Projects need change expertise. Why? Because the tides of change are continuing to rise, compelling leaders to measure the impacts as they select and prioritize projects during the business case lifecycle. 70% of all transformations fail according to research from McKinsey and Company, and evidence is mounting that the path to improvement lies in the growing field of organizational change management (OCM).
Whether companies engage change management experts or train their project managers in change management best practices, there is no way around it. Companies must consider how the number and complexity of scheduled initiatives will affect employees, their ability to do work, and ultimately the overall productivity and success of the organization.
Where’s the Gap?
Granted, program and project management activities prevent overlap of effort at multiple levels. Each project schedule tracks resources to identify conflicts and prevent resource overload; i.e., when resources are loaded, project managers can determine whether a resource is working on multiple tasks at the same time. Program managers provide oversight across projects. And, under ideal circumstances, the project management office (PMO) performs master planning activities to identify conflicts across the organization.
Consequently, project management can prevent schedule conflicts from impeding project delivery. But what discipline is in place to prevent the impacts of those projects from overlapping? Change management does the heavy lifting to ensure that there is not so much change going on in an organization that people are overwhelmed. Change management monitors and measures change saturation, preventing employee frustration, paralysis, and burn-out.
The Traditional PM Role
The traditional project manager’s role is to drive projects from initiation through closing. Project success is based on whether project activities are completed on time and on budget with quality. The gap lies in managing how people move from the current operating state that exists prior to project execution to the future operating state that will exist Day 1 after project implementation.
The New PM/OCM Role
The change manager’s job (or the project manager’s new responsibilities) include assessing whether an organization has the capacity and the capability to achieve a particular change. This is the input to the business case “yah or nay” decision. If the organization is ready, how ready? And where there are gaps, how can leaders fill those gaps to ensure people transition into the new way of doing work with minimal loss of productivity (and sanity)? The change implementation extends beyond project delivery to ensure sustainability. Success is based on whether the people adopt the change and the organization actually recognizes expected benefits.
The Failure Rate Without OCM
A weak culture that isn’t aligned with the mission, lack of participation and buy-in, under-communicating a powerful vision, over-communicating a poor vision, not enough training or resources, and so on. But one very critical roadblock standing in the way of bringing a change vision to fruition is what I call change battle fatigue.Brent Gleeson
These are all elements of transformation that experienced and qualified change practitioners are prepared to address. PMs must learn to address these elements as well if businesses want to raise the success rate of their transformational change initiatives.
OCM Training for PMs
The Project Management Institute (PMI) is becoming increasingly aware of the need for PMs to build skills in guiding change. When I took the PMP exam in 2012, I was surprised to discover that the standards documentation (the PMBOK) does not provide guidance for managing the people side change. Any references to “change management” refer to managing change requests. Since that time, however, PMI has been providing a growing knowledge base of learning resources related to organizational change.
PMI recognizes that projects need change expertise. The new PMP exam, to be enacted in July 2020, tests PMP candidates for their knowledge of OCM. Candidates will be tested on tasks such as how to support organizational change by assessing organizational culture and evaluating change impacts.
The rate of change is accelerating exponentially, and people from the break room to the board room need help navigating that change. You will hear me state this truth over and over again. It is a truth that resonates throughout my writing and work.
The tides of change are upon us. Managing the people side of change is now critical to successful organizational transformation, so projects need change expertise. For smaller projects with fewer impacts, that might mean OCM training for PMs. For large, complex projects, that means engaging expert change management practitioners to focus on organizational change.
Change expertise needs to be in place when projects are selected at the beginning of the business case cycle. That way, leaders will have the information they need to avoid introducing the risks of change saturation.
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