What’s difference between project management and change management?

Change management and project management are often thought to be the same thing. They aren’t. Here’s how they differ.

By Moira Alexander
Sept. 20, 2016

Why is the role of change management within an organization necessary?

Globally, significant amounts of time and resources are poured into project initiatives annually. While projects help companies accomplish strategic goals, they don't fully address the impact to people and processes within organizations as a rule. Once projects have been completed, there is the inevitably of an impact to existing processes as well as individuals. It's important to remember while project teams and key stakeholders may be involved from start to finish, there are many other individuals that aren't, yet are impacted by the project outcome.

These individuals may struggle as a result of a significant amount of anxiety and resistance. This can create a lack of buy-in, in addition to confusion about what's changed and what it means to them in terms of how they do their jobs. It may even lead them to question their future and make them wonder if it will impact their employment with the company. This is where a change management professional can play a vital role in smoothing this transition, relieving stress and helping employees through the changes, increasing the chances of buy-in. While there may be some overlap between project managers and change managers this, to a great extent, is external to the role of a PM.

How to project managers and change managers work together?

When projects are initiated, they create a significant amount of undue stress on stakeholders and employees in general. While project managers maintain complete focus on overall project objectives with the goal of ensuring stakeholder value, change management professionals should not only attend project meetings, but also be an integral part of the project team. Collaborating provides a holistic approach to strategy and ensures the impact to people within the organization can be sufficiently addressed, to reduce unnecessary stress and anxiety, and also create a smooth transition in terms of processes and acceptance levels not only during the project phases, but long after the project is complete.

Overall, organizations should encourage change management professionals and project managers to work closely together to ensure project efforts and the resulting change are sufficiently addressed to reduce the impact on its people and level of product and service delivery.

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