written by: N Nayab
• edited by: Linda Richter
• updated: 9/30/2011
As the adage goes, "the only thing constant is change." Change management is now a regular feature in most companies and seamless execution of this process becomes critical for organizational success. Change involves all stakeholders of the enterprise, but is primarily driven by the project manager.
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What Is Change Management
Change management is the process of planning, implementing and monitoring a shift from one state or process to a supposedly better state or process. The fast-paced changes in the external business environment force almost all organizations to adopt change management on a regular basis, in an effort to catch up with the changed paradigms of doing business, or seize emerging opportunities.
This project manager's guide to change management is indispensible for the project manager, and for that matter anyone associated with a project on long-term basis. Change management and project management go hand in hand, and very often, the purpose of the project itself may be to implement some changes.
Today's business environment is marked by fast-paced changes, where new opportunities and technologies emerge and existing opportunities and technologies become redundant or obsolete by the day. As such, all project managers need to remain prepared for changes at short notice.
Change control is the process or procedures put in place to cater to the eventuality of major changes that may affect project execution or the output in a big way. The core of the process is identifying things that may likely change, assessing the extent to which the project can cope with such changes, and taking necessary precautions or safeguards as required.
Change management theories and models provide a definite blueprint or a route map to effect the change process. They provide the project manager with a specific framework to develop a plan of action during the planning process.
Such models are in a sense codification of time-tested best practices related to implementation of change. Project managers would do well to identify the most suitable model for the purpose on hand and adopt the same for the project.
Strategy is a plan of action. Change management strategy involves considering various factors such as the scope of the project, resources available, end objectives, external environment, competition and other factors to decide on a specific approach or model to implement change.
A good change management plan makes a thorough assessment of the specific aspects that require change, factors in all resources and variables to detail what requires doing to execute the plan, and then helps to keep the project on track.
The application of change management strategies and models is the more crucial part of the change management process. The best-laid plans and the best of resources available come to naught if execution is improper or not according to plans.
Implementing change poses some fresh challenges. No two organizations or projects are alike, and as such the execution phase requires some customization and tweaking to suit the specific requirements. Good project managers understand this fact and customize when planning and implementing change.
Leadership is the process of one person influencing others to perform as directed, often to accomplish mutually beneficial tasks. Leadership is crucial to the success of the change management process, with the entire success of the change management initiative very often resting on application of the appropriate leadership style.
The process of change involves all stakeholders of the enterprise, but the project manager entrusted with the execution of the project becomes primarily responsible for the initiative. Success depends on leading from the front by demonstrating the required competence and attitude and selling the change to the stakeholders, especially the human resources primarily affected by the change. It also depends on prompt resolution of issues as they come up, and enlisting the support and cooperation of the top management and other influential stakeholders to carry through the project.
Resolving people issues constitute the major challenge in managing change. Change is in a sense alteration in the way the organization utilizes its resources. The human resources of the enterprise, being the only resource, drive other resources and as such not only have to drive the change, but also remain primarily affected by change.
The success of the change initiative depends on the project manager enlisting the support and cooperation of the human resources. The ways to do so are by selling the change to them, motivating them, adopting a carrot-and-stick policy to extract performance, and overcoming resistance by assuaging uncertainties such as lack of clarity on what to do and fears of changes in the comfortable status-quo.
The process of change is beset with many issues, apparent and hidden. Regardless of the extent of planning, organizational skills or foresight, issues that may derail the initiative invariably come up, for both the external environment that guides the change initiative and the emotions of internal human resources who have to carry the burden of the change remain fluid and unpredictable beyond a point.
Success of the change management process depends on the project managers and leaders anticipating a plethora of issues. It's important that they try to pre-empt them as far as possible, taking cognizance of issues as they come up and adopting prompt resolution measures, the drivers of change showing flexibility to cope with changes within change that may lead to issues, and more.
Do you have anything to add? Change is a continuous process and, as such, the field of change management is ever evolving. We would love to hear your feedback and comments. Use the comments section that follow each article in this project manager's guide to change management to register your feedback, request more information, seek clarifications, or connect with our vibrant community of authors, editors and other subject enthusiasts.