Linking Project Management to Change

As a project manager, you know one thing is clear changing human behavior is not impossible, but it requires focus, planning and people come along the change timeline it different phases. Some move quickly and embrace the change others are resistance, questioning and skeptical.

Why is Change so Difficult?

There are many potential reasons:

  • Feeling that the present state is fine and comfortable
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Fear of failure and/or learning something new
  • Fear of being incompetent
  • Desire for security, routine, and dependability
  • Lack of motivation
  • Sense of being overwhelmed by the new
  • Lack of perseverance
  • Fear of job change and/or loss
  • The purpose of the change has not been conveyed

If a project manager does not acknowledge the reasons for change resistance, there is a risk of project fail, and lack of adoption.

This is how resistance within the organization often can manifest itself during project implementation:

  • Decisions already made are brought into question repeatedly
  • Special cases turn into a recurring point of discussion
  • Solutions are dissected right down to the last detail
  • Tasks already assigned are re-delegated again
  • Feelings of lack of being included
  • Feelings of things “projects/programs” being forced on people and departments

Knowing the Differences between Project and Change Management:

To be able to solution and manage the intra-organizational resistance in the project, you must re-align your focus as a project manager. This is no longer about the question of how to execute the project. Rather, you now have to ask: “Why are we doing the project” and “what is the project supposed to accomplish?” Key messages, communication planning and the whys, project benefits and the overall strategy of why the company is supporting this work, needs to be shared with the affected members and end users.

Differences between project management and change management consist in function and focus. In the same way, the skills necessary for the respective role naturally differ, too:

Project management requires the following skill set:

  • Analytical skills
  • Planning skills
  • Organizational skills
  • Attention to detail and processes

In change management, however, knowledge of human nature is the key to success. Key change management skills are:

  • Great communicator and the ability to communicate with the audience in mind.
  • Ability to Inspire Others – Getting People Excited About the Changes
  • Emotional Intelligence and Empathy – Understanding and Appreciating the Impact of the Change.
  • Forward Thinking – setting the vision for the future and bringing others along the journey.
  • Decisiveness – Eliminate the Grey and Keep Your Eye on the Ball
  • Active Listener – the ability to listen for resistance, concerns and positive messages.

As a project manager, you have to know or learn to encourage people to give up their set patterns of behavior and ways of working. You also have a further function in this case: that of the change manager. Thus, you are also responsible for changing the knowledge, attitude, and behavior of the team members in the project. And this also extends to the staff members affected by the effects of your project. Keep these critical components in mind:

  • Create a vision for change. The vision for change is often developed by the change leader. This vision defines what the organization will look like after the change project is complete. It is this vision that stakeholders must strive towards during the change program.
  • Develop a story for change. With change managers, good leaders should also craft, this  story acts as a map during the change process. This journey map defines the transition between “before” and “after,” offering a narrative that people can easily understand.
  • Embody and embrace change. Change leaders are the first to embrace change. By embodying their change, they provide an example for others to follow. If leaders don’t embody change before others, then it is likely that no one will follow them.
  • Earn support and trust. Leaders lead because others follow them – they don’t simply mandate change. With the right emotional traits, leaders can earn trust instead of giving orders.
  • Propel change forward. Change management leadership must also actively propel the change forward. They must define agendas, be exacting, overcome barriers to organizational change, and push teams when necessary.

As a wrap, it is critical to incorporate change themes in all aspects of the project plan. The two plans need to run side-by-side. No project can be successful, without a change management approach.