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Integrating Project Management and Change Management

With changes in an organization comes risk. There is the risk that it will be viewed with negative perceptions or lack support and not make it to fruition, or be inexpertly completed without the necessary environment for the project to reach its full potential. A 2015 symposium by PMINJ states that a project may fail due to the culture of the company (54%), inappropriate organizational structures (48%) or employee resistance (46%), among other reasons.

Project management and change management are frequently used in parallel to address change within the organization; however, organizations should be using them in unification for the ultimate promise of success. For example, change management may seek to prepare sponsors for engaging in the project’s deliverable, while project management ensures that the sponsors have defined roles and responsibilities.

The Difference Between Project Management and Change Management

The complementary disciplines both actively work to communicate and manage stakeholders’ expectations with the actuality of the project’s progress from different angles.

Project management prioritizes the technical aspects of a project—in other words, the defining a timeline of tasks and monitoring the actualization of a deliverable product or result. Project management effects change using strategy, structure and information sharing to accomplish the set objective, such as identifying knowledge gaps during training and coaching for the new methods a change will bring.

Alternately, according to A Girl’s Guide to Project Management, change management ensures that the people and culture of the particular organization are prepared and accepting of the change, since it often means a transition for the way their work is done. Change managers often act as ambassadors to the project to help individuals embrace the results of a project, working long before and after its beginning and completion to reinforce the project’s effectiveness in the long run and overcome resistance. They reinforce positive attitudes and train “change agents” to help smooth the process across the workforce.

The Benefits of Integrating Project Management and Change Management

Integration of the two disciplines into a holistic approach greatly increases the chances of success for any project an organization takes on. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ 2014 report, 96% of those organizations who used effective change management met or exceeded expectations on project objectives, while those with poor change management met their expectations only 16% of the time.

Since project and change management have similar elements, it makes sense to use them together for the most effective way to complete a project. The two disciplines can be combined to conduct reviews and create deployment plans, workshops, charter statements and resource plans. It works because employees are receiving communication and empowerment about the change to be expecting while leadership gets effective feedback on the project’s progress.

How to Integrate Project Management and Change Management

Integration can be achieved on five levels to align the technical with the people aspects of the project: people, processes, tools, methodologies, and results and outcomes.

  • People—Who does the change and project management? What are their relationships to the team? Choose one to be on the team to increase project knowledge and the other to externally support the team to keep it focused and objective.
  • Processes—Bring change and project management activities or tasks together to flush out the timeline in both disciplines and create the best structure to deliver concrete results. Sharing information is vital.
  • Tools—Utilize tools that work from both sides, like communication plans and risk assessment, that deal with both the technical and people aspects of the project. For example, how will the project affect how a task is done versus how a project will affect the confidence and stability of the people doing the task differently.
  • Methodologies—On an organizational level, the basic methodology should explain the standard approach to completing the project and its ultimate delivery. The methodology will determine when and how to integrate change and project management and when they should work separately. The methodology should help the team focus on actual product delivery without being overshadowed by reactions to the change, but should not forget those factors.
  • Results & Outcomes—This area focuses on mediating what success looks like for both disciplines. For change management, success is determined by how well the individuals within the organization take up the change, whether it is working in a new way or using a new tool; project management success is measured by the success of the concrete deliverable on time. With both concerns in mind, an organization’s success creates value for the organization as a whole and each of its employees.

Ideally, a project should start and end with change management to “sell” the change as a good idea, best prepare the team and ensure proper uptake; then, project management can focus on aligning the timeline and tasks with the change management timeline.

When integrating, don’t forget to consider what compromising between the two disciplines will mean in the long-term. Focusing on change management may throw off a strict timeline; however, focusing on project management may result in a lack of employee preparedness.

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