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Change Management VS Project Management?

May 5, 2017

Working in the field of business change, it is not uncommon for me to hear both clients and peers comparing the disciplines of Change Management vs Project Management.

These are terms that are often used interchangeably. However, each area requires a specific skillset and often work towards different priorities to reach the overarching objective: to successfully implement change. This said, there is often a lot of cross-over between the two disciplines, and it is my belief that you simply cannot have one without the other!

Change Management (CM) and Project Management (PM) should always go hand-in-hand. Although each field of expertise serves its own purpose, they are invariably linked. But what are the key differences and why should businesses acknowledge both CM and PM when it comes to planning for change?

Project Management
PM focuses on achieving the desired outcome by agreeing specific goals and actioning the plan. Essentially, it is the process of delivery through selecting and applying the right knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to meet the requirements of the business project.

Change Management
In comparison, CM is much more focused on organisational orientation. It differentiates itself from PM by instead focusing on outcomes that are often the results of several different individual projects. By nature, it is usually highly unpredictable and deals with desired outcomes that may change over time.  The change manager needs to understand how projects are delivered, but more importantly, how the benefits are to be delivered across the whole business.  Most of the time, this will mean changing existing working practices and processes.

Whilst PM uses structured processes to deliver, CM does not usually operate with such formalised guidelines and processes.  Often, there isn’t even a defined start or end date!

A project can appear to be successful in that it delivers the solution on time and within the constraints of its budget. But if employees are resistant to change and sufficient emphasis isn’t given to managing any changes to working practices, then the overall outcome will be disappointing.

Essentially, if PM provides the processes and project development to make the vision of a change project a reality, CM aims to win the hearts and minds of the organisation, making the implementation of change a much smoother process.

While business change can be realised with just a project manager, and each discipline can still function independently, an all-encompassing and collaborative approach provides a much more powerful proposition. Working in tandem, PM and CM flips the perspective to the whole business, rather than just the scope of the specific project.

Most business leaders in 2017 will understand the importance of their people, with employee satisfaction and workplace culture now high up on their list of priorities. This only highlights the importance of implementing both PM and CM into your change strategy, as fundamentally speaking, your organisation is the sum of a team of individuals working together.

It’s therefore essential for your change strategy to not only be people focused, but people led from the outset – after all the best results are achieved when employees feel they have undertaken the change themselves.

Although most businesses will have a clear idea of what they want, having the resources to successfully deliver change while addressing both PM and CM can be a different story, which is why outsourcing to an expert can bring some significant advantages.

Taking a pragmatic approach, a business change expert can combine experience and best practice gained from several industries with both PM and CM skills to help to achieve your organsiation’s vision for change. With no ties to the business, an expert can also provide an outsiders’ perspective, and will often have knowledge of what has and hasn’t worked for similar organisations.

While PM provides the disciplined approach and structure needed to realise the outcome, CM empowers individuals, reinforcing the change for the future, making both approaches vital pieces of the business change success puzzle.

If you need help with your business change project, please get in touch: