Change management refers to using processes and tools to implement changes and lead people through transitions. It’s also an important part of project management since both work in tandem to put change initiative ideas into practice.
Change management and its role can be discussed in a broader context by exploring change itself and project management. While these are distinct concepts, they are closely related and must work in harmony to achieve sustainable organizational change.
What Is Change?
A change refers to a solution, project, or initiative that is introduced in the organization to transform it. Changes are introduced to solve problems, improve workflow and processes, and benefit from different opportunities presented.
It’s important to address change head-on because it doesn’t just affect organizational processes – it also affects employees and other stakeholders. In order to ensure change, organizations must focus on both change management and project management.
Change management and project management are closely related. This is because organizations cannot simply implement changes.
These changes must be well thought out, and the organizational difficulties and remedies to these problems must be understood before change implementation.
Project Management vs. Change Management
While change management and project management are distinct concepts, they affect one another. Both are required for successful organizational change, and change management plays a significant role in project management.
Both change management and project management focus on transitioning the organization from one state to another. However, while project management refers to technical aspects of change, change management is thought of as the people side of change.
Project management consists of tools, skills, and techniques used to create value and bring a team or product from one point to another. While there are many different ways to go about project management, one thing is for certain – change management must be prioritized alongside project management so that an organization can prepare and support the individuals going through the change.
It’s important to note that while project management is the technical side of change, this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the technological side of change. It may be technological change or it may consist of other changes such as mergers, updates to policies, etc. Thus, technology is not always involved.
Project management usually consists of the following:
- Determining milestones and what has to be completed
- Determining the scope of the project, i.e., what is included and excluded
- Deciding what resources are needed and how they will be used
All project management processes can be divided into the following stages:
- Controlling and monitoring
While project management focuses on the change and the processes regarding it, change management focuses on the individuals impacted by the change.
Thus, change management refers to using tools and processes to lead individuals through change to achieve the organization’s vision. This consists of helping employees and other stakeholders affected by change through personal and professional transitions, including by engaging them, encouraging feedback, and more.
In doing so, organizations encourage and motivate individuals to adopt the change.
Change management usually consists of the following:
- Devising communication methods and messages
- Informing employees about the need for change and shaping the perception of change
- Getting senior leaders and other people in management on board with the change
Thus, while project management aims to use resources to deliver solutions and the project, change management aims to ensure people affected by organizational change successfully transition to the new change and fulfill new requirements.
Also read: Change Management Impact Assessment
The Importance of Change Management in Project Management
Change management is critical in project management because preparing individuals impacted by the change and encouraging them to support the change is a major part of change implementation.
Both approaches must be used in conjunction, with change management playing the essential role of equipping individuals with required skills and motivating them to adopt organizational change.
Additionally, project management changes quickly and individuals need to be able to adapt to changes without delay.
Having change management processes in place ensures that individuals know how to react to and accept change. Having all stakeholders on the same page increases the likelihood of successful implementation.
It should be noted that project management teams are focused on fulfilling project objectives, and thus, are unable to address the impact of this on employees.
Transitioning and going through change can create confusion and anxiety in individuals. This results in resistance, which is one of the primary reasons for the failure of change initiatives. A change management team ensures buy-in from employees and other stakeholders by:
- Planning for change
- Managing change
- Reinforcing change
The following are some ways change management and project management can be integrated to achieve optimal outcomes.
Align Goals and Objectives
Since both project management and change management work towards sustained change and successful implementation, it’s important to align goals and objectives. In doing so, both teams can collaborate and deal with both change objectives and impacts.
Provide Clarity and Define Roles
Change implementation is a challenging process that can be hindered when teams do not know what they are responsible for. Clarifying responsibilities and defining roles ensures accountability and effectiveness while eliminating delays and miscommunication.
Use a Structured Approach
While organizational change and the approach to it are personalized from company to company and initiative to initiative, using a structured approach can be extremely helpful. This doesn’t necessarily mean having strict guidelines in place. Instead, ensure that regular communication is used to determine a structured process and method. This clarity and structure will ensure both change management and project management teams can work in tandem to meet deadlines and stick to objectives.
Summary and Conclusion
Almost all organizational change has a technical side and a people side, making it essential to utilize both and ensure the change is successful. Of course, when putting both into motion, it’s integral to customize approaches for each organization and the type of change initiative. It’s often challenging to understand the nuances of change management and project management and the differences between the two. However, by understanding this, organizations and leaders will be able to troubleshoot problems and know how to correct actions and initial plans.
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