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Change Management in Project Management: A Dual-Dimensional Approach

  • Project Management
Created on :
June 28, 2023
Saket Bansal
Updated on :
August 2, 2023
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In this Article:

Change always happens in any organization, and project environments are no different. Project Managers often handle these changes. This article talks about the two-way relationship of change in the lifecycle of a project. We look at how projects can lead to changes in an organization and how changes in an organization change affect the project. This article is aligned with PMP Exam Content Outline, which details the tasks related to managing change that Project Managers need to know.

Now, let’s look at the specific tasks of a Project Manager as listed in the PMP Exam Content Outline:

Business Domain : Task 4: Support Organizational Change

– Assess Organizational Culture

– Evaluate impact of organizational change to project and determine required actions  

– Evaluate impact of the project to the organization and determine required actions

Navigating Change

A project manager’s job involves juggling two types of change. One, they must adapt to changes that are happening within their organization. Two, they also need to bring about new changes within their organization through their project work. This means they must understand their project’s larger role within the organization, predict its possible effects, and know how to handle those effects successfully.

Reciprocal Impact

Adapting to Organizational Changes

Organizational changes can take many forms. These can include a shift in leadership, a new business focus, an alteration in stakeholder composition, the implementation of new processes, or even new compliance requirements. Such changes can have profound effects on how a project is executed.
For project managers, the ability to adapt to these changes is paramount. This means not just reacting to change as it happens, but also anticipating potential changes and preparing the project to respond effectively. This is a proactive skill that requires project managers to have their fingers on the pulse of the organization and to be constantly aware of evolving trends and changes in strategy.

Facilitating Change within the Organization

Projects, by their very nature, bring about change. They create something new that didn’t exist before – whether that’s a product, a business model, an automated process, or even new skills amongst the project team members. These ‘deliverables’ then have to be implemented within the organization, which often necessitates changes in the organization’s operations or procedures.
Consider a project with an internal deliverable, such as automating a process within the organization. Once the project is completed, the automation tool will need to be implemented. This could require training for staff, modifications to daily operations, or changes to reporting structures. In such a case, the project manager may have a role in facilitating these changes, ensuring the deliverable is understood, and helping to realize the benefits of the project.
In contrast, if a project’s deliverable is for an external customer, the project manager may have less visibility of the changes triggered by their project. But it’s important to remember that even in these cases, changes will still occur. The organization might develop new skills, accumulate historical data, or even change its approach to similar projects in the future.

Project Management Principles and Navigating Change

Supporting Organizational Changes

Change is a fundamental element in the fabric of any organization. As such, it’s no surprise that most project management principles (as defined in PMBOK® Guide Seventh Edition) involve change to some degree. Four principles, however, stand out due to their significant implications for project leaders and managers.

#2.Recognize, evaluate and respond to system interactions

Principle 2 highlights the need to recognize, evaluate, and respond to system interactions. This essentially implies that as a project manager, you should be alert to any changes in operational growth, program, and portfolio groups. They may interact with you differently, prompting a need for response and potential adaptations. In this context, systems could range from business units to customer support groups. If their behavior changes, it’s your responsibility to adjust accordingly to maintain alignment with the desired outcome.

3.Navigate complexity


Navigating complexity is another crucial aspect. This principle acknowledges that things won’t always be clear from the onset. As you progress, you’ll gain more insights, understand what works and what doesn’t, and adapt your approach accordingly. This continuous process of learning and adapting is key to helping organizations achieve their objectives. An essential role of any project is to drive change. This essentially means that projects are expected to produce unique deliverables. Consuming these deliverables necessitates change within the organization. For instance, if a project is initiated to automate a process, upon its completion, employees will need to adapt their behavior to use this automation effectively.

9.Embrace adaptability and resiliency


Further emphasizing the importance of adaptability and resilience, another principle explicitly mentions these qualities. Having the flexibility to adjust to new situations and the resilience to bounce back from setbacks is vital in managing change effectively.

12.Enable change to achieve the envisioned future state

Lastly, the principle about enabling change to achieve an envisioned future state reaffirms the central role projects play in driving organizational change. Projects are launched with the intention of enabling the organization to reach new business heights or penetrate new customer segments. This means, as a project manager, you are not just delivering a product or service, but also enabling change.


These project management principles, while defined at a high level, are crucial for managing change effectively. They provide guidelines on how to react and adapt to various situations and challenges that come your way, thereby ensuring the successful delivery of value to your customers.

Embracing Organizational Changes as a Project Manager: Recognizing and Responding Effectively

In the dynamic world of project management, the ability to adapt to organizational changes is a crucial skill. What this means is that as a project manager, you need to first identify the change and then respond to it effectively. You might notice that things are not the same as when you started, and that these changes might be impacting your project outcomes. So how do you recognize this change, and more importantly, what should you do next?

Recognizing Organizational Changes

Project managers use different methods to identify changes in their organization. Here are some of them:

  1. Continuous Environmental Assessment: Regularly monitor the operational environment. This includes analyzing what’s working and what isn’t, how strengths and weaknesses are evolving, how technology is changing, how the political environment and leadership attitudes are shifting, and how company policies are being modified. This environmental scanning should be done at various milestones and at each iteration for agile workflows.
  2. Engaging with Stakeholders: Keep lines of communication open with your stakeholders. Regularly ask for feedback and listen to their ideas. This constant engagement can help you identify changes in assumptions or plans.
  3. Reviewing Issues and Risks: Regular monitoring of issues and risks can help identify patterns. If you’re encountering issues or risks that weren’t anticipated, it could signal that the project environment has changed.
  4. Conducting Milestone Reviews: By soliciting feedback during milestone reviews and governance reviews, you can identify changes.
  5. Integration Review and Releases: In an adaptive or agile project management approach, techniques like iteration reviews and incremental releases are used to identify changes. Iteration reviews help identify what’s working and what isn’t, and incremental releases help validate assumptions and gather real customer feedback.
  6. Backlog refinement meetings: In an adaptive lifecyclebacklog refinement is another way to collaborate with stakeholders and teams to recognize changes in requirements and environments.

