The Importance of Change Management

business project integration management scope management Apr 24, 2022
The Importance of Change Management

To start this week's topic, let's look at a definition of change management. According to the PMBOK Guide - 7th Edition, "Change management, or enablement, is a comprehensive, cyclic, and structured approach for transitioning individuals, groups, and organizations from a current state to a future state in which they realize benefits."

Note that the critical elements of this definition are about transitions to receive a benefit. This benefit will typically come from a successful, completed project. To indeed manage change and successful transitions for a project requires looking at change from two perspectives - micro and macro change.

Micro change, which may sometimes be related to change control, is about the more minor changes to projects. Examples of micro change may include:

  • Additions or subtractions from the project scope
  • Application of crashing or fast-tracking to get a project on track
  • A request for more budget due to an overrun

Why is the management of micro-changes important? Perhaps most importantly, a project may not succeed or fully deliver on promised benefits without micro-changes. For example, requirements are never perfect, so it is reasonable to expect a change in scope may be needed for success. Similarly, schedule and budget planning are never perfect.

A secondary result is that the project manager may be seen as failing without project success, which can be a career-limiting issue. To succeed with micro change, project managers need to have a flexible, pre-defined process to handle the different scenarios. Key elements include:

  • Having a clear definition of why the change is necessary and what the change entails
  • Working with the team to determine the impact
  • Clearly explaining the impact and allowing the project sponsor to make the final decision
  • Separately tracking the change and its effect on the project in the future

Another potential roadblock to managing micro change is saying "no."  No essentially says, "I don't want to."  It is very definitive and final, which could cause an essential micro change to be missed. Rather than say "no," consider some alternatives. These alternatives will leave room for later change if something is not done now.

Now let's turn our attention to macro change, which is usually about organizational change. Often, in addition to the delivery of the product, service, or other results, some form of change to the organization must take place to realize the actual benefits.

Macro change often needs to occur in parallel with the project, either as part of the project or a part of a more extensive program. The change might be as simple as providing training or as complex as restructuring the organization. For example, when managing the rollout of new workstations for 400 software engineers, my role as program manager was easy to articulate. For every new workstation that arrived, I had to be sure the workstation was turned over as quickly as possible to an engineer who could put it to immediate use. That meant some of the projects in my program included:

  • Ensuring a network connection was available in every office (eight US and eight international locations)
  • Developing internal training and documentation for the new workstations
  • Working with training vendors for more advanced training
  • Working on logistics, including international shipping, to get all the components necessary to all locations
  • Interfacing with commercial operations undergoing a similar transformation as well as those responsible for the initial receipt of the workstations

Had these macro changes not been properly managed, there would have been a lot of expensive paperweights sitting on shipping docks and desks. So if a macro change is not managed, the consequences may include projects not used or projects which are not complete. In some extreme examples,

A part of organizational change management is to verify that an organization is ready to receive a project. I've seen the workforce of an organization sabotage a project in any way possible out of fear of job loss. According to the Organizational Change Management Readiness Guide, the five pillars of successful organizational change management are:

  • Communications
  • Sponsorship
  • Stakeholder Management
  • Readiness
  • Training

If you take a deeper dive into the workstation program, all of these elements were present and necessary. So now that we've explored the importance of change management, both micro and macro, please take a few moments to reflect on your current projects. Do you have appropriate micro and macro change management processes in place? Are your projects achieving the desired benefits? If not, how much is attributable to change management issues?

Do you have additional questions or thoughts to share about change management? Please let us know in the comments below.



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