Bridging the gap between Project Management and Change Management

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Change management is a hot topic these days. At the heart of every project, lies the inherent benefits and challenges associated with change. Unfortunately, many organizations fail to recognize the importance of integrating the disciplines of project management and change management. Project managers are the most equipped change agents because we are on the front lines of change. There are 3 things every PM should know about change management while leading projects:

#1 Change management begins at the project initiation phase, not the execution phase. All too often, change management is an after-thought. While it is not possible to design the change management plan without the details, the change management strategy can begin as soon as the project is formally initiated. Project teams should assess the change readiness of the organization, and develop the structure for change management. Leveraging change management methodologies such as ADKAR, Kotter’s 8 Steps and many others can provide a  framework to build a foundation. Don’t wait too late to plan for change.

#2 Change management is more than communication and training; it is behavior change. Change management is not possible without Communication and Training, but Training and Communication is possible without Change management. Many organizations continue to struggle with cultural change no matter how many policies, processes and tools they put in place. How do we change behavior?  Senior leadership sponsorship, coaching, accountability systems and manager buy-in are all critical necessities when driving behavior change. However, the culture and sub-cultures within an organization largely impact the outcomes. PMs must seek to understand the cultural barriers and enablers and incorporate into the change management approach. Resist the temptation to start on communication and training before you formulate a change management strategy and plan.

#3 Change management continues beyond the project life cycle and your role
Project closure is a transition phase.Because of the temporary nature of projects and the project manager role, the change often gets lost in the transition. Wait five years, and the unsustainable change will rear its head once again, disguised as a “new opportunity”. There is always a transition of ownership from the PM back to the customer or business owner. Sometimes, business owners are not prepared to carry the change forward without you or a project team around to support them. Change does not happen overnight, therefore, the owners need to check the pulse after implementation to ensure that change is sustained as the environment and business needs change. These ownership transfer details should be addressed as part of the project transition plan, early in the engagement phase.

Strategically integrating sound change management and project management disciplines is the key to driving successful change. PMs must ensure both disciplines are treated with equal importance when managing major initiatives.

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