In Change Management, Project Management

Aren't project management and change management the same thing?It was first said centuries ago that change is the only constant. But it is just as true today. Effective change management is key to the success of any organisation. And its contribution is being recognised more and more. This means that the demand for knowledge about change management is growing, so I was delighted to be invited to give a talk at the Project Challenge Spring Show recently.

The title of my talk was “What effective change managers know and do” and it was based on the Change Management Body of Knowledge (CMBoK), of which I am one of the authors. Developed jointly by the Change Management Institute and APMG-International, last year, the CMBoK contains a wealth of knowledge and information to help anyone who manages change. And that is just about all of us, as a quick survey and show of hands proved.

Around 50 people attended the talk and although only three held the job title of Change Manager, the remaining 40 or so confirmed that they were also responsible for managing change within their organisation. This shows that you don’t have to have the title of Change Manager to manage change and that whatever your role is, the chances are that it involves aspects of managing change.

I talked about how change management differs from project management; the risks that arise when change isn’t effectively managed and what change managers do, to help achieve strategic goals. People often ask about the difference between project and change management so I’ll delve into this a little more here.

Of course projects are about change in that the purpose of the project is to deliver something that we don’t currently have, for example a new or updated IT system or a different process. But the main focus of project management is to ensure that what is required is delivered, and is fit for purpose, whilst controlling the work so that the project stays within budget and meets timescales. As part of this, if necessary people will be trained to use the new solution and there will be sufficient amount of support to ensure a successful handover. In my experience, this is typically where the project ends.

But as we all know, this is just half the story. The thing that will make a real difference to the business is how, and to what extent people, actually use the new thing that gets delivered. If you buy a new cookbook it doesn’t mean you automatically start having wonderful gourmet meals every night. That will only happen if you get into the habit of using it to cook these meals. Or if you have the aim of getting fitter, finding a gym, joining it and getting your induction programme done is just the first part. Think of that bit as successful delivery of the project.

To continue with the analogy, what you do beyond that point is what makes the difference to your fitness levels. No doubt you will have good intentions to stick to your new training plan and to go to the gym a certain number of times a week. Initially it takes a lot of effort and discipline to make sure you go regularly and stick to your programme. It takes time and getting used to. A shift in attitude and mindset is needed for this to become a natural part of “just what you do”, to avoid falling back into old habits and letting your gym visits start slipping. Seeing progress and that your efforts are directly leading to a healthier, fitter you is also a motivator and will help you stick to your goals.

The focus for change management is about helping to make real transition, to bring about change in behaviour and attitude. And this isn’t just something that can be tagged on to the end of a project. You need to start thinking about the extent of change that is needed and planning for it upfront. People need to be engaged with the idea of change, think through what that will look like, what it means for them and what it will involve, before they can start down that path. Only then will they be prepared to take action and adopt those changes. The right support also needs to be put in place to ensure change sticks.

Change in organisations occurs when people within them are ready and willing to do something different. Project management handles the mechanics of delivering change which is just one aspect of achieving change i.e. the new gym membership and exercise programme. Equally important is managing the emotional journey and supporting people through the change in attitude and behaviour that is required for lasting change to occur. The more that change depends on people changing their behaviour and attitude the greater the need for effective change management.

Change management is a big subject, though, and there is only so much I could cover in a presentation. But I can assure you that anyone seeking more information and guidance on change management will benefit from delving into the CMBoK.

You can read more about what is in the CMBoK.

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