"How to": Integrating Change Management and Project Management

Article written by Vincent Piedboeuf

When it comes to implementing a project or a set of projects, Change Management (CM) can make a big and lasting difference. Unless you have extra cash burning a hole in your pocket, you have to make sure everyone is on board. The simple truth is that the highest-quality technical solution may be a crash if not fully embraced and adopted by the people. Integrating CM and Project Management (PM) is all about bridging the gap between instalment and proficient, broad-based usage. PROSCI calls « unified value proposition » this combined effort to achieve sustainable change and improve the overall performance of the organisation.

On a more general note, binding CM and PM may further advance the agenda of a discipline too often seen as peripheral or fuzzy. Project leaders have a knack for structures and processes, but so do CM practitioners. For CM teams, a unified value proposition means entering the picture by joining the conversation with project leaders from the get-go. Here are some tips to help you embed CM activities into the project lifecycle and ensure that both CM and PM teams are on the same wavelength.

Integration for starters.  

Integrating the two disciplines takes place at multiple levels: people, processes, tools and methodology. Whatever level you operate, remember that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. So customise and scale the approach according to the nature of the change and norms of the organisation.

People: Mix-and-matching Change Management and Project Management resources takes on multiple forms. It ranges from external support to full integration whereby CM sits on the project team. As a stand-alone unit, it guarantees objectivity, a direct focus on Change Management and higher access to sponsors. Fused with Project Management, it usually fosters the circulation of knowledge and co-liability.

Process: CM is a structured and holistic approach to change and as such, delivers the best results when brought at the onset of the project. Integration involves identifying intersections in the project lifecycle, that is, shared activities and corresponding deliverables (i.e risk identification, solution design, system testing).

Tools: Some CM and PM tools have common properties and can be easily adaptable. This “toolbox” typically includes risk assessment, communication plans or events and stakeholder analysis.

Methodology: Moving up a level, fusing methodologies requires defining a standard approach to project delivery. Beware that people not familiar with Change Management may hinder interoperability. It is of utmost importance to treat methodology integration as a project and a change in its own right.

Keys to success

Tip 1. Speaking the same language as project leaders is crucial to get them into the game.  It is not a matter of “tricking them in” but of presenting CM as what it is, from the right perspective: not an add-on and/or extra cost, but a lever to boost results, deliver on time and stay on budget. Milestones, deliverables and work streams are part of the PM lexicon but operate in symmetrical mode for Change Management.

Tip 2. Granted, no one needs convincing of the importance of Project Management. If PM has gone mainstream, the same cannot be said for Change Management. Here again, the best way to gain buy-in from leaders is to “shift the conversation” from what CM is to what it delivers, that is, the people-dependent part of the result.

Tip 3. A common and costly mistake is to plug CM in (long) after the project has been kicked off. CM cannot be properly positioned when brought in on a whim. For its scope to be correctly assessed and its activities duly aligned with PM, CM has to be discussed and embedded into the project lifecycle from day one.

Tip 4. Being convinced of the value of CM is one thing but moving from principles to practice is another. PM and CM have to make a point of digging deeper into each other areas and gaining decent knowledge of neighbouring disciplines and tools. Cross-fertilisation is crucial to detect new opportunities to integrate and get comfortable with the “how-to”.

Tip 5. Avoidance of responsibility is a looming issue once CM and PM teams play on the same field. Role definition is thus key.

CM and PM are not worlds apart. Quite the contrary. A shared view of success organically binds the two disciplines. Getting a project off the ground is always easier when it sits on everyone’s shoulders. For that to occur, people have to be effective drivers of change. That is exactly what CM is about.

References

PROSCI (blog), Change Management and Project Management, the unified value proposition [online]: https://www.prosci.com/change-management/thought-leadership-library/change-management-project-management-value-proposition

PROSCI (blog), Change Management at the project level [online]: https://www.prosci.com/change-management/thought-leadership-library/change-management-at-the-project-level

PROSCI (blog), Five Key Factors for integrating CM and PM [online] :  https://www.prosci.com/change-management/thought-leadership-library/success-factors-for-integrating-change-and-project-management

PROSCI (blog) : Dimensions of integrating CM and PM [online] : https://www.prosci.com/change-management/thought-leadership-library/dimensions-of-integrating-change-management-and-project-management

PROSCI (blog) : Integrating CM and PM [online] : https://www.prosci.com/change-management/thought-leadership-library/integrating-change-management-and-project-management

 

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