Change Management for Projects

The Benefits of Change Management for Your Projects

January 31, 2017 by

If you’re in an organization and you want to do something new, strategic, exciting, challenging or difficult – it’s a project. A project is a way to transform an organization or a group.

The essence of project management is change, something individuals will resist for many reasons. They prefer the status quo; they are fearful about job security; they may think they will be unable to learn something new.


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Realizing the benefits of project deliverables is not as simple as completing assigned tasks and assuming users will embrace the end solution.

You must manage the ‘people’ side of the change to ensure that the outcomes are implemented.

In this piece, I will explain the role of change management and how it relates to project management. We’ll cover four popular change management models and practical tips for managing change.


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 that arise due to projects or other factors.

Change management typically 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.

Now, you may be thinking, ‘I’m already too busy with project work. Do I really need to worry about the change management plan as well?’ Consider the following:


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.






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.


If these models are not appropriate to your situation, consider approaches such as the Switch Framework, William Bridge’s Transition Model, the Kubler-Ross Change Curve, and ADKAR (Prosci).

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 gather 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


Collaborative Project Management: A Handbook

Grace Windsor

Grace is a content creator within the marketing team at BrightWork. She loves creating actionable content in different formats to help others achieve more project success. Grace spent far too long at university studying English literature, which instilled a life-long love of learning and upskilling.

In her free time, she enjoys a challenging session at the gym, tucking into a good book, and walking the beautiful Galway coastline with her dog.
Grace Windsor

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