first deals with how we maintain our baselines by monitoring and putting in place specific controls for changes, mostly impacting cost, schedule, scope, and quality elements. The second one is the one where we are at a disadvantage and hardly ever get any training until it is later in the game. As a matter of fact, I don’t know of a program out there, which includes proper organizational change management for Project Managers. Most change management programs are taken as if they are a separate set of skills and quite often by a different group of individuals in order to manage organizational change.

Often, stakeholdersreaction to a Project Manager bringing in a new project is that of concern, anxiety, and stress. The same exact symptoms that many individuals face when dealing with change. As a matter of fact, any Project Manager walking in a room would almost swear that people see the word “Change” plastered on their forehead. We do plan, support, and deliver changes with the implementation of every project. What we do not do well is understand and deal with how these changes impact the delivery of those projects and people’s everyday lives.

We are quick to blame some, if not most, of our issues on the lack of stakeholder support or engagement, but I will contend that what we are dealing with is mostly a lack of clear understanding of how changes modify and influence stakeholder behaviors.

So, what exactly is change management?

Change management is not a new concept, in fact, it dates, in its current form, from the mid-1900s when Kurt Lewin (yes, the same person who gave us leadership styles and the force field analysis) proposed the first of several models to come in support of individuals going through organizational change.

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