Using Change Management to support Project Management

January 10, 2022 — Chris Spencer

All too often organizations begin a technology project and task a project manager to execute their typical PM responsibilities and attempt to also address as many change management aspects as possible.  This approach to managing a project unknowingly produces an environment in which the PM is primarily focused on the common project-related tasks and cannot devote the time necessary to initiate change activities such as administering readiness surveys, interpreting the results of team exercises, conducting risk assessments, drafting communications, and project health evaluations.  Overall success is quite possible if the Project Management team is supported in a constructive relationship with a dedicated change team.

The primary outcome when an organization chooses to add Organizational Change Management (OCM) as a component of their technology project(s), is how it supports and reinforces their project management (PM) team.  OCM addresses the “people side” of the change while the project team manages the “technical side” of the change.  These two teams intersect and complement each other at strategic and planned points along the pathway to implementation.  The touchpoints allow both teams to align each side of the change to bring the organization into the future state using a defined methodology that involves continuous assessment of both the individual stakeholder and the broader organizational acceptance of the change.

Project Managers assigned to technology projects focus on the initiation, planning, execution, monitoring/controlling, and closing aspects of a project.  These tasks are commonly accomplished through the generation of timelines, budgets, quality control, risk identification logs, and maintenance of specific actions within the stated scope of work.  In contrast, change managers focus on the adoption of change at the individual level through surveys and at the organizational level by preparing for the change, managing the change in a methodic manner, assessing the readiness of the organization, and reinforcing the change after the implementation.

The shared tasks for both teams tend to revolve around the development of strategy, creation of planning documents, crafting/timing of meaningful communication messaging, management of resources, and assessment of change adoption by impacted stakeholders.  Throughout the duration of the project, both teams are able to focus on the concepts represented in their respective spheres of influence as depicted in the Venn diagram below.  When an organization commits to the inclusion of change management during a technology project, the items in the common space below become aligned, complementary, and collaborative between the two teams.

The value that the dedicated OCM consultant brings to the organization is the ability to manage the facilitation of the many exercises used to determine overall strategy and assess the level of change management that will be needed to achieve the project’s goals.  This approach is most successful when the project team and OCM lead align early during the planning and design phase of the project.  As the Change Management Plan document is developed and delivered, the change team stays close to the project progression.  This proximity to the project allows them to create health checks using surveys and risk assessments to support the project manager by identifying timely strategic adjustments and enhanced communications efforts.   These tasks performed by the change manager alleviates the project manager from the need to address two separate aspects of the project and permits a focus almost entirely on ensuring success for the technical side of the change.  This addition of a change manager benefits the overall organization by allowing both sides of the change to be managed in a productive manner, thus ensuring project success is elevated and the desired return on investment is achieved.

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Chris Spencer


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