Change Management for Projects

The Benefits of Change Management for Your Projects

November 4, 2020 by

Change management and project management go hand-in-hand.


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As a project manager, you are responsible for delivering something new, strategic, exciting, challenging, or difficult to change the current status of an organization.

People often resist change for many reasons. They prefer the status quo; they fear losing their job; they may think they will be unable to learn something new.

Managing change has become even trickier as organizations and teams deal with the uncertainty and instability of a global pandemic

In this piece, we’ll look at change management and project management from two perspectives: short-term and long-term.

Focusing on short-term strategies helps organizations to implement changes quickly whilst ensuring employees are comfortable with those changes.

This approach should be balanced with a long-term, broader view that prepares organizations for future, rapid changes.

We’ll start with short-term changes using the ADKAR model.

We’ll also cover the role of change management and how it relates to project management. We’ll review four popular change management models and practical tips for managing change in the long-term.


Strategies for Short-Term Change Management

If we’ve learned anything over the past few months, it’s that rapid change is here to stay.

Stay-at-home directives, travel restrictions, returning to the office for short periods, business closures. Dealing with these changes – along with many other disruptions –  requires a quick, focused response.

The first step is not to underestimate how quickly individuals and teams can adapt during a crisis.

An urgent need for change has created new ways of working whilst removing the layers of bureaucracy that typically slow teams down.

Later on, we’ll review change management models for long-term projects. In this section, we’ll take a look at the Prosci ADKAR Model.

ADKAR refers to:

  • Awareness of the need for change.
  • Desire to participate and support the change.
  • Knowledge on how to change.
  • Ability to implement required skills and behaviors.
  • Reinforcement to sustain the change.


ADKAR focuses on action and how individuals respond to change. The model is based on the best information available right now to determine what is the best action to take next.

It takes around 30 minutes to work through this model and generate practical actions to help your team.

These free quick-start guides for remote working and returning to the office will put you on the right track.


In addition to the ADKAR model, you may also need to focus on the following key areas.


Every project should have a clear goal, defined in the project charter, and every organization should have a vision.

It’s important to revisit these objectives with your team so they understand how their work contributes to a larger goal.

Goals provide focus and direction. When people feel their work has meaning, they will be more motivated and engaged. They are less likely to waste time on irrelevant work.



Clear, consistent communication is critical, especially for remote project teams.

Document as much as possible, for example, new processes or decisions, and share in a collaborative site that is accessible to everyone.

If your team is working across multiple time zones, use videos to share pre-recorded updates and for training resources. Within Microsoft 365, Teams and Stream offer secure video capabilities.



Traditional methods for collecting stakeholder feedback may not translate into a remote environment, making it harder to understand the impact of a change on individuals.

Look for easy, quick ways for individuals to share feedback and voice their concerns, for example, SharePoint forms or polling apps in Microsoft Teams.


Incremental Changes

Deliver small changes quickly to help people become comfortable and confident when navigating something new.

As teams work remotely, challenges will crop up, for example, running video meetings or collaborating across time zones. Rather than fixing everything at once, pick one issue to work on.

At BrightWork, we use REP for change management:

  • Research the problem or opportunity to figure out what you need to do.
  • Execute the suggested approaches for a defined period of time.
  • Afterward, carry out a Post Mortem on these approaches to identify what did and did not work.



REPs may be delivered over a week, month, or year – it really depends on the situation!


Organizations need to manage short-term changes whilst preparing for long-term opportunities and future disruptions.

For the rest of this article, we’ll review the traditional relationship between projects and change management.  You’ll learn more about common, long-term change management processes, and critical success factors.


Project Management and Change Management

Before going much further, it’s important to understand the difference between project and change management, and how these strategies overlap.


Project Management

Project Management refers to the use of people, processes, and methodologies to plan, initiate, execute, monitor, and close activities.

A project is temporary in nature with a defined start and end date.

Projects are once-off endeavors with a specific set of required deliverables.


Change Management

Change management involves people, processes, and tools to ensure organizations manage all the changes from projects or other factors.

Change management moves people from the current situation to an improved future state. The process does not use any formalized processes or guides and has no fixed dates or tasks.

The aim of change management is to help organizations achieve their strategic vision quickly and successfully.

Change management should form part of the project plan, with the project manager and change manager working closely together to secure a positive outcome for everyone impacted by the project.

