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5 steps for Successfully Integrating Project and Change Management

By | Change Management | One Comment

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 career.

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 for an initiative intended to bridge project solutions with expected business outcomes. The science refers to the utilization of critical project management 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 are imperative for project success, they are often viewed as separate and unequal components of a successful business initiative. The problem is that project management often gets the lion 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.

70%

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

#1

reason why projects fail is a result of poor sponsorship.

58%

of the participants who integrated change management and project management in their project met or exceeded their project objectives.

#2

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 project management for business initiatives to be successful. In the remainder of this article, I’ll discuss how to ensure change management 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 where 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 OD/Change COEs 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 project and change management 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, change management 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 project management 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 integration

To deal with these barriers, it helps to influence leadership on not only the benefits of change management, but 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, project management and change management 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 enterprisewide
  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 for change management may be viewed as inefficient to 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 integration leads 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 story-teller. Even more remarkable today, Leonardo’s words can be applied to contemporary project delivery over five centuries later.

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Project success requires more than luck!

By | Change Management | One Comment

For many, shamrocks, the color green, leprechauns, and beer are just a few words that come to mind when they think about St. Patrick ’s Day. Also common around this time of year is the expression Ádh mór ar an hÉireann which is Gaelic for ‘Luck of the Irish’.

While ‘luck’ is something one may count on when playing the lottery, it is not a strategy I would recommend for successful project delivery. Project success requires more than luck; it warrants a sound change management strategy and approach. The second largest reason why project initiatives fail is due to the absence of a change management methodology integrated within a project.

“The better we apply change management, the more likely we are to deliver on project objectives. Prosci’s correlation data from over 2,000 data points and 10 years shows that initiatives with excellent change management are 6 times more likely to meet objectives than those with poor change management. By simply moving from ‘poor’ to ‘fair,’ change management increases the likelihood of meeting objectives by three fold.” (1)

To best illustrate the importance of incorporating change activities in everything you do, consider the following case study.

“Brace for impact”

Throughout my career, I’ve had the privilege of leading over 100 projects impacting over 2,500,000 employees globally. During that time, the projects I’ve led have faced all sorts of resistance from sponsors, process owners, senior leaders, Finance/Legal personnel, HR representatives and employees. Fortunately, such resistance has been significantly reduced over the last decade as organizations begin to recognize the importance of change management and its proven correlation to project success. Just as I thought the field of change management was turning a corner, however, I came across an unlikely situation appropriately titled: “Brace for impact”.

Challenge

I was leading a business transformation initiative for a client that would impact several thousand employees. This project was part of a larger technology roadmap designed to a) create an improved employee and leader user experience, b) standardize core HR processes across all lines of business and c) encourage managers to assume greater ownership of core HR responsibilities.

Unique to this initiative was a recommendation I proposed that would empower actual leaders, employees and key HR stakeholders participate in an iterative design approach. This Agile design model would not only build a coalition of support and advocacy at the end user level, it would also lead to an increase in quality delivery from a people, process and technology perspective.

The iterative design approach was particularly necessary as the new system and supporting processes represented a cultural shift in how managers would operate and lead moving forward. Consequently, it was critical to design and implement a thoughtful change plan to ensure employee and organizational success.

Additionally, the change approach would have to weather key organizational attributes including (but not limited to):

  • The client was averse to change
  • The client was not steeped in the discipline of change management
  • The client subscribed to a command and control decision structure
  • Sponsors, leaders and HR personnel did not have an appreciation for the benefits of change management

Solution

With the above org attributes in mind, I designed and implemented the requisite change management strategy for an initiative of this size, scale and scope. I employed an unsophisticated, yet practitioner-based change approach to minimize learning curves for the change champion network, sponsors and leaders.

Below is a subset of change activities I implemented to mitigate and / or accelerate progress from a change adoption perspective.

 

Org Attribute

Change Approach / Deliverables

The client was averse to change

I conducted an initial change readiness assessment to identify early resistors and adopters and implemented an iterative review, design and demo process to ensure stakeholder buy-in.

The client was not steeped in the discipline of change management I installed a change champion network and provided them with weekly mentoring, upfront education on change management basics, and a change champion toolkit for executing change.
The client subscribed to a command and control decision structure

I operationalized a bottom-up design model by socializing its benefits and by positioning change champions as SMEs with project-level decision rights. I also had the team host numerous focus groups to collect user insight and gauge end user support.

Sponsors, leaders and HR personnel did not have an appreciation for the benefits of change management I developed an integrated project and change management plan that was simple to understand and demonstrated how planned change work would enable project success. I also conducted stakeholder analysis interviews to understand change resistance and developed change tactics to mitigate it. Throughout the project I highlighted how outputs from change readiness and stakeholder interviews informed the end design and development of the new tool and supporting processes.

Result

Overall, the initiative was successful in each line of business with the exception of one. The HR change champion refused to engage in basic block and tackle change activities. In lieu of participating in these change efforts, she informed me that her business function ‘doesn’t need change management support as my team and I will just brace for impact after the new system and processes are implemented.’ While this was clearly not a recommended course of action, I was not able to garner the necessary support from her leader or executive sponsors to influence her thinking or hold her accountable for anticipated business results.

Since the HR change champion did not fully embrace our change management approach, her client-facing HR team did not participate in numerous change opportunities such as design sessions, focus groups and system demos. The absence of core HR resources in the impacted area led to gaps in system functionality and newly designed processes that would not work in their current operating environment. As a result, her managers were not prepared for all of the fast approaching changes and their employees were caught off guard by the changes to the new system and supporting processes.

Lessons Learned

Since the premise of change management is to link project solutions to specific project outcomes and, mobilize people to deliver results, employing basic change practices would have resulted in a higher level of project success. In short, a reliance on luck or a ‘brace for impact’ approach to change management will not yield desired project outcomes or end user adoption.

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(1) Source: www.prosci.com/resources/articles/why-change-management.