Responding to Organizational Changes

Once you’ve recognized a change, the next step is to respond appropriately. Here’s how:

  1. Make the Change Visible: Ensure that the facts about the change, its impacts, and its magnitude are clear and visible to all relevant stakeholders.
  2. Update the Project Management Plan: If the impact of the change is minor, you can update your project management plan accordingly.
  3. Initiate a Change Control Process: For larger changes, you might need to initiate a formal change control process. This includes conducting a detailed impact analysis, presenting the potential effects on the project, and highlighting the benefits and costs of the change.
  4. Show the Cost of Not Changing: As part of the change control process, you should also consider and communicate the potential costs of not changing, also known as the opportunity loss.
  5. Backlog Refinement: In an adaptive environment, these processes might take place as part of a backlog refinement process. The key is to keep stakeholders engaged and to make sure that changes are made visible. Prioritizing the product backlog and identifying tasks for upcoming iterations is a crucial part of responding to changes in an agile or hybrid environment.

To navigate the constantly changing landscape of project management successfully, recognizing and responding to organizational changes promptly and effectively is key. By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your project remains on track and adaptable, regardless of the changes that may come your way.

Driving Change with Project Management: From Evaluation to Implementation

In the rapidly evolving landscape of project management, it’s critical to recognize that projects are catalysts for change. As project managers, we need to ensure that this change is not just planned but also successfully implemented. Reflecting on my early years in project management, during the rise of enterprise resource planning projects around 2000 to 2010, there was a recurring theme. Many enterprise-level software developments were failing, primarily due to inadequate change management. It wasn’t the absence of the right deliverables that was causing the failure, but rather the lack of people’s buy-in and poor change management.

The situation often played out like this: organizations would purchase a product but neglect to adequately educate their staff on its use. Consequently, employees would revert to their manual processes, ultimately leading to the abandonment of the new product. This would then be deemed a failed implementation because of poor configuration. Thus, numerous projects were failing, not due to lack of deliverables, but due to inadequate change management.

Focusing on Outcomes

The focus of project management has significantly shifted over the past few years. The focus is now on generating outcomes, not just producing outputs. It’s essential to establish mechanisms within our projects to enable organizations to adapt to these changes effectively.

Evaluating and Enabling Change

To facilitate successful change, project managers need to evaluate and enable. We must evaluate the impact of our project on people, processes, and systems and assess the various elements of our organizational environment or culture. Based on this evaluation, we then need to develop a strategy that allows the organization to adapt to the new deliverable.

Driving the Change

As a project manager, there are specific tasks you should undertake to enable the organization to adapt to change. These include:

  1. Rollout Planning: Detailed rollout planning is vital. This strategy will dictate which groups will go first, how the implementation will occur, and a comprehensive understanding of the change. You must integrate this planning with the proposed shutdown, production, and other organizational factors to ensure the organization can rollout the change in an integrated manner.
  2. Training, Mentoring, and Coaching: Equipping people with knowledge about the new system is important. However, instilling skills so they can use the system effectively is crucial. As a project manager, you can facilitate training and offer mentorship and coaching to help staff adapt to the new system.
  3. Stakeholder Engagement: Engaging with various stakeholders is vital for them to understand the change and how it will promote desired outcomes.
  4. Setting up a Support Desk: This could be a ‘hypercare desk’ where users can voice their concerns, raise tickets, and get issues clarified. Providing an effective support system will facilitate the adoption of the new system.
  5. Creating a Knowledge Base: This might include manuals, video content, and other promotional materials that help users understand and adapt to the new system more rapidly.
  6. Knowledge Transfer Process: It’s important to have a system in place where you can share knowledge and help others understand the new changes effectively.

The role of a project manager extends beyond planning and executing. You may need to support setting up a help desk, provide training, mentoring, and be part of a larger team working towards the successful implementation of change. The ability to drive change effectively is a crucial competency for today’s project managers. With these strategies in place, you can ensure that your projects deliver not just outputs, but also meaningful outcomes that align with the strategic goals of your organization.

Conclusion

In conclusion, change and project management are inherently intertwined. As Project Managers, we not only steer the helm of our individual projects, but we also act as catalysts for meaningful, strategic change within our organizations. This necessitates a deep understanding of our organizations and the agility to navigate and drive change effectively. It also underscores the importance of mastering the art of change management – an essential skill in today’s dynamic business environment.

Our projects are not confined to deliverables; they have far-reaching implications on the processes, culture, and overall trajectory of our organizations. Hence, the role of a Project Manager extends beyond project completion and often involves facilitating the organization’s adaptation to the changes ushered in by the project.

To equip yourself with the necessary tools to excel in this role and make a lasting impact on your organization, we highly recommend enrolling in our PMP Live Session. Aligned with the PMP Exam Content Outline, this course is designed to provide a comprehensive understanding of managing change in the dynamic field of project management. We look forward to welcoming you to this transformative learning experience.

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PMP Certification and Training 13 July – 4 August 2024 Chennai More Details
PMP Certification and Training 25 July – 23 August 2024 Pune More Details

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