Considering a Change Management / Project Management Career? Benjamin Franklin said, ‘Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.’ Yesterday, today, and tomorrow, these words ring true for any business and individual. At the center of this; growth/changes do not happen by mere chance but rather by the deliberate effort of people or forces working together. Changes to systems, processes, structures, and roles have both a people side and a technical side. The people side is what change management is all about while the technical side is what project management is all about. By acquiring a project management certification and by becoming a certified change management practitioner you can learn and practice the effective tools, skills, and techniques to enhance your career and contribute to your organization.
By the end of this post, you will have an objective context of just how organizations (and individuals for that matter) evolve from their current state and smoothly transition to their desired future state. More importantly, you will also understand why and how you stand to benefit from choosing a career in change management. Let’s get right to it.
What is Change Management
Change management is the structured approach to managing the infinite number of changes that occur as an organization or individual move from a current state to a desired future state. It is the discipline that provides guidance on how to prepare, equip and support individuals to successfully adopt change and therefore smoothly transition towards improvement, achievement, desired outcomes, and success.
Changes can range from adopting a new vision by founders or the executive leadership to changing a corporate child care provider in an organization. A great way to get a handle on the infinite number of changes that can occur is to categorize the changes. Broadly speaking, there are three levels of changes that can happen:
- Individual change: how individuals experience changes and how they successfully adapt on a personal level.
- Organizational/Initiative Change: changes that occur at a project level involving groups of individuals and how they can all succeed for the sake of the project.
- Enterprise change: Changes to an entire organizations core competency resulting in adaptation and competitive differentiation.
Difference between Change Management and Project Management
At its core, project management is about seeking to achieve clearly defined outcomes within the triple constraint (time, scope, and budget). Change management is frequently incorporated into project management.
Although there are several similarities between project management and change management, there are some crucial differences as well. Understanding these differences in technique and implementation allows managers to correctly implement the two and therefore efficiently and effectively achieve an organization desired objective.
There are several differences between Change and project management. Below are some of the core differences:
At its core project management is about deciding on a schedule and sticking to it. Change management, on the other hand, doesn’t stake its success too much on any defined timelines but instead on gathering input from stakeholders throughout an entire process and often for an undefined period of time.
Project management uses milestones as a core tool to keep processes on track. These milestones are established before the project begins. In change management, there are no a priori or predefined milestones because participation and input from stakeholders are often unpredictable and can alter the process in innumerable ways that need to be adapted to.
Project management is limited to a scope that is predefined before the onset of a project to avoid project creep. Change management, on the other hand, doesn’t have a defined scope and is not defined at all. The idea is to deal with whatever happens so that stakeholders can drive the organizations efficiently and effectively towards desired objectives.
Skills required to become a Change Manager
So, what exactly does a change manager do? Well, their core job is to guide, communicate, implement and document strategies to smoothly effect and manage change among stakeholders (employees, leadership, customers, suppliers, etc.) Change managers assist people to adopt or buy into the organization’s objectives and activities with the least possible resistance, while at the same time mitigating the organization’s risk and minimizing adverse impact on the people.
Efficacious change management entails the following:
- Complete and active support of the executive and leadership
- Active participation and involvement of employees
- Effective communication
- Strategic planning and analysis
- Adoption of the idea about the need to change among stakeholders
There is a diverse skill set required to successfully effect the change in an organization. Some of the vital skills a change manager requires are as follows:
Excellent communication skills
The ability to:
- Directly communicate with all stakeholders including the entire spectrum of employees from the leadership to the those with the most junior roles
- Understanding each person’s requirements
- Contextualizing individual and organizational needs while making the organization’s objectives relevant to the individual
- Gain support from all stakeholders from leadership to employees by communicating a strong value proposition
Basically, the change manager should be able to impart skills, give direction, encourage and support all stakeholders. The change manager should, therefore, have a thorough understanding of the methodologies, best practices, and frameworks that are most effective at the different levels of an organization.
The skill to tap internal and external resources, plan, effectively implement and assess the impact of changes made is crucial. The ability to mitigate resistance and support stakeholders to appreciate the process of change is vital.
Project management skills
To successfully apply individual, organizational and enterprise changes through a change management plan, a change manager must have the skills to assess change from a people perspective as well as from a technical standpoint. The primary objective will be to ensure that change is supported accepted and delivered correctly. As such, having the necessary project management knowledge, tools and techniques which involves outlining dependencies, outcomes, resources, and responsibilities, while monitoring change, assessing progress and adapting as need be, is vital.
Benefits of Change Management as a Career
If you decide to take the leap and become a change manager, these are some of the benefits that you will gain:
Helps stay relevant in the industry
Since you will have a better understanding of the requirements and process of change in organizations, you will be better suited to adjust in a constantly changing job market and in a changing economic climate.
Since change is ubiquitous and because change management provides the tools to contextualize all kinds of change, as a change manager, you will be able to fit into any environment across the globe.
Helps improve success rates of projects
Change managers can manage both technical and personal facets of a project and this, therefore, exponentially increases the chances of project success.
Helps organizations increase their ROI
By managing both the human and technical factors in a project, a change manager is able to efficiently and more effectively design, lead and mitigate risk in a change and project strategy. Ultimately, the result is a positive impact in an organization bottom line that can be measured by an increase in ROI.
Project management is mostly about following processes and implementing defined steps towards achieving an organizations objective. To be an effective change manager, one must go beyond the following process and implementing steps. Change management provides the methodology to contextualize and manage the infinite number of changes that can impact individuals and projects towards achieving an organizations objective. Since growth and change are inevitable, change management is a cornerstone of organizational success and therefore also a great career to get into.
Article by Akshata Chandrashekhar