An interview with Mark Dorsett, Executive VP of Global Business, Prosci, by Paulina Szczepaniak.

The ongoing discussion about the roles of Project Manager and Change Manager raises more and more questions. Different angles can be taken under consideration but let’s start with some basics first. Being an expert on a strategic level and having years of experience within those areas, can you share with us the differences and similarities of the two roles?

Great question Paulina. There are many facets to the question and I think the best place to start is with the similarities of the people involved and the work they do. I have interacted with professional project and change managers from six continents and what I see they both: are professional people who care deeply about being successful with the assignments given to them; want the organization or business to be successful with the project or initiatives they have been assigned to; follow a predictable and repeatable set of processes; use a reusable set of tools; attain accreditation. While accreditation within the PM community goes back many more years and has options available within both PMI and PRINCE2, many people do not realize that there are also credentials available for change management. As an example, Prosci has over 60,000 people who have completed the Prosci Change Management Practitioner certification. In addition, there are credentials available from the Association of Change Management Professionals (ACMP) and the Change Management Institute (CMI). So, while project management has a much longer formal history and has many more practitioners, credentialing is available for both. Moving further, they both are set up to work with traditional waterfall as well as agile work methods. This may be a surprise to many. In addition to the Agile training that is available for Project Managers, there is also research, tools and training available for working in Agile environments for Change Managers. If people are interested in learning more Prosci1 has several free webinars on the topic of applying Change Management in an Agile environment. Neither are typically held accountable for the organizational and business results. While this is often a source of frustration and even blaming, the results are the responsibility of the sponsor or business owner. This can be a real challenge for both disciplines. Many times, I have seen a project manager or change manager be the scapegoat for projects that did not achieve their intended organizational outcome. In most cases, it is a structural challenge of pulling people off projects too early or lack of follow through on the part of the organization, but that is a topic for another time.

Fot. David Kaliszkowski Photo

The differences I see are that Project Managers: have been asked to be focused more on scope, schedule and budget from a measurement perspective and on designing, developing and delivering the solution. They are by the very definition of the role usually very project and / or program focused. I mention this only to highlight that they are typically not asked to run or manage the operations of a group, function or process (unless their PM role is part-time). They are also typically assigned to projects that have a defined beginning and end. With budget and cost considerations these same people are normally assigned to other projects at the go-live or a short period of technical stabilization. For IT projects: PM’s are typically focused and often held accountable for meeting functional, technical and some non-technical requirements. While this often includes responsibility for organizing functional or technical training, their scope typically does not include working with the people impacted by the change in terms of how well they actually adopt the new solution and whether work is being performed according to the new expectations.

Change Managers on the other hand focus on adoption and usage and why something is being done and what are the ramifications if it is not adopted effectively. With adoption and proficiency in mind, they spend most of their efforts on what happens after go-live. They are often assigned to non-typical projects such as: new organization structure; new job functions or roles; changing organizational norms and behaviors. One way to think about it is as shown on the Prosci site [Editor’s note: see Pic. 1].

Pic. 1. Successful Change Requires Both the Technical and People Side.
Source: Prosci

So what can a Project Manager do to become more familiar with change management and better understand its impact on their projects?

The first thing I recommend, is to remind people to not forget to ask about the business objectives of the program or project. Are they: increased revenue; reduced cost; improved client satisfaction or net promoter; improved employee engagement or retention; integrated operating groups and common processes? It is amazing how many times people are assigned to projects that do not have clear objectives. Without being disrespectful, we should insist that we know what the goals are even if they are not fully quantified.

Second, ask who is responsible and accountable for accomplishing these objectives. Normally, it is not the project team, but one or more organizational leaders. Next, ask the question on who has to do their jobs differently? Here is the key question: what percent of the business case is dependent on people performing their work in the new way? We’ve done a lot of research and work on this topic and in many situations the ROI is very heavily weighted on whether people perform well in the new approach. Every situation is different, but in many situations it can be 80% or more. Think about implementing a CRM solution, what happens when people do not enter the client issues, opportunities, contacts or interactions? Essentially, the system is worthless. A perfectly designed solution that meets all the functional requirements, but is not effectively adopted by the target group or groups, will likely not give the intended outcomes. The research data shows this very clearly [Editor’s note: see Pic. 2].

