Change Management in Projects

Change Management in Projects

Change Management in Projects

Richard Hemsworth

In a project environment there should already be a plan for the physical outputs, perhaps an outcome or two, and some benefits that were in the business case to justify the expenditure and resource allocation. All too often the people engagement side and the end-user engagement is not considered until well into the project, if at all. In poorly managed projects the project manager considers his or her job finished when the physical components are complete. We are not talking about variation management here - a topic which project management texts often mistakenly call "change management". We are interested in how people engage with a new process and implement it to deliver the desired benefits.

Sometimes, if it's a piece of software, an application, the implementation of a new process, a building, or even just moving a desk; the change management piece can be given scant consideration. We've all heard the phrase: "they just through it over the fence and hoped it would work." Project Managers have a responsibly to manage a project to achieve the benefits of the project, and should ensure that the people-change element is planned and effectively managed, as with any other component.

End-to-end project management models have strong elements of engagement. Both PRINCE2 and PMBoK based systems have intensive processes for stakeholder engagement and communication. Agile (incremental) systems have an opportunity for similar, if not greater, engagement.

So, if we consider an idealised project process for an ICT (linear) project:

we see that there is anobvious need for user engagement at the deployment phase and handover phase. Users might even get some level of engagement and change management during User Acceptance Testing. However, there is a role for change management (which is used to ensure success) throughout the entire process. Change management is not a "quality" process for business improvement - it is a method for minimising the risks of project failure when implementing technological, process or organisational transformation.

Kotter's 8-steps to leading change, D.E Hussey's EASIER model, or Prosci's 3 phases of change management are examples of change management models that can be applied to project work. McKinsey's 7S Framework has mutually reinforcing elements that can also be used in projects to manage the change process. As an experienced project manager, you would recognise that the PODS change leadership model of four phases (Plan, Organise, Deliver, Sustain) fits well with project practice.

From a continuous improvement (ISO9000) model or Lean Six Sigma approach to change, there is an inherent cause-and-effect relationship between key process inputs and outputs that provides the ability of the employee to see the benefits of self-directed work teams. The natural response to mandates-to-improve-performance have previously been to "work harder" or "wait for management to install new technology", not to participate in the identification and control of root causes, which would fundamentally change the way the jobs were done.

Whether using the ICT process flow shown earlier or a more traditional project flow such as:


PODS and its activity streams can be quickly applied, integrating with any project methodology and deliver the required transformation.

Phase / Activity Stream
  • Plan
  • Evaluate
  • Assess
  • Design

  • Organise
  • Motivate
  • Influence
  • Unfreeze

  • Deliver
  • Coordinate
  • Coach
  • Empower

  • Sustain
  • Anchor
  • Celebrate
  • Reflect

In most change management models there is a tendency for stakeholders to be motivated to accept requirements up front - an approach where detailed specifications are created and agreed early in the project. In an Agile project approach there may be an initial backlog-of-product to be done, but development of the full detailed outputs are initially not visible. Change therefore needs to be applied in an incremental way. This approach is often easier for stakeholders to deal with and leads to less resistance. Nonetheless, the change management aspects used in PODS are the same.


When I first started as a project manager in an Agile environment, one of my coaches related a story to me that resonated well. If have two bowls on a hotplate, one with hot water and one with cold water and you put a frog in the hot water it will jump out straight away. If you put the frog in the cold water, it stays there. If you warm that water incrementally, the frog doesn't notice the change and remains in the water as it warms. In one case, the frog comes on the journey. In the other case you need to deal with the significant resistance. Agile can give you the opportunity to warm the water slowly and not shock the stakeholder with the rate of change.

Regardless of the project methodology, project teams may include specialist members to facilitate change, with titles like: Change Manager, Implementation Manager, Communication Lead, Change Champion, or Training Developer. Regardless of the team that is brought on-board, the Project Manager must coordinate the people and technical elements to deliver successful outcomes.

Within each phase of PODS, activities prompt specific actions that help you guide or lead the engagement process and move people to new behaviours delivering the named benefits.

