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  • Blog
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Author  Stephanie Brain – Marketing Manager, Ambiental Risk Analytics

August 30, 2023 |

 8 min read

  • Blog
  • PPM

According to McKinsey & Company¹, 70% of all change initiatives fail, so the stakes for delivering positive project outcomes are high. So how can project managers benefit from the discipline of change management?

Project management and change management represent complementary approaches, both needed to ensure a project avoids the risk of failure. Each approach embodies a set of principles to implement change successfully, but they have different focuses. 

Project management is chiefly concerned with processes, products and deadlines, whereas change management seeks to get the best out of the people involved in delivering a project. If a project or programme delivers internal transformation, change management aims to ensure the new paradigm is embedded across the organization’ culture, delivering long-term benefits.

The evolution of change management

Back in the late 1940s, change management was based on academic research looking at the psychology of how individuals experience and adapt to or resist change. Later, it became focused on organizations and how they can develop processes to enable change. Various models such as TAM were developed to help. The TAM® model and process can be used with any project management framework or alone to produce immediate and measurable results. It originated from the research and development work done at Stanford Research Institute by Albert Humphrey and aims to solve the human problems of project management work. TAM® is designed to combat the traditional personality problems experienced when introducing change by obtaining the necessary agreement and commitment from the appropriate people required to guarantee results.

In the digital era, change must be managed in a more agile and collaborative way. Rather than being imposed from the top down, teams are encouraged to create and manage transformative change from the ground up.

The value of change management

Change management as a discipline is becoming increasingly valued but is still treated with varying degrees of seriousness. Some organizations have mature change management approaches and dedicated change managers while others neglect the approach in favor of processes and procedures. In some workplaces, the change management function is combined with the project management office (PMO). Elsewhere it is treated as a distinct discipline, or sometimes viewed as the responsibility of all senior managers.

Companies that recognize the value of a rigorous change management approach know the risk of working without it: for example, squandered time, money, and resources if change fails. A lack of change management expertise can dampen employee morale and hamper skills development in the workforce.

The speed at which an enterprise can adapt to change is of growing importance to many stakeholders, including investors, suppliers and current or prospective employees. Whenever a new project is initiated, project managers should consider the degree and type of change management needed for success.

Necessary skills

Change managers need good vision and sound judgement, coupled with strong communication skills to sell the vision to all stakeholders. Change management involves leadership and strategic thinking skills, combined with a good grasp of research methods, measurement and analysis.

The role also calls for a high degree of emotional intelligence and empathy. This helps understanding of their feelings, motivations, and fears at different stages of a business change. Project managers can develop some of these skills to complement their focus on processes, deliverables, and deadlines.

The benefits of change management

If organizations recognize the importance of managing and facilitating change in a structured and professional way, they can expect to see clear benefits across the business:

  • Better communication
  • Increased productivity and return on investment
  • Less stress in the workforce
  • Better employee morale and higher staff retention rates
  • Improved decision making
  • Stronger competitiveness in the market.

Whether you are a professional project manager or work in a PMO, you play a key role in facilitating change. Building relevant skills as well as understanding the part played by dedicated change managers – and having a good understanding of PRINCE2’s “Change” theme – can only increase your effectiveness as a project manager.

¹ https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/leadership/changing-change-management