Striking the right balance between project and change management in an organisation

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Often organisational change is guided by reactive initiatives and solutions or wishful visions rather than by a plan based on sound principles.

This can result in project managers wearing several hats which can present its own challenges if the change elements of the role are not clearly understood by the individual or organisation. The right tools and techniques are needed to effectively make the necessary changes required to achieve the desired outputs.

Essentially, change management is the tool and technique used to affect change on a project and the steps you need to take to get your team to effectively make these changes happen and most importantly ‘stick’.

This should involve setting the change management approach from the start of a project to allow organisations to deal with any resistance and encourage people e.g stakeholders, project teams and end users on the project and change journey.

It can be difficult to tell the difference between the two disciplines especially in a larger more complex project/programme where several skills and capabilities are brought together to integrate both the project and change elements.

This in turn often leads to project delays, incomplete project results and in some cases, end users feeling frustrated and confused by the project where the wider vision is not clearly understood. It can also lead to missed opportunities for people to adapt and embrace the change, created by the project.

Building the right skills and capabilities to deliver both change and project management requires its own implementation to reduce the time spent on designing, developing and implementing, whilst there is a need to strike a balance between the two disciplines when it comes to training and learning and development. This is not always considered until you read a lessons learnt log at the end of a project lifecycle, where change management becomes apparent for ‘next time’.

In recent years, we have seen trends emerging where the two disciplines come together to create a need for a ‘integrator’, ‘adaptor’ and ‘demonstrator’ to address strategic ambitions and unknowns across an organisation and its supply chain.

So how do we strike the right balance?

A common mistake to any project is to ‘bolt’ the change management onto the end of the project. Then it is not always the responsibility of a programme or portfolio to act as a ‘big brother’ to make it happen.

Projects leaders should identify people with the right skills and capabilities to recognise the importance between the disciplines.

There are a number of things you can do to integrate a team with project and change management skills successfully in an organisation. For example, you can:

Co-deliver: to bring tangible benefits through a blended team to resolve conflicts, build delivery confidence and addresses resistance around key milestones. The team should work with the SRO to build the vision and a compelling case for change for the short term, medium and long term.

Co-create: a network for sharing information and provides feedback loops to engage key stakeholders and the wider project team to proactively identify continuous improvements, whilst implementing the intended results and outcomes. This approach will provide opportunities for team members to share past experiences and incorporate personal lessons learned into the integrated implementation plan.

All these roles and approaches can be deployed at multiple levels to integrate people, processes and technology and is critical to deliver a project at scale.

Want to sharpen your project management skills? Visit APM Learning for interactive learning content that is quality assured and approved by APM.


Image: eamesBot / Shutterstock

Marsha Dennis

Posted by Marsha Dennis on 24th Jun 2020

About the Author

Marsha is a transformation delivery expert at PA Consulting, the global innovation and transformation consultancy, and a committee member of APM’s Enabling Change SIG. 

She has worked on large-scale, high-profile business transformations across industry and government. Her career features appointments with Bank of England, British Transport Police, Olympics 2012, NHS, MoJ and MoD. Recently she co-led on change and separation at final closure stage of a high-profile divestment programme within Network Rail (c.£1.5bn); including responsibility for management of +100 people and financial monitoring. Adept in shaping strategic direction and optimising performance, previously providing specialist advice to senior stakeholders on how business operations can meet enable attainment of strategic goals. Her main primary expertise is programme and project delivery, business change and stakeholder engagement.

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