August 29, 2019

How To Use Change Management To Bring Your Projects Over The Line?

By Brian McHale

Changes are a natural part of every project. However, they can get away from you and threaten your project success if you don’t keep an eye on them.

In this post, we’ll show you how to take control of changes in project management with a little help from change management.

Let’s dive in!


What Is Change Management in Project Management?

According to the definition, “change management in project management is the management of people, tools, and processes used to implement changes on your projects or through your projects.”

But what does that really mean?

Let’s say your project was getting your team to the North Pole.

Then your top management says you have to leave in three months, not twelve as you’d originally planned.

You’d need to manage this change by making sure you have all the necessary resources and have performed the necessary preparations to embark on the journey.

Another way of looking at change management is in terms of your organization wanting to make an organizational change with your project.

Let’s say you were working on a restructuring project in your organization.

For example, top management wants to break down data silos and you and your team have to restructure departments and technologies to achieve the goal.

    • That’s why we can distinguish between two types of changes in project change management:
      • Scope change control in project management
      • Change management in project management.


One area deals with changes to your project, not organizational changes.

The second uses projects as a tool for implementing changes organization-wide.

Project Change Management

Image source: The Project Group

As you can see, project management is what ultimately leads an organization from its actual state to target state.


What Is the Difference Between Change Management and Project Management?

While change management and project management can overlap (and they certainly have their fair share of shared characteristics), they are not one and the same.

A project manager’s goal is completing the project. However, a change manager has to review how all the stakeholders will be affected by the subsequent changes.

For example, if an organization is creating new software to be used company-wide, a project manager would make sure the software gets done.

However, a change manager would consider how the new software would affect all the stakeholders.

A project manager defines tasks, deadlines and responsibilities in order to finish the project.

A change manager defines strategies on how to deal with the project deliverables, and ensure they are sustainable in the long run.

The most common situations in which a project manager effectively becomes a change manager are:

  • Stakeholder communication and engagement
  • Document preparation
  • Scope change control.


Now, this can seem like quite a bite for an untrained project manager.

Fortunately, there are change management processes you can use.

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1. Change Management Process for Scope Change Control in Project Management

The first type of changes (the most common one) are the changes to triple constraints, or changes to:

  • Budget
  • Scope
  • Quality.


Your first step should be creating a project scope management plan.

This document will outline everything you need to know in order to manage changes effectively throughout your project:

  • Documentation
  • Tracking system
  • Approval levels.


Your project scope management plan will help you manage change by outlining the processes to be followed whenever a change needs to be made.

Project scope management

The typical project scope change management process includes:

  • Receiving change requests
  • Assessing change requests with focus on triple constraints
  • Preparing a plan on how to implement requests
  • Receiving approval.


Ideally, you’ll have created a project charter that outlines the goals you want to achieve, and a work breakdown structure that gives you a clear idea of resources available to you and your project team.

If you need to make a minor change for which you already have resources, it won’t be a problem.

Conversely, if you need to make a significant change, it’s important to reevaluate your resources and reassess project objectives.

With every proposed change, you should do a risk evaluation to determine if the (dis)approval of the change could potentially have an effect on your project.

When considering whether to approve or reject a change, consider asking yourself the following questions:

  • Is the change unavoidable?
  • Does the change increase the overall benefits to the organization?
  • Is the project team able to make such a change?
  • Should the change be made now, or should it be postponed until current work has been completed?


Regardless of the change type, the project team should have a change management process to rely on.

There shouldn’t be any uncontrolled changes not approved by top management or project managers.

Each change should be documented and tracked through project management tools.


Change Request Form

Image source: PM Tips

Change Management and Your Project Team

Usually, a change means more work for your project team.

You’re bound to come across an obstacle or two when convincing them.

Fortunately, pushback from your project team can be avoided with:

  • Open and honest communication – Make it clear to your team why these changes are being made, and how they will affect the team members
  • Briefings on new responsibilities – Don’t let your team wonder what they’ll have to do next. Make their tasks and next steps as clear as possible
  • Project management tools like Microsoft 365 that simplify task management and project change management can help you and your team implement changes with minimal pushback.


When your team understands that you’re there to help them navigate changes, they’ll be more likely to comply with them.

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2. Project Change Management Process

Our second type of project management changes are the internal organizational changes being implemented through project management.

This is where you will no longer be a project manager, but a change manager, as well.

For example, you may be tasked with leading the project of redesigning office space.

This isn’t just a project that requires you to manage tasks.

You’ll also have to get all the stakeholders (including other employees and your team members) on board with the change.

This is why your project change management process needs to include:

  • Individual change models
  • Coaching
  • Resistance management.


Approach the transformational project like you would any other, by keeping triple constraints and stakeholders in mind.

Your project plan should include:

  • Milestones and tasks to complete
  • Necessary resources
  • Project scope
  • Key messages
  • Stakeholder and sponsor engagement plans.


In many ways, a change management plan is similar to a project plan.

However, pay attention to messages and stakeholder engagement.

Change management is all about the people who are affected, and strategies to bring them all to the same page with regard to change.

Change Management Roadmap Plan Example

A sample change roadmap from a health agency

Source: Examples

The amount of change management required depends on the organization.

In some organizations, the company culture reinforces adaptability.

However, other company cultures don’t reinforce flexibility, which is why you will need to apply more change management to projects directly affecting the company.

McKinsey 7S framework

McKinsey’s 7S change management model

You can also use change models to help you create a structured plan on how to manage changes to the internal functioning of your organization.

However, when it’s all said and done, your change management process has to be reinforced by your team.

Influence their perception first, and you’ll be one step closer to implementing every change on your project path.

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