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Projects and Change

I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying that the only thing certain in life is death and taxes. Of course, the other certainty is that things will always change, nothing stays the same. This is particularly true in the project environment, where everything we do is leading to change of some kind. All projects essentially exist to change a state, to create a new piece of infrastructure, update an IT system or create some kind of organisational transformation.

Why is change management not considered?

It is somewhat surprising then, that on many projects, change management is not thoroughly considered. According to PMI’s pulse of the profession survey, 40% of projects don’t consistently use change management techniques or practices. According to the same survey a similar percentage of projects fail to achieve their stated delivery goals. Given these statistics, taking a closer look at how we manage change on projects seems to be a no brainer.

How do you manage the people aspect of change?

While stakeholder management and communications management are included as knowledge areas in the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBoK), these two elements alone are not sufficient to effectively manage the people aspects of change. We have a responsibility as project managers to create a vision at the beginning of the project and to continually assess, monitor and report on how that vision is being achieved. We also need to take a broader look at the project and organisational context and consider if our stakeholders are ready for the change, and to anticipate and plan for possible resistance to the change. The best project managers understand this intuitively and treat the discipline of change management as part of their everyday management toolbox. For those of us that are more naturally focused on technical solutions or problem solving, taking time to review and manage the people aspects of the change is valuable and necessary.

Structured, supported or subjective?

While the discipline of project management is structured and supported by governance and metrics, change management can be more subjective and is often approached less formally. However, there are many models and frameworks that can be used to provide a blueprint to a holistic approach to managing change. Practitioners often find they use a model that they like personally, or that is preferred by the organisation. They might even use a specific model for a particular type of change. All of these methods are valid. The important thing is that change management is not seen as ‘different’ or ‘extra’. It should be seen as an inherent part of the project management task.

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