The change manager will identify individuals and teams affected by the changes, develop a plan to secure buy-in, and help introduce the changes.

Change management processes also ensure stakeholders and leaders support the change, providing an example for others.

Change management can make or break your project. To work effectively with the change manager, you should become familiar with change management models and key success factors.

Depending on the scale of your project and available resources, you may even need to spearhead change management initiatives yourself, making this insight even more valuable!


4 Change Management Models

There are multiple change models to consider. These include:


1. The Strategic Change model

This model proposes four classifications of organizational change. The classifications map the extent of the required change and the speed at which the change will occur.

Change may be categorized as Evolution (implemented gradually), Adaption (occurs incrementally), Revolution (fundamental, forced changes to strategy and culture), and Reconstruction (rapid, simultaneous changes).


2. Kotter’s 8-step process

This model focuses on securing employee support. The below graphic outlines the steps and stages associated with this process.

Kotter’s 8 Step Change Model



3. The Change Curve

This model is used to predict the stages of personal transition and organizational change.

The model outlines four stages associated with change:

  • Stage 1: People react to the required change with shock or denial, resisting challenges to the status quo.
  • Stage 2: Once the change is accepted as inevitable, individuals may become negative, angry, disruptive, and even fearful for their future with the organization.
  • Stage 3: Gradually, individuals begin to accept the changes, learning what the change means to them, and how they must adapt.
  • Stage 4: The change is embraced as individuals develop new working habits and processes. The organization will benefit from the change.



4. Lewin’s Change Management Model

This model characterizes change as ‘Unfreeze, Change, Freeze’.

Firstly, the organization must accept that a change is needed and communicate this need effectively. This ‘unfreezes’ individuals, making them open to change. Naturally, this phase can lead to extensive uncertainty and anxiety for individuals and teams.

Next, change occurs as individuals seek to resolve uncertainty and look to a new, improved future state. Time and communication are critical to this phase.

Finally, ‘refreeze’ becomes possible as changes are accepted within the organization.


Other approaches include the Switch Framework, William Bridge’s Transition Model, and the Kubler-Ross Change Curve.

Spend some time assessing the required change, available resources, and company culture before selecting a model to guide the process.

Regardless of the chosen approach, the below tips will help to make change management successful.


4 Success Factors for Change Management

1. Identify Impacted Individuals

Before announcing any changes, ensure you have identified impacted individuals and teams.

Spend some time with these individuals to understand how the change will affect their day-to-day routine.

This will also reveal potential conflicts and points of resistance, which will help you develop effective communications and assess any training materials or additional support needed.

Try tools such as interviews, focus groups, brainstorm sessions, and facilitation to collect this information.


2. Clear Case for Change

It is important not to fall victim to the ‘curse of false knowledge’ by assuming that everyone will understand why the change is being made as much as you and your team do.

Before announcing any changes, prepare a written statement outlining why the change is being made, the benefits of the change, and the roadmap to your new destination.

Encourage feedback where possible, for example, through workshops or an online tool.


3. Strong Leadership

The case of change begins at the top! Leaders must understand and agree with the change, visibly support the case for change, and repeat the benefits at every opportunity.

A 2014 survey conducted by Eagle Hill Consulting found that 89% of respondents who were happier post-change attributed this to strong, effective leadership.

Organizations such as Shell, Santander, and Direct Line relied upon effective, unified leadership when rolling out wide-scale, significant changes.

McKinsey reports that many organizations are now turning to social networks and online communities to identify hidden influencers; people who are respected by their colleagues and therefore could play a role in the change program.

Tap into the ‘ripple effect’ by appointing change ambassadors throughout the organization.


4. Communication

The case for change should be shared regularly, consistently, and across different channels.

Where possible, use face-to-face communication such as meetings, individual sessions, online sessions, and workshops. Keep email to a minimum as this tends to impersonalize the message.

Other communication channels to consider include internal social platforms, training sessions, video messages and voicemails from senior leaders, online polls, case studies, and town hall meetings.


What Next

Before embarking on your next project, consider how you will incorporate change management strategies.

  1. Check existing change management plans and processes.
  2. If these plans are not available, you will need to work with the change management team or relevant stakeholders to develop some processes and guidelines.
  3. Make change management part of all future project planning.



Image credit

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in January 2017 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

Grace Windsor
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