Change management vs. project management

Even with a more in-depth description, it can be difficult to distinguish the specific differences between these two disciplines. Here is a brief side-by-side look at how the two compare.

Change management:

  • Has no standard guidelines
  • Includes less formal processes
  • Has no concrete timeline
  • Puts focus on people
  • Manages the impact of change resulting from organizational or project developments

Project management:

  • Has well-documented guidelines and standards
  • Follows a specific timeline
  • Puts focus on technical processes and systems
  • Manages the activities of a project to meet specific goals and requirements

Change management complements the project management process by supporting the human side of the equation.

How to incorporate both into your teams and processes

Because each discipline focuses on different aspects of a project (and ultimately its success), both project management and change management should work in tandem to ensure a project’s intended outcomes and overall organizational success.

Benefits of an integrated approach

Increased efficiency: Working independently of each other can lead to redundancies, miscommunication, and inefficiency. All of these factors result in messy implementation and subpar outcomes. When change and project management processes and teams integrate and work together, they can manage a project (and its impact) holistically and strategically.

Greater alignment: Integrating project management and change management in a project allows the teams to align their processes in the most effective and logical sequence. In other words, aligning the technical and people activities helps teams take the right action at the right time.

Risk mitigation: If both teams work in silos (or if change management is applied at the end of a project rather than from the beginning), they might miss significant risks and opportunities to manage and mitigate those issues.

For instance, change managers can identify areas where they expect greater pushback and resistance from stakeholders. When the two processes are integrated, managers can more effectively plan milestones and delivery.

Communication: In a similar vein, integrated project and change management improves communication and knowledge within the project. Change managers can ensure project management teams understand how people are reacting to the changes, and project managers can use that feedback to adapt their strategies and improve outcomes.

Tips for integrating change management and project management

There are different ways to incorporate change management into your project management practice. Whatever your approach, keep these tips in mind for greater success.

  1. Align your goals and outcome objectives
  2. Change management and project management naturally have complementary processes with the same basic underlying goal: to ensure the long-term success of a project (and its impact).
  3. However, that shared goal can sometimes get lost if the two sides struggle to come together. Because change management is newer and follows a different pattern, it can be easy for the two groups to feel disconnected.
  4. To prevent an “us vs. them” mentality, it is important for both teams to collaborate and clearly define and align their goals. Consider: What exactly are you trying to achieve? What are the desired outcomes?
  5. By answering these questions, you can then get to work planning a strategic and dual approach to manage the project and its impact.
  6. Establish structured change management processes
  7. We noted above that the change management discipline does not follow strict guidelines or standard processes. However, for your change management integration to be successful, a structured approach is best.
  8. Communicate with the project manager to decide on a practical methodology process. The more rigorous and structured, the better. By following a defined process with clear objectives and milestones, you can more easily align that process with the project management timeline and ensure a more strategic application of activities.
  9. Clearly define roles and responsibilities
  10. Finally, it is crucial to sit down with both teams and hammer out who is responsible for what. Projects often take months to develop and implement. Make sure you know who is accountable for each activity or outcome throughout the process. That way, nothing gets lost in the shuffle, and everyone understands what to do and when.
  11. By clearly defining responsibilities, you can not only improve your team effectiveness but also prevent delays from miscommunication and conflict.

We are here to assist in these processes so please reach out to the team at Insight-AWP to start a conversation that gets you the results you need.