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How to streamline change management in project management

By: Leanne Armstrong

Change management within an organization is meant to guide everyone who may be impacted by a new way of doing things through the transition process. More specifically, it includes taking steps to ensure employees aren’t just aware change is coming, but that they’re intimately involved with its success.

That said, change management in project management is largely about making it easier for team members to commit to new initiatives whether the aim of your project is to build a better product, hang onto more customers, or accomplish a departmental task faster.

Learning to manage change effectively as a project manager will help you implement or improve procedures, job functions, and workflow processes with a little less dissention and a little more acceptance and teamwork.

Let’s find out how you can accomplish change management in project management effectively by examining some key steps and strategies.


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Why change management is important in project management

Goals and strategies may come and go, but one common element you can count on in any change management project you take on is people.

Because accomplishing your change objectives will typically affect how the people around you get their work done, improving performance usually comes down to how well you drive the willing adoption of any adjustments you make.

It can be ridiculously easy to overlook the fact that much of the expected benefit from any new initiative is tied directly to the people carrying it out. And that can lead to too much focus on putting changes in place, and not enough on gaining the necessary support for them.

Here’s an example.

Let’s say your project goal involves bettering the way business customers get serviced:

  • You quickly and enthusiastically roll out a new CRM software system across your department or company.
  • You meet all the change requirements from a technical and installation point of view.
  • You fail to improve your customer service ratings to any noticeable degree.

What just happened?

Is it possible you forgot that bridging the gap between change execution and success lies very much in the hands of the people responsible for incorporating a new process design into their daily activities?

To accomplish change management in project management effectively, you need to prepare, include, equip, and support the team members who make organizational change happen at the ground level.

The more proficient you are at managing your team to optimize change in their day-to-day work, the more likely you are to achieve your project objectives – and the benefits that go with them.

Key steps and strategies for change management in project management

Implementing change at any level is difficult. But you’ll have a distinct advantage if you understand how project management software and tools mitigate uncertain outcomes by helping you properly plan and monitor:

  • Project tasks and activities
  • Milestones and timelines
  • Resources and deliverables

When it comes to change management in project management specifically however, it’s important to also take steps and adopt strategies that minimize internal resistance alongside other risks.

Clearly, one key strategy is to always treat team members like the essential assets they are.

Instead of informing them, for example, that they’ll be training tomorrow for the new CRM system set to roll out the following day, your aim should be to encourage them to embrace your new customer software and service procedures by:

  1. a) giving them the skills and support they’ll need to succeed well in advance, and
  2. b) proactively guiding them through the changes your project will bring

Let’s take a look at some steps you can take to address the people side of your project inside the larger scope of a typical, 4-stage change management process.

Step 1

Change Project Management: Define the change to be made.

People Management: Even if you’re working with a core change management team, make sure you involve project stakeholders and all the employees who’ll be impacted by change as early as possible in the process. This stage should include mutually assessing readiness and creating a communication plan.

Step 2

Change Project Management: Create a change management plan.

People Management: Work through potential solutions for instigating change directly with team members by using shared project planning tools, diagrams, and templates like the ones built into MindManager. This stage should include brainstorming and communicating with employees about what to expect.

Step 3

Change Project Management: Implement planned changes.

People Management: Make sure you give individuals the opportunity to provide feedback as changes unfold and make meaningful decisions about their work and its role within the scope of your project. This stage should include providing and supporting integrated training and upgrading of skills.

Step 4

Change Project Management: Measure and optimize the changes you’ve made.

People Management: Build accessible measurement systems into the change process so people will know when they are, and are not, meeting change requirements and maximizing project benefits. This stage (and every other stage) should include mitigating employee resistance by encouraging and rewarding continuous improvement.

Remember, a well thought out strategy includes recognizing what sets change management projects apart from many others – namely, a dedicated focus on:

  • Softening the resistance to change that’s normal within every organization
  • Minimizing the impact of change on valuable, existing work structures and personnel functions
  • Bringing everyone on board before and as changes unfold

By engaging and supporting team members throughout times of transition, you’re more likely to gain their trust and support for your project in turn.

Change management roles for project team members

It’s clear that one of the biggest risks in any change management project is the strong possibility that those affected will feel frustrated or upset by new methods.

With research suggesting that happy employees are as much as 20% more productive than unhappy employees, it’s worth considering what project team roles should look like to maximize change satisfaction.

Change management for employees

It’s not always realistic to involve everyone in every project decision where change is required. But since prioritizing employee involvement is a proven way to increase your odds of success, you should make a point of:

  • Gathering individual input and brainstorming (where it makes sense to do so) across departments during the exploration, planning, and implementation stages of your project
  • Meeting up with team members as regularly as possible while changes are in motion
  • Recognizing and rewarding employees who are working positively to adopt and make changes stick

Change management for managers

You can’t expect employees to support your change project if leadership buy-in is limited or non-existent. Project results will be more in line with what you need if:

  • Management backing for new tasks, procedures, and other people-focused work is consistent and visible
  • You take advantage of flexible software like MindManager to visualize project content and facilitate communication with stakeholders
  • Leaders boost employee understanding and commitment through one-on-one conversations that address what’s changing and why, and how those changes will affect individual work areas and daily activities

Coaching your team toward change commitment will be easier at every stage of your project if you give those involved access to the proper tools and management system.

MindManager planning and mapping software is ideal for intuitively handling change management in project management throughout the transformation process.

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