The interaction between organisational drivers of change and project delivery is critical to delivering meaningful and long-lasting cultural transformation. So how do we bring friends and frenemies to the table to achieve the right outcomes?

The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry ignited widespread calls for corporate change flowing from the significant leadership breakdowns, governance and accountability failures, lack of risk management, and lackluster culture and ethics identified by Commissioner Kenneth Hayne.

While the regulatory impacts of the Royal Commission are yet to play out, it is clear from the adverse findings that banks and financial services providers need to significantly invest in rebuilding trust with the public, customers, stakeholders, and government.

In this context, the way organisations develop, manage, and deliver projects is likely to see significant shifts as companies seek to restore confidence both in-house and externally. This process, although necessary, can be difficult and daunting for firms given the sub-optimal environments and cultures many organisations in the sector have previously fostered.

Embedding Change into Project Management

Against this backdrop of massive cultural change, where organisations must drive the scale and integrity of change to restore confidence, the interaction between project and change management is key to deliver meaningful and long-lasting cultural transformation.

That’s because an effective interplay between project and change management is critical in achieving cultural change inside companies in an environment of greater governance and scrutiny on project delivery in the wake of the Royal Commission’s shocking findings.

The first step to success is to embed change into project management and this can only be achieved if organisations set up their portfolio of projects for success. This requires c-suite decision makers who are involved in governance, project delivery and risk management to take a fresh look at how to enhance project effectiveness, including a renewed focus on:

  • Understanding that fostering successful project managers requires more than certification and training in technical project management. In an environment of complex projects involving increasing levels of community, customer and stakeholder engagement, the skills of project managers need to evolve so that they can carry responsibility for not just how project outcomes are implemented, but also how they result in the desired business, or cultural, change.
  • An improved commitment to develop the role of project sponsors and the steering committee to educate and hold them accountable to their roles, ensure investments in projects remain aligned to strategic outcomes, and make sure that expectations are clear around defining and monitoring realisation of project benefits.
  • Recognising that ‘accidental’ project managers are not the optimal solution for managing important investments. Here, the solution involves introducing core project management skills into organisational development programs, while at the same time developing career pathways for project managers inside firms.

Getting the PM/CM Mix Right

Australia, already in the middle of an era of project management with significant activity underway, will see significant further activity in the space due to the Royal Commission.

With the pace of project commencement set to accelerate, it’s essential that organisations get the relationship between PM and CM right. Recent research bears this necessity out, with 68 per cent of firms including change management capability in project establishment, but only 26 per cent believing it to be very or extremely effective.

So, where organisations must enact cultural transformation to nurture trust, it’s essential that project managers and change managers work together effectively.

Change and Project Management Must Work in Tandem

In general terms, change management professionals and project managers must collaborate more closely than ever before to ensure change resulting from projects is sufficiently addressed to lessen the impact on people inside organisations, while ensuring an adequate level of product and service delivery.

Collaborating in this way represents a holistic approach to strategy to reduce unnecessary stress and anxiety on people and create a smooth transition in terms of processes and acceptance levels, both during project phase and after delivery is complete.

But this is easier said than done. While change management and project management are often not connected — and the two fields have at times been viewed more as competitors than allies — today’s era of corporate cultural transformation means project managers and change managers must be leveraged more effectively to utilise each other’s core skills.

How Should the CM and PM Work Together?

As a starting point, it is helpful to consider that change management revolves around psychology and soft skills whereas project management is largely about getting projects to delivery. Both are essential for sustainable delivery, but both have very different emphases and contribute to organisational change in radically different ways.

When it comes to project success, project managers tend to believe they drive success due to their ability to ensure high-level communication and feedback, facilitate organisational adaptation and structural alignment, and their skills at synthesising different viewpoints.

By contrast, change managers tend to rate themselves ahead of project managers when it comes to successfully traversing political issues, involving project sponsors and champions effectively and securing and maintaining support from senior management.

Given the very different areas of focus of these disciplines, how they work together needs to be driven by a careful consideration of the work to be delivered and the organisation’s immediate needs. For instance, if a project contains risks on the supplier, performance, business case, planning, or resourcing side, then PMs may need to take priority. Conversely, on projects that contain priority issues on reconciling viewpoints, communication, environmental alignment or impact of technology, CMs may be better equipped to lead.

With the impacts of the Royal Commission here to stay, ensuring that change and project management work hand in hand – is critical to helping deliver successful project outcomes and ensuring effective and meaningful cultural change.

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

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Quay Consulting
Quay Consulting is a professional services business specialising in the project landscape, transforming strategy into fit-for-purpose delivery. Meet our team ...