Activity Stream / Considerations
Evaluate the change / • Context: Environment, history, culture, previous changes
• Impact of change, examine significance
Assess the change environment / • Assess the expected scale & cultural impact
• Assess the requirements, analyse the culture
• Analyse success metrics
Design the message for change / • Develop the key messages
• Information styles
• Vision and goal alignment
Motivate your team / • Motivate through values, create purpose
• Mobilise resources /communicate goals
Influence change / • Role model and influence change, lead by example
• Establish champions, advocates and early adopters
‘Unfreeze’ and sponsor action / • Create sense of urgency, plant early wins
• Deal with states of mind
• Target specific approaches, sponsor action
• Identify points of inertia / address resistance
Coordinate change readiness and commitment / • Change readiness assessment, measure commitment
• Support teams and roles /gain commitment
Coach to develop capability / • Coach with G.R.O.W. (Goal, current Reality, Options or Obstacles,Will or Way forward), develop capability
• Why? What? How? What else? (motivate, train, coach, explore)
Empower and enable change / • Enable behaviours (innovation, risk appetite), engage people
• Proceduralise accountability (formalise delegations)
• Enable responsibility, remove obstacles
Anchor change and sustain behaviour / • Anchor and sustain change
• Repeat and reward acceptable behaviours
Celebrate and reward change / • Identify and discourage non-conformance
• Celebrate and reward changed behaviours
• Congratulate closure
Reflect and review the changes / • Reflect on leaders' change activities, review learnings
• Measure success
• Capture successes for the future

As with all good change management approaches, PODS has a strong feel of being self-evident. The phase: "It's just common sense", or "it's obvious" is commonly heard in reference to PODS. You will also recognise that leadership training now often has many of these components and recommendations for how to bring your team along with you in any change initiative.

Change management models are only a guide, so understand as many as you can; then make your own judgement as to which is the most useful. They are a tool to use as a framework for successful change. They act as a checklist, to give the best possibility of success in a change project.


E- Form a coherent view of the future: the vision, with which to will inspire everyone and have the end goal ready that underpins the organisational outcomes. This vision should be strategic and holistic, which addresses the complete organisational change.

A – Activate – Activate the followers: engage them and communicate the vision, ensuring that they fully understand where the organisation is and more importantly where it wants to be, and how it will get there. At this point, Hussey argues that Managers should allow participative support, encouraging ownership and commitment through choice. In order for the next phase of integration, this activate stage must be embedded. Hussey also states that if Activation is not achieved, then coercion may be the only choice, which can achieve the desired result, at the expense of organisational morale.

S – Support – This section is all about empathy. The leader must inspire and support individuals through the change curve. Using emotional intelligence and seeing things with their eyes helps overcome barriers to change. Good leadership characteristics are crucial at this stage, as support and inspiration will only come through credibility of the leader.

I – Implement – This part is all about completing the many tasks and plans that must be closed in order to turn the vision into reality. The implementation stage must capture the following:

  • Ensuring all consequences of change are understood
  • Identify all the actions necessary to bring about change
  • Allocate responsibility for the various actions
  • Prioritise those actions
  • Provide budgets
  • Set up teams and structures to support the project
  • Determine any policies that are needed to make the change program work

E – Ensure – This can be used to reinforce the vision and re-inspire in certain circumstances. However, it is often used to create complete certainty of the project, ensuring that monitoring and controlling processes are in place. In turn, the following are controlled:

  • All actions are taken on time
  • Where there is a change to plan, the changes are legitimate and that there is a good reason for this
  • Corrective action is taken when results are not to plan
  • Ensuring that the plans are still appropriate if things change

R – Recognise – This step is all about giving feedback and recognising those involved in the project. Recognition can be positive or negative and should be used to re-enforce the vision again, setting standards along the way. Recognition can come in many forms, including promotion, a simple thanks or any other way, but it is important celebrate successes and positively enforce the desired ways of working and the closure of tasks.

The key to change, as many change management models depict is to provide a clear vision, communicate well, encourage commitment and participation from those affected by change, and lead the required behaviours.

Change management models are a good tool to use as a framework for successful change, and also as in the case of the EASIER and ADKAR models, acts as a good checklist, in order to give the best possibility of success in a change project.

Remember, the change management models are a guide, so understand as many as you can, and then make your own judgement as to the which is the most useful.

Change Management in Projects ©2002-2015Page 1