Project managers’ guide to change management
Project management goes hand in hand with change management. Every project an organization undertakes involves putting in place some form of change. Project managers therefore need to be acquainted with change management. This is to ensure that change initiatives are not only introduced in the form of projects but that they are carried out to completion as well.
Organizational change management is not always successful. For the longest time, the narrative has been that 50-70% of organizations that undertake change initiatives do not achieve the intended results. Such statistics may sound dooming and make firms live in fear to attempt organizational change. However, further reports have shown that these narratives can be changed if the right form of organizational change practices are put in place.
The narrative has been that 50-70% of organizations that undertake change initiatives do not achieve the intended results
How can project managers make organizational change management more successful?
First, the change process is more effective if change comes from within. Organizations that initiate change actions from within are more successful than those that depend on consultants to drive change. People are likely to embrace change if they perceive it to be beneficial to their work, or can improve how they work. Project managers can encourage employees to own organizational change by involving them in the decision making process. If they perceive the change as their own initiative, they will be more supportive of it.
Secondly, reducing uncertainties, the biggest cause of resistance to change helps in implementing change. Communication throughout the change process helps to counter change resistance. Before the change is introduced, communication plays the role of informing about the change and how it will impact the different jobs. Communication at this level may also involve equipping employees with the right skills and knowledge so they will be well equipped to work with the changes. Throughout the change process, communication involves providing support as the change takes place. Support includes additional information to improve their knowledge and skills, seeking feedback on how the change is affecting them, reassuring them that their jobs are safe, and offering tips on how to institutionalize the change.
Thirdly, change initiatives may fail when implementation is not well followed up or supported by top management. When change is left to project managers alone, and not incorporated as part of strategic planning, top management doesn’t prioritize on the change. As a result, they don’t offer the necessary support and resources to make the change happen. Project managers ought to constantly seek the involvement of top management when implementing change and not go on a sole mission.
Lastly, for the successful implementation of organizational change, project managers should stop expecting change to be one drastic event. Instead, they should recognize that change is a result of small, incremental changes. This means that every small win should be recognized as a step towards change and celebrated. Change is better received within the organization if it is introduced in small doses. Drastic changes can increase resistance as employees' first response to dramatic change is denial. Before they get to the acceptance phase, the organization could be losing out on the benefits of the change if it takes too long to implement.