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5 Steps for Successfully Integrating Project and Change Management

By May 6, 2019March 28th, 2024Change Management

In January 2015, PM Network Magazine interviewed me for an article titled ‘If I Had Known Then.’ The premise of the interview was for project managers who had led large business transformation initiatives to share at least one lesson learned from their careers. Readers would gain expert insights on change management and project management.

During the interview, I introduced my 80/20 project leadership philosophy. I shared that when leading transformational change; 80% of the project is art and the remaining percentage is science.

“Leading business transformation initiatives is partly science; but mostly art.”

Andrew Barnitz, PM Network Magazine (January, 2015)

The art refers to the components of change management (CM) for an initiative intended to bridge project solutions with expected business outcomes. The science refers to the utilization of critical project management (PM) components such as monitoring the project, controlling budgets, and managing scope.

“Project management ensures the project is designed, developed and delivered successfully. Change management ensures that the project is embraced, adopted and used by the targets or recipients of the change.”

Equal necessity, unequal support

While the integration of project and change management disciplines is imperative for project success, they are often viewed as separate and unequal components of a successful business initiative. The problem is that PM often gets the lion’s share of stakeholder attention while change management is often neglected and ignored. As noted above, this can cause problems because change management is the 80% that contributes the most to an initiative’s success.

The following statistics show the impact of placing too much focus on project management while neglecting change management.


of change efforts fail due to over-emphasis on project process rather than the people aspects.


reason why projects fail is a result of poor sponsorship.


of the participants who integrated CM and PM in their project met or exceeded their project objectives.


the reason why project initiatives fail is due to no change management methodology existing within a project.

As you can see, it is critical that change management have as significant a role as PM for business initiatives to be successful. In the remainder of this article, I’ll discuss how to ensure CM is given the attention it deserves through successful integration with project management.

Integration begins with role clarity

To begin understanding how to successfully integrate project and change management, let’s first understand and distinguish the roles of both the project manager and the change manager and where their roads converge and at times, collide.

  • According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), a project manager is accountable for the success or failure of a project. They are responsible for the planning, executing, and closing of the project. Further, the project manager is also responsible for managing teams, ensuring progress, and motivating project team members. They are responsible for ensuring that project goals are in alignment with key stakeholders.
  • According to Prosci, a change manager will play a key role in ensuring projects (change initiatives) meet objectives on time and on budget by increasing employee adoption and usage. This person will focus on the people side of change, including changes to business processes, systems and technology, job roles, and organization structures.

As indicated above, these roles are united with one common purpose: to ensure project goals are met and business results achieved. However, how each role goes about executing their work is meaningfully different. For example, project managers are often solution-focused whereas change managers are often outcome-focused. Consequently, there is a lack of understanding between the role of project manager and change manager in many organizations. This misunderstanding leads to conflicts between business functions and organizational development/change centers of excellence as to where to invest resources such as budget dollars and people.

Other barriers to integration

Besides confusion around role clarity, there are many other barriers to integration that you should be aware of.

  1. Even in 2019, the discipline of change management is in its infancy stage by comparison to project management. Thus, CM professionals like myself are in the early phases of converting non-believers.
  2. Since the role of the project manager has expanded significantly, most do not have the capacity or capability to learn change management.
  3. Change management is not easily measured since the results are often intangible. Thus, executives who control budgets struggle to justify the expense and fail to get behind change management efforts.
  4. While PM has been engrained deeply within the fabric of corporate America and beyond, change management is still struggling for a seat at the c-suite table.

The benefits of change management and project management integration

To deal with these barriers, it helps to influence leadership on not only the benefits of change management but also the enormous impact an integrated approach has on business transformation.  In a nutshell, an integrated approach ensures project benefits are fully achieved and realized by utilizing the strengths of both, PM and CM disciplines.

Project management ensures the project is designed, developed, and delivered successfully. Change management ensures that the project is embraced, adopted, and used by the targets or recipients of the change. Thus, an integrated approach is designed to deliver the desired outcomes to the business.

Other benefits of project and change management integration include:

  1. Enhanced employee and leader engagement
  2. Increased sustainability of the change enterprise-wide
  3. Realization of your people ROI for the project
  4. Avoidance of change saturation across an enterprise
  5. Measurement of an organization’s change tolerance

5 steps to integration!

So now that you know which barriers to integration you need to overcome AND have a firm understanding of why integration is so critical to project success – below are five steps to integrate project and change management within your organization:

  1. It starts with education.
    • Informing leaders, stakeholders, project managers, and project team members on the benefits of change management is critical to project success.
  2. Set expectations around how change work gets done.
    • Acknowledge that the discipline of change management is based on facts and insights gathered through data-gathering tools and processes such as (but not limited to): stakeholder analysis, impact assessment, and change readiness assessments.
  3. Use consumer-friendly terms when describing the change process and work efforts.
    • The process of change management may be viewed as inefficient by the untrained eye. When conducting stakeholder analyses or change readiness sessions – explain the why behind each approach.
    • Further, use basic language to explain each process (i.e. stakeholder analysis is a conversation with key decision makers to determine if they are supportive of the project or not and perhaps, why they are or are not supportive).
  4. Ensure project and change management synergy by presenting a unified front to project leadership, stakeholders, and team members.
  5. Collaborate with the project manager and key stakeholders to embed a change methodology and subsequent deliverables within a master project plan and status report.

Effective change management and project management integration lead to better results

There is an interdependent connection between project and change management disciplines, much like the symbiotic relationship between project managers and change managers. Thus, true project success requires that both roles and disciplines not only co-exist but to serve as a complement of skills and methods. And perhaps Leonardo Da Vinci said it best:

“To develop a complete mind: Study the science of art; Study the art of science. Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.”

After all, we as project managers and change professionals, are tasked with wearing many hats like Leonardo once did; a painter, sculptor, architect, engineer, poet, and storyteller. Even more remarkable today, Leonardo’s words can be applied to contemporary project delivery over five centuries later.

Want a deeper dive into how organizational change management can level up your projects? The CARA Group’s change experts are ready to discuss your business’s unique change initiatives. Let’s talk about how we can partner with your project managers to empower your business transformations. 

Let’s talk

Change Management and Project Management FAQs

Q: What is change management in project management? 

When integrated, change management in project management helps you manage both the overall change initiative (meeting objectives, customizing the change tools, and sustaining the transformation) and the people (stakeholders, employees, and leadership).  

Q: What is the difference between change management and project management? 

Project management focuses on delivering specific project objectives within defined timelines, budgets , and scope. It deals with the technical aspects of a project, ensuring tasks are completed on time and within budget. 

Change management focuses on minimizing negative impacts and maximizing positive outcomes of change initiatives on people within the organization. It deals with the human side of change, ensuring smooth adoption and minimizing resistance. 

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Join the discussion One Comment

  • Paul Short says:

    Great points around synergy and integration, Andrew. There is a huge risk in underestimating the interdependence of knowledge, skills, and resources necessary on multi-disciplinary change initiatives.