Are Project Managers Change Managers?

Interesting talking to a number of contractors recently – some preferring to be referred to as Change Managers as opposed to Project Managers and vice versa – when I pushed back and asked why the need to define, I had a mixed response:

“As a Project Manager I deliver change”

“I am a Change Manager but I deliver as a project”

I wonder if being branded one or the other has a psychological effect of the individual. Back in the day when budgets were less frugal and organisations saw the value of a fully enhanced team, it was not uncommon to see a Project Manager Working alongside a Change Manager – this is still apparent in larger organisations but less so across the board. And I wonder if Change Managers partially feel compelled to sell their service as all encompassing (they can deliver a project as well as the change element) to be included in the running for more PM positions and likewise a Project Manager feels the need to sell their additional skill-set as change management aware in order to deliver as smoothly as possible. I delivered new products into manufacturing across EU/SA/USA and often found that without the sympathetic element of change management I would indeed find workstream leads to be challenging at the best of times. By simply spending time to explain the benefits of prioritising my projects and listening to any concerns, hopefully dispelling any anxiety rather than the company prescribed “Head Office said do it, so DO IT” approach which tended to get peoples backs up – unsurprisingly! It is this experience that lead me on to embrace change management within my practice – as such I feel I have taken on both the roles of PM and CM. Could I split the two now, good question, I am not sure they should be. Do I believe a dedicated Change Manager should be part of the project team? Depends on the size and complexity of the project really, if you have the budget and a great deal of “users” affected by the implementation then it is a good idea.Changing times

Some things to consider when delivering change:

  • Be open – sometimes it isn’t always possible to be completely open from the outset as the changes may be sensitive and not in the public domain. But it is important to make sure you are as open as you can be from the start. Explain that changes are afoot, what this means to the individual, and generally prepare people.
  • Listen – hard when all you may be hearing is peoples woes about additional work, fear of job losses, attitudes such as “we’ve done it this way for xx years, if it’s not broken then don’t fix it”, but everyone deserves to air their views and will it make for a happier recipient environment if they all feel they have had some input.
  • Put yourself in their shoes – take a look at the changes from the user’s perspective – try to explain the benefits in a manner which is understandable and actually means something to the individual.
  • Structure – put together a strong communication plan, as you would for key stakeholders, think about the users and those directly affected by the change. Regular meetings and updates – even regular posting on the intranet so everyone feels like they are being kept up to speed.
  • Bribes – don’t be afraid to bring cakes to the meetings, many a successful meeting has been satisfactorily managed through a little nurture!

I mentioned “individual” above, this is where a lot fall short when delivering change, try not to think of a group make people feel like they have been heard individually. It makes a huge difference when you can have your say and your questions answered; open door policy for all – you won’t be as inundated as you think and some may have very valid points for consideration. 

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