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Use change management to manage your projects successfully

Change is inherent in projects. It could be the change of deadlines, change of resources or implementing a change through a project. Thereby, change can threaten the success of your project if not considered appropriately.

We want to show you how the consideration of change management in project management can make the difference. Hereby, we need to differentiate between two scenarios.

1. Scope change control in project management

In this case changes within the project occur, most often changes to time, cost or quality. For example, you had planned to finish your projects in 9 months and then top management tells you to be done in 6 months instead.

Follow the next steps to manage the changes effectively:

Create a project scope management plan

To avoid that your project scope gets diluted or changed, document everything needed to achieve the project objective. This will help you manage the scope of your project.

List all the project goals, tasks, deliverables, deadlines, and budgets that are needed to make your project a success. Consequently, you will be more comfortable in dealing with changes and making decisions on what is possible and what is not.

Use a project scope management process

If a change is coming up, you can manage it with the help of your project scope management plan and a defined process. This project scope management process should include the following steps:

  1. Generate a change request
  2. Assess the change request in terms of impact on time, cost and quality of the project
  3. Plan the implementation of the change
  4. Approve the change request

Evaluate risk

In step 2, when assessing the impact of the change on the project, you will need to make a decision about rejecting or accepting the change. Thereby, take the following aspects into consideration:

  • Is the change inevitable?
  • Does the change improve the project result?
  • Is the project team able to make the change?
  • At what time will the change be made? Do you have capacities at the moment or only later?

Document changes

Use your project management software to record the changes made or disapproved of.

Integrate the project team in the process

Change impacts the team, they need to adapt, deviate from the original plan and sometimes it can also mean more work for the team. What can help to facilitate the transition for the team is the following:

  • Put emphasis on communication: explain the reason and importance of the change for the project and the team. Make the team members aware how it impacts their work and what the new responsibilities are.
  • Use a project management software that serves as a single source of information and allows everyone to be involved, up to date and thus take responsibility.

2. Change management in project management

The other type of dealing with change in project management if you are using projects to implement organizational changes, e.g. restructuring teams. In this scenario, the project manager becomes also a change manager or is responsible to add a change manager to the team.

The project manager in general is responsible to deliver the project successfully while the change manager takes into consideration how change impacts the stakeholders.

In addition to the normal project management procedures, it requires you to include additional change management measures to prevent the project team members from resisting the change:

Change models

Change management models support the implementation of the changes and to get the team on board. The following models are amongst the most popular ones.

  • Kotter’s change management model focuses on the team members’ buy-in to the change via transparent communication, feedback sessions, motivation etc. It is an easy to implement eight stages process.
  • McKinsey 7-S change management model: This model makes aware of all areas that are impacted by change and which need to be defined before the change implementation, i.e. strategy, skills, structure, systems, values, style and staff.
  • The ADKAR change management model helps to identify training needs for the team members affected by change to make them work more efficiently and make the change a success.
  • The Kübler-Ross five stage change management model is all about the people dimension, the emotions and needs of the team members. It consists of five stages through which the organization has to navigate the team members for change.
  • The Lewin’s change management model describes the three stages an organization is experiencing when going through a change: unfreeze, change, refreeze.

If you would like to read in more detail about these models, check this link.

Coaching

Coaching can help prepare project leaders to successfully cascade the change down to the team. It supports them to prepare themselves, the strategy and structure of the organization and then lead the team through the change. Thereby, coaching can take different forms, for the whole team, an individual, the leadership team.

Coaching uses different tools and techniques. Everyone is differently affected by change and needs different ways of dealing with it. What is common though for all coaching approaches is that coach and client agree on the process to get from current state to target state. The role of the coach in the transition is to animate the client to design the change journey him/herself.

Resistance management

The more radical a change, the higher the resistance in the team. In order to reduce resistance to change, you should take time to understand the background of resistance and be close to the team.

  • Pinpoint main reasons for resistence: focus on the root cause instead of treating symptoms. Give the team time to express themselves in workshops or individual interviews. Afterwards, you will know which obstacles you have to remove. The best is to offer choices so that the team feels they participate.
  • Get senior leaders committed to the change first. They will have a positive impact and convince the rest of the team.
  • Open and clear communication about the reasons for the change will make the team buy in more easily. Explain the benefits for the organization and individuals and thereby use positive language.
  • Support the change with trainings.

As shown, change management can successfully support project management. Thereby, a web-based open source project management software like OpenProject allows the team to collaborate in real-time with access to all information at any time. It facilitates the work of the project manager and strengthens the collaboration and transparency amongst the team members which can reduce uncertainty. If you are managing major changes, adding an experienced change manager can improve your results even more.

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