Project Management ABC: C for Change Management

Project Management ABC: C for Change Management

Changes are like the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly – inevitable and often unpredictable! Hardly any project unfolds exactly as initially planned, and changes are part of the daily routine. Therefore, change management is an important part of project work. Moreover, significant organizational changes are often implemented through projects. For such projects, it is important to understand the basics of change management and why even necessary and well-planned changes often encounter resistance. We will briefly explain everything you need to know about project and change management.

What is Change Management?

Change management refers to the systematic and strategic process of planning, implementing, and controlling changes in an organization or project. It involves the introduction of new processes, technologies, structures, or cultural aspects to enable positive transformation as well as to adapt the organization or project to changing internal or external conditions. The goal of change management is to effectively manage this transition, minimize resistance, promote acceptance among those affected, and achieve the desired outcomes. Therefore it encompasses aspects such as analyzing the need for change, developing a clear vision, communicating and involving the stakeholders, planning and implementing actions, as well as continuously monitoring and adjusting the change process. Through a structured change management approach, an organization can successfully navigate change and strengthen its agility, innovation capability, and competitiveness.

Why is there resistance to change?

One of the biggest challenges in change management is the resistance to change that can arise among those affected. People generally resist change by nature. Even if some changes are unavoidable and everyone involved understands this, resistance can still exist, hindering the process. There are various reasons for resistance:

  • Fear of the unknown: Change often brings uncertainty. Those affected by the change may fear the unknown and may have concerns about possible negative consequences. They may feel more comfortable in their familiar environment and worry that the changes will force them to step out of their comfort zone.
  • Loss of habits and routines: Change often requires giving up or adjusting old habits and routines. This can lead to a sense of loss or frustration, especially when there is a strong attachment to familiar work methods or processes. In such cases, you often hear phrases like “We’ve always done it this way, so it should continue to be that way in the future.”
  • Concerns about competence and skills: When changes require new skills or knowledge, many individuals question whether they can meet these requirements. They may have concerns that they do not possess the necessary skills to meet the new demands and, therefore, fear negative consequences for themselves or, for example, the success of a project.
  • Loss of control and autonomy: Changes can also lead people to feel that they are losing control over their work or role. They want to maintain their autonomy and feel uncomfortable when they sense that decisions are being made from the outside without adequately considering their opinion or contribution.
  • Lack of communication: Inadequate communication about the change process can also generate resistance. When those affected feel insufficiently informed or included in the decision-making process, they can react sceptically and oppose the changes with significant resistance.
  • Organizational culture and history: The culture and history of an organization can also influence how changes are perceived. In companies with a strong resistance culture or a history of failed change attempts, it can be more challenging to gain the support and approval of employees.

It is important to recognize these reasons and consider them in the change management process. In this way, if necessary, persuasive work can be done, and communication can be adjusted to overcome existing resistance as well as to engage those affected in the change. It is also important to know that not all stakeholders may have the same reasons for resistance. Rather, it is often the case that some individuals react very openly to changes, while others show significant resistance even with the smallest changes. Therefore, within the framework of change management, everyone should be approached individually to promote acceptance of the change.

Identifying emerging resistance

Resistance to change can manifest in various ways. Here are some common signs of resistance:

  • Verbal rejection: Some individuals openly express their rejection of changes. They may voice their concerns, doubts, or dissatisfaction and speak out against the planned changes. In such cases, previously made decisions may also be repeatedly questioned, or discussions about the details of the changes may arise.
  • Rumours and resistance networks: Resistance to change can also manifest in the form of rumours or the formation of resistance networks. Informal networks may disseminate information that portrays the change in a negative light or attempt to mobilize others against the change.
  • Strong defence of the status quo: Another common sign of resistance is a strong defence of the current state or the current way of working. Arguments may be made that the old way is better, and the necessity of change may be questioned.
  • Body language and nonverbal signals: Some employees may participate less in discussions. However, by closely observing these employees, you can identify resistance through body language and nonverbal signals. If those affected show signs of discomfort, rejection, or frustration, it often indicates their dissatisfaction with the change. Furthermore, such employees may show signs of avoidance or remain silent when the change is addressed. Some may even ridicule the change. These are also strong indications of resistance.
  • Productivity and performance changes: Furthermore, some employees passively express their resistance. They may withdraw, become less engaged, or deliberately avoid the changes. A change manager then often observes changes in the productivity, engagement, motivation, or performance of these employees. Strong resistance can also manifest in increased sick leave or frequent absences.

