How To Successfully Integrate Project Management and Change Management

By | April 7, 2017

Let’s talk about why it’s so important to understand How to Integrate Project Management and Change Management when leading an organizational change initiative.

In a project I just completed, the importance of this integration was highlighted once again and I want to share some key ways to lead organizational change the right way…my project did some things well and some things not so well. I will use a rating on a scale of 1 – 5 to indicate how well we did – with 5 being very well and 1 not well based on a recent “Thought Leadership Article” by Prosci.

Are both the project team and the change management team focused on results and outcomes?

The project team was definitely focused on, responsible for and held accountable for delivering results and outcomes. A strong project management approach was in place and the project manager was very experienced. The same cannot be said for the change  practitioner. The change practitioner must take the lead in terms of defining what success looks like to achieve the project results and outcomes. The change practitioner was not a strong leader.

Rating – 2 out of 5

Key to Success: There must be a shared focus on results and outcomes to successfully integrate project management (the technical side) and change management (the people side).

Is there a structured and rigorous approach to change management?

NOOOO…there was not!! As I mentioned, we were fortunate to have a strong project management approach that was not matched on the change management side. Without a strong focus on the people side, is it any wonder that people were not ready for the change and the “operationalization” of the new system was delayed well beyond the project closure date and much more resistance management tactics were required due to underwhelming change leadership.

Rating – 1 out of 5

Key to Success: A structured and rigorous approach to managing the people side of change increases the credibility and accessibility with sponsors, project managers and, most importantly, the people who are impacted by the change – STAFF!!

Was there support and buy-in from the Project Team?

I would say that the project team saw change management as a “checkmark” on the project plan. I’m confident that our project sponsors were aware of the importance of integrating change management and project management. Being aware and providing strong direction are separate activities. A strong change practitioner was needed and, in my experience, would have then be seen as a valued and critical component of project delivery. A change  practitioner can and must demonstrate how a robust change management plan will have a direct impact on realizing benefits and achieving the desired results and outcomes.

Rating – 2 out of 5

Key to Success: Change management must be made meaningful and real. Making a connection that better adoption and usage of the solution by employees will help the project deliver its intended results and outcomes falls to the change practitioner. Successfully managing the people side of change increases the likelihood that project delivery will be on time and on budget can grab the attention of the project team. Please remember that project teams love structure and rigour…so the best way for change management to be accepted is adopt a project management mindset to the way change management is executed.

Support from Leadership?

I have already pointed out that the project sponsors do have an awareness of the importance of change management. Simply assigning a person to change management is not enough. Whether we are talking about project management or change management, it is critical that the assigned resources bring credibility, leadership and a presence to ensure the required rigour is applied to achieve success in a project. In this example, the resource assigned to lead change management does not have the requisite competencies to bring a strong leader. Certainly, this person can do the job when they are told what to do…but I’m sure you will agree that true leaders go out and get things done without being told! It is up the project sponsors to ensure that the project is resourced adequately. In this case, the project sponsors failed…the resource assigned does not have the leadership competencies that are required for this type of role.

Rating – 2 out of 5

Key to Success? The project sponsors must make decisions that support the required connection between the importance of change management and how it is directly tied to the ultimate results and outcomes of the project.

Was there a thoughtful approach to understand how much change management was required on the project?

No! The “business” experts attempted to influence the conversation and focus on the high need for change management that was required on this project. Having change management present right from the outset of the project does not equate to change management leadership. Through a number of conversations between the business and the change practitioner, it became apparent that she did not have the competencies required to recognize and/or execute the amount of change management rigor to be applied to this project.

Rating – 2 out of 5

Key to Success? A strong change practitioner engaged from project initiation will ask critical change management focused questions early on to position change management and help provide clarity on the scope of the change management challenge.

Was direction provided on how to integrate project management and change management?

Well, the project sponsors ensured that a change practitioner was on board as a member of the project team…but ensuring that change management was part of the project plan and charter was a checkmark for the project manager; building roadmaps – not so much, being active and visible in terms of having open communication between project management and change management to enhance integration…no clear direction on how to integrate. By this time, I’m left with the feeling that the project sponsors do not really understand how project and change management integrate.

Rating – 2 out of 5

Key to Success? The project sponsors must start with a foundational knowledge of project management and change management process within in their organization(s). The project sponsors must encourage the project manager and change management practitioners to do the same with each other’s tools and processes. With this foundational piece in place, the project sponsor can identify connections, overlaps and similarities between both processes and influence conversations about the opportunities to integrate.

Were the roles of the project management and change management clearly defined at project initiation?

I think there was an assumption that this understanding existed. As with many assumptions, this was an incorrect assumption! There was a lack of clarity when it came to understanding who was responsible to follow-up with stakeholders and where that accountability rested. Due to the weak presence of the change  practitioner, the project team defaulted to the traditional view that change management is only about communication. Worse yet, the change practitioner did not help the case for clarity by not providing the change management leadership required to increase its visibility.

Rating – 1 out of 5

Key to Success? As active and visible project sponsors, they must define and clarify roles. They must initiate conversations to identify activities that might result in overlap when it comes to which role carries out which task and discuss these activities with the project team early on in the project. It is so helpful when project sponsors are able to provide examples of how the tasks done by the change practitioner are equally concrete and purposeful as those done by the project manager.

What does this confirm for me and what does this mean for you?

Research indicates that the #1 contributor to project success is active and visible sponsorship! This experience confirms this research for me and I hope it does for you as well. When it comes to project sponsorship, many people believe that one project sponsor rather multiple is much better…and I agree! A strong project sponsor will ensure that true integration of project management and change management in the delivery of a project will provide a unified approach for achieving the desired results and outcomes of organizational change.

My Bottom Line!

Success for a project results from an effectively designed, developed and delivered solution that is embraced, adopted and utilized by impacted employees.


I hope you have enjoyed this post and if you have any questions about this post or any of my other posts, please leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you. Here is a link to my profile.

All the best!

Miles – Change Management Consultant

2 thoughts on “How To Successfully Integrate Project Management and Change Management

  1. IllusiozTan

    Thanks Miles for your sharing. I agree that both Project management and change management is important in completing a project. On the subject of change management, it is mentioned that this involve people. Do we apply change management technique when selecting the team member?

    In project management, it cover the people management aspect. Will this overlap with the change management?

    1. admin

      Hi there and thank you very much for taking the time to review and ask some great questions. First of all, when recruiting people to your team, it is important to screen for competency/expertise/experience in change management. Regardless of your business, any change initiative or project involves some type of change and it’s critical to think of the people who will be impacted by the change and how they can be supported through the change process. Yes, when I recruit people to any position in my consulting business, I always seek people who understand and practiced change management.

      Yes, project management does include people management. I would suggest that the difference is that the managing of people is done with an eye on ensuring that the project team members are doing what they need to do to ensure that the project is completed within scope, on schedule and on budget. The change management focus will focus on the people who are impacted by the change. Project management is about the technical side of change and change management is about the people side of the change. When integrated successfully, both elements combine to ensure that the project outcomes are achieved and that the people implementing the outcomes quickly adopt the new process/system and become proficient at it…the end result is return of investment all around…value!!

      Please let me know if I can provide any further information.

      Take care!



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