A follow up to Project Management ≠ Change Management

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A couple of months ago we posted an infographic to test some of our thinking onto the LinkedIn organisational change and project management networks. The post was the product of a number of conversations we’d had with business leaders about the state of the ‘change’ market. We felt it might divide opinion and draw comments, and it didn’t disappoint.

What did we find?

This follow-up is a way of illustrating some of the input, but also exploring some ideas a little further. The premise of the LinkedIn Post was to say: we believe change management and project management are not the same thing, they aim to achieve different objectives. Although granted, these objectives might be closely tied and both be supporting the same strategic goal.

We received many and varied comments and thoughts from across a diverse geographical and disciplinary spectrum. Here is a breakdown of how we interpreted most of those comments and opinions from a qualitative perspective:




Half of the comments agree that both change management and project management are, and should be, separate disciplines. Nearly 30% believe that change management is part of project management and 10% believe that change management is purely the role of a project manager.

5% believe that change is something that we are all responsible for, not necessarily for change or project managers and 7% see change as being for the role of leaders. In other words, half see a clear distinction and half don’t.

We also analysed some geographic and demographic elements of the comments. 40% were from North America and 29% from Europe. More than a third, were from the change management and communications space and 26% from the project and portfolio management space.


One of the key statistics that jumped out at us is that only half of the comments are aligned to the view that these disciplines are separate. However, both management disciplines have clear theories, methodologies, qualifications, industry bodies and specialists. Billions are spent on resources to support them every year.

We were also surprised to see that the majority of comments came from North America, where we believe change management is a fairly mature discipline. So would have expected to see higher than 50% of those people see them as separate. However, this may be due to only 37% of comments being from the change management world.




You can unpick some of these numbers in a myriad of ways. From the discussion we can say that there are a number of insights which we have been able to draw out around organisational change management. These are also based on our recent experiences, beliefs and the context within which we operate our business:

  • Be specific when talking about changeAble and How are specialists in ‘organisational’ change management (OCM). That means we deal specifically with the ‘people side of change’. That’s the important bit. As an industry we need to change the way we talk about change, to say organisational change management, not just change management.
  • Don’t substitute ‘project’, for ‘change’ – We often see and hear the word ‘change’ being used instead of ‘project’. The phrase ‘change management’ is often used in place of ‘project management’. This could be because organisations see everything as ‘change’. Or it could be indicative of where the project management discipline is heading or trying to head. Either way, one doesn’t necessarily mean the other, nor should we use the terms as inter-changeable.
  • If people are impacted, you can’t have one without the other – When it comes to managing resistance, minimising people risk and, driving the adoption of a new way of doing things, you need to have OCM support along with the technical side of the project. Without OCM the benefits and perhaps the whole project delivery will fail.
  • ‘Technical’ doesn’t just mean IT or technology – When we talk about the ‘technical’ side of a project, we mean the application of resources to deliver project scope to quality, time and budget. Not IT, systems or technology per se. We see two sides to a project: 1) technical project delivery and 2) people change-related implications.
  • PMs have to be more ‘change aware’ – Sometimes we have to spend a lot of time building ‘change capability’ (helping people understand change) in an organisation. This often extends to business stakeholders and project teams. However, we have seen evidence of PMs and project teams becoming more ‘change mature’ as the nature of change commands greater agility, resilience and acceptance. Working with Sponsors, Project Managers and Business Analysts who understand the process of managing organisational change ultimately helps us do our jobs and ensures a more aligned, collaborative working environment. As capability grows we can even do ourselves out of a job, but we’re willing to do that.


During OCtober 16, we’ve talked about the concept of ‘change’ and ‘organisational change’ in a number of ways. The most critical message we want to convey is around what we mean when we say change. We talk about it in three ways. And it’s important to make the distinction between them:



Change, The Change, Organisational Change

When organisations talk about “being overwhelmed by change,” or “needing to get better at change” they are often referring to change that is both intrinsic and extrinsic. For example, the impact of Brexit on the banking market in the UK. That is a big topic. It is ‘Change‘.

When we get to ‘The Change’ it is more often a specific issue or course of action that the organisation can address. E.g. because of Brexit, a major bank is moving their HQ out of London, to Paris.

Which leaves ‘Organisational Change‘. It is then a question of a structured programme of work that requires time and resources. E.g. the process of relocating the banking head office (people, systems, assets) to Paris. Organisational Change needs OCM.

The ability to tell the difference allows us to reclaim the word CHANGE and agree what is being discussed and what can be done.


The OCtober 16 campaign has given us the opportunity to discuss some important topics. They are things we fundamentally believe in. Often underpinning or acting as the cornerstone to solutions and innovative ways in which we help our clients.

We would like to ensure people continue discussing 3 things:

  1. There are significant differences between change management and project management. Especially in terms of the language we use to describe them.
  2. We encourage our networks to keep talking about both, how they inter-relate, the confluence between them, how they should best be partnered and how each ensures the best outcome possible.
  3. Sponsors and PMs should recognise the need for and value of OCM support and resources.

Long after OCtober 16 has finished we want to keep the spirit of our message alive. We’ll keep talking about this stuff and we’ll keep encouraging the debate. This is just the beginning.


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