The Challenge of Change Management

Another book that completely changed my view on project management:

In Leading Change and the second volume – The Heart of Change, John P. Kotter speaks about the management of change on a business and organizational level, but also practically demontrates that every project, whether small or super-sized is a transformation of an existing system and has to be considered from that perspective.

Kotter makes the case that business companies can’t survive if they don’t continuously change and adapt to the external environment (this is something we already know), but also cannot survive if these changes do not alter profoundly the behaviour of people who work in these organizations. And to change the behaviour of people, a change agent must win first and primarily their hearts. Kotter here suggests eight-steps process through which one should first explain why change, develop a sense of urgency, create a guiding coallition, jointly develop the vision and the mission, provide short-term wins, and communicate, communicate, communicate.

Now about the project management:

  • scope, quality, time, cost..
  • project definition, planning, execution, control, closing..
  • project management system, tools, methodologies, deliverables, project office, programs, portfolios..

Can project management defined like this really deliver on promisses as an effective business transformation tool ? In the case of IT projects, I bet it will still have to grow and eventualy include best practices from the perspective of the management of change.

I remember a case when a project manager got the mandate to define and deliver a new corporate document management system. An excelent concept was defined, databases created, deliverables produced and accepted. Project was finished on time and budget.

However, few people nowadays are actualy using it.

What was forgotten is that we must choose a solution that end users will embrace. The hearts of department staff were not won and behavior has not been changed dispite of a bright and intelligent initial concept. Nobody from the user community was asked to participate and provide suggestions, communication with end-users was little to non-existant and without real listening, so people still don’t understand why they are not supposed to use the old and much simpler solution.

I will finish this blog on the subject of change management with hope that PM methodologies will incorporate the management of change (and not a simple change management), so eventually we’ll be able to leverage our financial resources, our brain powers, but also our emotions.

Sasha, 2005


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