Phases of Change Management

Change is a complex process that requires careful planning as well as a structured approach. The phases of change management provide a clear guide to successfully navigate the process.

1. Assessing and analysing the need for change:

In this initial phase, the need for change is recognized and understood. It is important to identify the reasons for change, define the goals as well as the scope of the change, and evaluate the potential impact on the project or the company. A thorough analysis enables justifying the need for change and lays the foundation for the next steps.

2. Planning and designing the change process:

Once the need for change is identified, it is important to create a clear plan for the change process. In this phase, the goals and milestones of the change are defined, resources are allocated, and a schedule is created. Developing a good communication strategy is crucial to involve stakeholders early on and convey the importance as well as benefits of the change. Identifying potential resistance and risks also plays an important role in planning appropriate measures to minimize these obstacles.

3. Implementing and executing the changes:

In the next phase, the planned changes are actively implemented. This includes communicating the change to those affected, providing necessary training if required to expand the knowledge and skills of the employees, as well as adapting processes and structures to support the change. The change manager plays a central role in coordinating and monitoring the implementation to ensure that the change progresses according to the defined goals and timelines. It is also important to regularly gather feedback during the implementation of the changes to be able to make adjustments that ensure successful change.

4. Monitoring and evaluating the change:

After implementation, the effects of the change are monitored and evaluated. This involves assessing whether the goals of the change process have been achieved, whether the desired improvements have occurred, or whether further adjustments are necessary. Feedback from stakeholders and performance measurements are used to assess the success of the change and gain insights for future projects.

The phases of change management provide a structured approach to change as well as enable early identification and addressing of obstacles. By consciously navigating through these phases, you can ensure successful implementation of the change and achieve desired results.

The role of the Change Manager

The change manager plays a central role in successful change management. Depending on the project, this can be a dedicated employee or the project manager themselves. While small changes within an ongoing project often do not require a change manager, it is advisable to engage a change manager for large projects involving organizational changes. Their main task is to plan, coordinate, and monitor the change process to ensure effective implementation. The change manager works closely with project teams, leaders, stakeholders, and other relevant parties, acting as a link between them. In this way, they ensure that the change is coordinated and effectively implemented. With their project management skills as well as their understanding of people, the change manager becomes a key player in successful change implementation.

1. Develop change strategy:

The change manager is responsible for developing a clear strategy for the change. This involves defining the goals and scope of the change, identifying the affected areas and stakeholders, as well as establishing an appropriate approach. The change strategy sets the framework for the entire change process.

2. Communication and stakeholder management:

Effective communication with stakeholders is a crucial aspect of change management. Therefore, the change manager develops a communication strategy to explain the change, convey its benefits, and address any concerns or resistance.

3. Resistance management:

Since any change can encounter resistance at the individual or organizational level, the change manager should identify potential resistance early on and develop countermeasures. To understand the concerns of those affected and find solutions, they must work closely with these individuals.

4. Training:

Depending on the nature of the change, it may be necessary to provide employees with the necessary knowledge or skills. Therefore, the change manager coordinates training initiatives to ensure that those involved have the required knowledge to effectively fulfill their roles within the change.

5. Monitoring and evaluation:

Additionally, the change manager monitors the progress of the change and continuously evaluates the effectiveness of implemented measures. They collect feedback from stakeholders, analyse performance metrics, and identify areas for improvement. Based on this information, adjustments can be made to ensure that the change brings the desired benefits.

Change Management methods and tools

Change managers have various methods and tools at their disposal to effectively facilitate change in project management. Here are some common approaches used in planning and implementing change management initiatives:

  • ADKAR Model: The ADKAR model is a proven approach that focuses on individual change. ADKAR stands for Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement. It aims to understand and promote the individual change process by taking targeted actions to guide people through the different phases of change.
  • Kotter’s 8-Step Model: John Kotter’s 8-step model is a comprehensive method that covers the entire change process. It includes steps such as creating a sense of urgency, forming a guiding coalition, communicating the vision for change, removing obstacles, generating short-term wins, and anchoring new approaches within the organization. This model provides a structured approach to successfully implement change.
  • Stakeholder analysis: A detailed stakeholder analysis is crucial for identifying and understanding different stakeholders. Using tools like stakeholder analysis matrices, change managers can assess the needs, attitudes, and expectations of stakeholders. This enables targeted actions to gain their support and minimize potential resistance.
  • Communication strategies: Effective communication is an essential component of change management. Therefore, change managers employ various communication strategies to convey the messages of change, highlight its benefits, and address concerns. These may include town hall meetings, circulars, employee newsletters, interactive workshops, or regular updates through internal communication channels. The choice of communication methods and channels depends on the target audience as well as the project context.
  • Project Management tools: Large-scale organizational changes are often carried out through dedicated change projects. Therefore, change managers frequently utilize established project management tools and techniques to support the change process. Gantt charts, project phase plans, resource management, as well as risk management methods can help in planning, monitoring, and controlling the change.
  • Coaching and training: The use of coaching and training initiatives can further enhance the success of change management. Individual coaching can help employees overcome personal barriers and support the change. Training provides the necessary knowledge and skills framework to master new processes, systems, or technologies and successfully implement the change.

