The Dynamic Duo of Project Success: Project Management + Organizational Change Management

By: Bruce Halley, Director of Consulting Services & Project Management Practice Lead
Stryceelyn Jackson, Senior Consultant & Project Manager
Shannan Simms, Principal Consultant & Organizational Change Management Practice Lead
Have you ever seen a project run over budget? Slip schedules? Fail to deliver the expected benefits?
Have you been left asking the question, “What happened?!?”
Leaders can end up blaming project managers for failure to ‘manage the project’; and project managers can end up blaming leaders for failure to make decisions and take actions.
The reason is often much more basic - the people who were going to be impacted the most were forgotten, weren’t involved in the solution design, weren’t adequately informed of the project change or impacts, or weren’t prepared to work the new way.
As a result:
  • Dissent appeared at design sessions in the form of “that won’t meet our needs” or “but we’re different and need a different solution” – people aren’t ready.
  • The new way of working isn’t adopted, and people continue to work ‘business as usual’ continuing with old systems and/or shadow processes – people aren’t willing.
  • Errors or delays occur because people don’t know ‘how’ to work the new way – people aren’t able.
Bottom line - this all translates into reduced financial performance.
The business case for most large system implementation projects is based on some combination of the following benefits: improved efficiency, reduced cost, increased business agility, streamlined performance, standardized processes, and improved quality. The business case often assumes that the people who are going to use the new system or process will just automatically change their behavior.
However, getting people to change their behavior can be harder than designing, developing, and deploying the new system. If a project sponsor does not adequately address concerns and resistance, the project will take longer than expected to deliver its intended benefits, if ever. Failing to plan and execute activities within a project that specifically helps people to be ready, willing and able to make the transition increase the risk that a project will not achieve its desired objectives. Our combined years of experience have taught us the best ways to integrate change management activities into a project.
Paralleled Efforts: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Project Management (PM) has long been an approach that’s valued, understood, refined and expertly executed. Most organizations are familiar with the role and responsibilities of the Project Manager and project management team to plan, execute, control, monitor, and successfully close the deployment of a solution.   

More and more, companies are beginning to understand the importance of an Organizational Change Manager and their team to achieve adoption of the delivered product by those who are expected to use it. To maximize adoption and minimize disruption, the Organizational Change Management (OCM) team plans and executes leadership readiness, communication and engagement, and training and knowledge transfer activities. 

The PM and OCM functions are two sides of the same coin. One side delivers the solution. The other side ensures its use. Consequently, these functions are both important to realize the return on investment of the deployed product.

Most enterprises have adopted an approach to project management and have developed supporting processes to improve their delivery success by ensuring that the project meets the objectives of the enterprise and sponsor, providing day-to-day leadership of the project team, ensuring that there is a realistic plan, providing quality control, and managing risk.  
When people are asked to change their behavior as part of a system implementation or an organizational change there is a negative impact. This impact shows up as lost productivity, diminished performance, decreased engagement, lower morale, and even attrition. The focus of the OCM team is to minimize the negative effects of this change on people and accelerate the transition to full adoption. This is accomplished by addressing the fundamental needs that people have to understand and accept the reason for the change, and then adapt their behavior to their role and responsibilities within the new system or process, as shown in this graph (J-curve effect).
Organizational Change Management focuses on taking deliberate actions to proactively address the “people” side of change, by preparing and equipping them to successfully make the transition to the new behaviors needed to achieve project objectives.
Navigator’s approach to OCM includes the following strategies and tactics:
  • Use a deliberate and structured framework
  • Leverage research on best practices that have led organizations to successful change implementation

Navigator’s approach is more effective than just communications or training efforts alone. The larger the effort, or more significant the change in the way people behave, the more OCM is needed.

What You Can Do
As projects become larger and more complex, or significantly impact the way that an enterprise operates, it becomes increasingly important to integrate the PM and OCM processes to maximize the benefits realized from the effort. We have found that there are several key actions you can take at the beginning of projects to avoid common pitfalls.
First, all projects should be assessed to determine the need for an integrated PM/OCM approach. Two critical questions to ask of project sponsors:

  1. What percentage of our project success is based on people doing something different?
  2. What happens if adoption of our effort is less than expected?
Second, project leaders must ensure that PM and OCM are integrated at five key points to realize the desired project results.
  1. Don't underestimate the power of the ‘status quo’ and how difficult it is to help people change
  2. Identify key project and OCM roles and responsibilities and clearly define how they fit together
  3. Ensure that OCM is incorporated in the planning and design of the project
  4. Integrate project and OCM milestones and timelines
  5. Train your team so they increase their PM and OCM "acumen"
Projects that miss these critical steps will begin to wonder why communications are behind schedule, sponsorship and stakeholder engagement is low, or the project as a whole falls short of its intended outcome.
Final Thoughts
Make our “lessons learned” your own to avoid the cost of learning by mistakes. For your next project, ensure greater success by integrating OCM throughout the project schedule early and often. Train all project team members on key OCM practices and remember to dive deep into the needs of those who will be your end-users.