If change is a critical part of effective project management, what change management skills do your PMs need to bring to the project?

Typically when projects are being introduced or undertaken within an organisation, change occurs. It’s often only the type of change and the size or scale of change that varies between projects.

But not all project budgets stretch far enough to include a stand-alone change manager and this requirement can often be overlooked anyway. The question then is do all project managers need some change skills to be successful?

Before we dive into the roles and responsibilities of a project manager, let’s set the context of what a project actually is.

The definition of a ‘project’

In defining what a project looks like, it’s helpful to look at some theory as defined by the Project Management Institute from A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide, Fifth Edition (2013)).

The PMI defines a project as being a temporary endeavour designed to produce a unique product, service or result with a defined beginning and end – usually time-constrained and often constrained by funding or deliverables – undertaken to meet unique goals and objectives, typically to bring about beneficial change or added value.

From this we know that a project delivers change so managing that change will be a critical enabler of success for the project.

Differentiating project management and change management

Once we understand what constitutes a project, the next step is to understand project management.

In short, project management is the process and activity of planning, organising, motivating and controlling resources, procedures and protocols to achieve specific goals.

A project manager undertakes the planning, monitoring and controlling of the project from inception to closure.

The PMBOK tells us this is done through five main processes (initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling and closing) and ten knowledge areas.

Each of the ten knowledge areas contains the processes that need to be accomplished within its discipline in order to achieve effective project management. Each of these processes also falls into one of the five process groups, creating a matrix structure such that every process can be related to one knowledge area and one process group.

So what is Change Management?

Change management is an approach to transitioning individuals, teams, and organisations to a desired future state. In a project management context, change management may also refer to a project management process wherein changes to the scope of a project are formally introduced and approved.

Change management is an integral part of project management

Put simply Change Management is an integral part of Project Management – be it managing the change in the context of the project deliverables such as time, cost, quality, scope and benefits (Project Change) or managing the change into the stakeholder community i.e. those people impacted by the change the project brings (Stakeholder Change).

But does this mean the Project Manager has to also be the Change Manager?

A rule of thumb would be the higher number of affected stakeholders from a project the greater the need for a specialist Change Manager to manage the change to the stakeholder community i.e. Stakeholder Change. The Project Manager will still manage the Project Change.

Change Management has developed significantly as a profession over recent years with a number of leading methodologies for delivering change. A Change Management methodology provides a disciplined process for managing the change into the stakeholders being used i.e. Prosci, is a market leading methodology.

Integrating change into project management

In summary then, a Project Manager – whether managing the Stakeholder Change or simply managing delivering the Project – must recognize that Change Management is a critical success enabler and have tasks and activities assigned accordingly.

Understanding the effects and providing for impacts on stakeholders is crucial to delivering a positive outcome from the project.

Within the Ten Knowledge Areas there are two obvious areas that can be attributed to Change Management namely Communications Management and Stakeholder Management:

  • Communications Management – Project Communications Management includes the processes that are required to ensure timely and appropriate planning, collection, creation, distribution, storage, retrieval, management, control, monitoring, and the ultimate disposition of project information.
  • Stakeholder Management – Project Stakeholder Management includes the processes required to identify all people or organizations impacted by the project, analysing stakeholder expectations and impact on the project, and developing appropriate management strategies for effectively engaging stakeholders in project decisions and execution.

So do your PMs need to be Change Managers as well?

Quay’s view is that this can be a grey area that must take into account many factors, but none more so than project complexity.

Project Managers need basic change management skills but the question needs to be asked whether change management can be executed successfully by the PM or whether the project is sufficiently complex and the depth of change required warrants the engagement of a professional Change Manager.

As project specialists, we develop fit-for-purpose strategy.  Contact us here to find out more about how we work with your teams or call 02 9098 6300.

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