The selection of suitable change management methods and tools depends on the project type, specific change objectives, as well as organizational culture. A good change manager should adapt and combine different approaches to meet the individual needs of the project or organization and enable successful change.

Success factors in Change Management

To ensure the success of change management and to address challenges proactively, certain factors should be considered:

  • Clear vision and goals: A clear vision for change and well-defined goals are crucial. The vision provides employees with a clear understanding of where the change is leading and why it is important. Goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART criteria).
  • Leadership engagement and support: Leadership support is a critical success factor in change management. Leaders must actively support and role-model the change, motivating employees. They should act as examples and provide the necessary resources.
  • Involvement of and communication with stakeholders: Involving affected employees and stakeholders cannot be emphasized enough. Dialogue allows for the consideration of concerns and perspectives. Open and transparent communication about the change, its goals, and its impacts is crucial for building trust and reducing resistance.
  • Adequate resources and timelines: Providing sufficient resources and a realistic timeline for change is important. This includes financial, human, and technological resources. A realistic timeline allows affected individuals to prepare for change and adjust their tasks accordingly.
  • Continuous monitoring and adaptation: The change process should be continuously monitored to track progress and to make adjustments as needed. Feedback from employees as well as other stakeholders should be considered and incorporated into the change process. A flexible and adaptable approach is therefore crucial to respond to unforeseen challenges.

Change Management in Agile Projects

Change management in agile projects differs from traditional projects in several essential aspects. This is primarily because change in agile projects is closely linked to their principles and methods. Agile projects are designed to implement changes continuously and incrementally. A collaborative and adaptable environment is created to promote acceptance of change. Some key differences in change management in agile projects compared to traditional projects are:

  • Flexibility and adaptability: Agile projects are characterised by their flexibility and adaptability. Requirements and goals can change during the project, so the team must be able to respond quickly. In change management, this means that changes need to be implemented in an agile and iterative manner, rather than following a rigid and predefined plan.
  • Incremental changes: Agile change management focuses on incremental changes that occur step by step and continuously. Instead of making large changes all at once, small changes are implemented and adjusted afterwards based on feedback and experience. This allows the team to gradually adapt to the change and better manage its impact.
  • Self-organizing teams: In agile projects, teams are self-organized and empowered. Agile change management encourages active participation of team members in the change process. Responsibility for change is delegated to the team, fostering a sense of ownership, and promoting acceptance of the change.
  • Continuous communication and collaboration: Agile projects emphasize the importance of continuous communication and collaboration. In agile change management, open and transparent communication is crucial to inform stakeholders about the change, collect feedback, and jointly develop solutions. Close collaboration between the change manager, the agile team, as well as the stakeholders is essential for successful change.
  • Empirical approach: Agile projects are based on an empirical approach, where decisions are made based on observations and experience. In agile change management, changes are adjusted based on feedback, data, and continuous evaluation. Regular reviews and adaptation of the change help identify and address any obstacles or issues early on.


Change management is a crucial process in project management to successfully implement changes and achieve desired results. Whether it involves significant organizational changes or smaller adjustments within an ongoing project, project managers should be knowledgeable about how to best implement these changes and understand why resistance may occur. Change management requires careful planning, communication, and stakeholder involvement. By recognizing challenges and considering key success factors, change management can be effectively implemented to support change and minimize resistance.

A project management software like myPARM can contribute significantly to change management. With myPARM, large change projects can be systematically planned and managed, providing functions for resource allocation, scheduling, and monitoring to ensure that the change is implemented within defined timeframes and budgets. Furthermore, myPARM enables effective communication and collaboration throughout the change process. Integrated communication features allow stakeholders to be informed about progress and changes. The software also provides the ability to assign tasks and responsibilities, facilitate document exchange and feedback, as well as maintain an overview of the change process. With the support of myPARM, change management can be seamlessly integrated into the project management structure, allowing for effective planning, implementation, and control of change.

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