The terms Project Management and Change Management are frequently used interchangeably, however, despite some similarities, they represent two completely different disciplines.
Projects are initiatives of temporary nature that organisations undertake to develop unique products, services, processes or specific results. Project Management is the discipline that explores the effective management of such initiatives. There are five groups of processes that Project Management is traditionally split, consisting of i) project initiation, ii) planning, iii) execution, iv) monitoring and controlling, and v) closing.
On the other hand, Change Management is a discipline that explores the approaches which enable and support successful change adoption by affected individuals, groups and organisations. Projects lead towards change, therefore, there is a myth that Change Management starts at the point of project closure when new product, service or result is developed. However, effective Change Management always starts in the beginning of any project to ensure stakeholder contribution, support and buy-in to the upcoming change. Therefore, both Project Management and Change Management should be carried out simultaneously.
Project managers can often undertake some of Change Management activities to an extent in order to move the projects forward, however, the responsibility for successful change adoption should always lie within the Change manager’s duties.
There are 3 key differences between Project Management and Change Management disciplines that differentiate them and the below provides a comprehensive summary to distinguish between them:
1. Different priorities
Project Management prioritises the technical delivery of new solutions, whereas Change Management prioritises the people related aspects associated with such solutions.
2. Different management areas
Project Management focuses on ‘Triple Constraint’ management. Key project constraints that require management during projects include: scope, time, cost, quality, risk and resources. Whereas Change Management focuses on people’s behaviours: adoption, resistance, disruption and engagement.
3. Different outcomes
Project Management aims to achieve a particular technical solution which may be tangible or intangible, whereas the desired outcome for Change Management is the successful adoption of the new solution by the intended audience.
For example, there may be a project for the development and implementation of a new HR system within an organisation. The Project manager would be prioritising technical new HR system’s development and data transition from the old system. The Project manager’s role would involve communication and stakeholder management to ensure that the development and implementation of the technical solution is in line with the stakeholder requirements. However, the Change manager would be the one who would be undertaking the activities necessary to overcome people’s resistance to change, getting people engaged as well as getting them to use the new HR system as soon as it becomes available. The Change manager needs to possess highly effective soft skills to support people within an organisation to accept the new HR system and adapt their previous working practices to the new way of working.
It is vital that the Project and Change Management disciplines work in tandem for any new initiatives to be effectively developed and rolled out.
If you are considering entering a Project Management or Change Management profession, ask yourself whether you possess a process-driven or people-driven personality. Both of these professions require process and people skills, however, the Project Management role has much more exposure to process-driven initiatives, whereas Change Management is more people-driven.
One of the first steps to entering such professions is by gaining a recognised professional certification. This will enable you to demonstrate to your current and future employers that you have gained the necessary knowledge of the discipline and that you are familiar with the terminology, concepts as well as tools and techniques required for effective Project or Change Management. Even if you are already a Project manager or Change manager, getting certified is highly recommended as it will enable you to improve your skillset and competence, as well as increasing your earning potential. Certified professionals tend to earn by up to 20% more comparing to those who are non-certified.
The qualifications highlighted below serve as a good starting point in Project Management and Change Management. APMG International Change Management™ Foundation certification is specifically for aspiring Change managers, whereas the others are aimed at Project Management professionals:
Whether you are a current or aspiring professional, please feel free to contact SkillPoint to discuss the best learning journey that would enable you to achieve your goals.