Pic. 2. Percent of Study Participants Who Met or Exceeded Objectives.
Source: Prosci

When excellent change management approaches are used on projects and we focus on helping people make the transition from the old approach to the new way of working, the results are dramatic. We see that projects are up to 6 times more likely to achieve their intended benefits than if the only focus is on the technical solution.

So how can project managers do more? For those who do not have change management knowledge or skills, I recommend learning more about change management by reading, watching webinars or taking classes. Lots of good information can be found at our thought leadership library2 and the portal3 and once again, the webinars are free. There is also more in-depth training program available including the Delivering Project Results and Fundamentals of Change Management.

Fot. David Kaliszkowski Photo

Moving forward from there, how do you integrate those two areas? Is possible or recommended at all, to combine both in one role?

I have seen people with either a project management or change management background perform both roles for a small intra departmental level project. The key, independent of the background or formal training in both cases is being aware enough of the objectives of discipline to do them effectively. There are two factors I see. First one is the time to perform both. Think about a small, workgroup project to change a process that will be completed in a week or two. Many times, we ask one person to focus on both the technical solution and lead the adoption efforts and they do it quite well. Second, the tendencies: we know that we tend to gravitate to those items which are easiest and most natural for us to do. For some, it is all about the people and how they are working in a new environment. For others, they are much more analytical and focus on the budget, technical superiority, etc. When one aspect gets much more attention than the other, we know that we do not get the outcomes we are after.

An interesting question is whether one person can perform both roles and under what circumstances? I believe the key considerations are: project size, project duration, project complexity and project reach.

If we think of each of these questions as not being a “yes” or “no”, but rather where on the spectrum do they fit, I think we can start to see that for a small, short, simple, workgroup project it is often possible for one person to do both. But, the more we extend toward large, long, complex, and enterprise it becomes increasingly problematic.

What I would do is start an integrated plan from the beginning that combines all the work of a PM and CM for: activities, deliverables, resources, success criteria.

Different measures determine whether a project is a success or not. However, still benefit management is somehow overlooked, not mentioning measurement itself. From your experience, what happens after the project closure, when the resources are released, including PM? Can Change Manager come with aid? Or should they be involved earlier, during the course of the project?

Many organizations do not focus on whether the results are achieved or not. To be honest, it’s difficult. Rarely do initiatives operate in a vacuum and so it is challenging to measure the impact of a single project. However, this can be a cop-out. Some leading organizations are focusing up front and after the fact on benefit realization. Many software providers have sophisticated benefit realization calculations that are used to justify a project. And for the most part the examples I have seen are real. But, do we measure whether these are being achieved beyond the grandiose objectives of revenue, cost, people and client and get into the areas of: cycle time reduction; improved parts reuse; faster issue resolution leading to improved customer satisfaction; repeat customers; fewer errors; lower turnover of key or strategic employees.

I have seen many IT implementations stop prematurely, a few weeks after go-live and technical stabilization. I don’t blame project managers for this as they accomplished what they were asked to do and have been assigned to the next piece of work. But, think about complex systems such as CAD, PLM, ERP, CRM, etc. Mastery can take at least weeks if not months. What is being done to make sure people don’t revert back to their old ways of working?

Fot. David Kaliszkowski Photo

Now that’s something sponsors and business owners should consider, I presume. Mark, last but not least, where do you see this going in the future?

I believe that projects will be scoped, planned and measured on organizational outcomes, not technical, system, or process implementation. Many organizations are saying they want to have project excellence as a core capability. If that is real, they will think beyond the technical release of the solution and into how well it is adopted. I also think that we will see many of today’s specialties such as project management, change management, process optimization, lean – six sigma, and benefit realization become part of the fabric of organizations similar to the way that HR, finance, customer support did in the past. As we do, we need to make an intentional effort to ensure these new capabilities do not become siloed.

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