Project management is inherently about change; and human beings are inherently resistant to change. It makes sense then that a competent change manager should be an integral member of any project management team. That’s according to Tony McManus, MD of McManus Consulting.
Unfortunately, the role of a well-considered and strategic change management plan is often underestimated. This often results in the change management aspect of projects getting farmed out to the human resources or public relations departments. But that, with respect, is a recipe for disaster.
Effective change management is not just about getting the changes implemented as smoothly as possible, but also about ensuring that the intended benefits are realised in the short- and long-term; and this requires buy in from all stakeholders.
For maximum efficacy, the change management stream would run parallel to the project, with the change manager working closely at with the project manager and reporting to the project sponsor.
Very often the resistance to change is based on fear of the unknown and an important role of change management is to allay those fears. The change manager (commonly an industrial psychology major) would start by identifying all stakeholders and conducting a change readiness assessment. Once stakeholders have been mapped, a change management strategy and plan can then be developed.
The change manager will also be able to identify resisters and adopters; and project champions.
When it comes to change, stakeholders general fall into three categories: the early adopters; the neutrals; and the resisters.
The early adopters need little persuasion; they are generally eager for change and need only to be informed of what’s coming and how they can implement it. The neutrals – arguably the majority in any given group – are mostly open to persuasion (providing they can be convinced of the benefits). The resisters are the most difficult group to deal with and can either actively or passively endanger the project if not, at least, managed properly.
An effective way of changing perceptions is setting up a pilot group and spending time actually showing the group the advantages of the new system. Often just providing clarity can be a game changer.
A strong change manager is an invaluable resource for the project manager and, according to McManus, change management should never be regarded as an optional extra, or "nice to have", but rather as a key component of any project.
© Tony McManus, McManus Consulting. | Image created by Freepik.com.