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Change Management - When should it start?

Allen Black

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that the more closely connected change management planning is with project planning, the greater the chance a project will meet its objectives, stay on schedule, and stay on budget.

Unfortunately many projects are put into jeopardy because they fail to start change management planning early enough – if at all.   

Change is always with us – and it’s accelerating

Change can come about for any number of reasons:

  • downsizing
  • mergers
  • company or department reorganization
  • process re-engineering
  • new compensation programs
  • implementing new IT initiatives
  • facility relocation
  • adopting new appraisal programs
  • changing work requirements

Obviously, this list could go on forever, but these provide a few examples of the challenges faced by managers and employees on a regular basis.

Change Management = People

To ensure successful implementation that is on time and within scope and budget, projects of these sorts are naturally undertaken as comprehensive Project Management initiatives. However, project management represents the technical side of change.

Plan a - plan b small-225x149The “people” side of change is represented in the personal time and energy required for success.  This facet of project management is often underestimated or avoided altogether. Upper management makes a statement; they form a task force, and wait for the change to roll out. Lower level supervisors and employees do only what is forced - then they hunker down and wait it out.

Especially in the government, many change interventions prescribed for a department or agency come from outside pressures such as from Treasury Board or from recommendations that spin out from a study. Thus few inside the department psychologically “own” the solution.  They talk - not walk - the talk.

Change Management has no value

Recent best practice studies suggest that project teams are more or less evenly split between those who feel that change management is either critical or necessary, and those who feel that change management is just another activity or a nuisance with no value.

One only has to look at what Change Management offers to understand that it is as equally an important undertaking as Project Management.

Change Management is about creating awareness around the overall change:

  • identifying job roles impacted
  • defining future skills and competencies for employees
  • developing coaching and mentoring strategies for front-line supervisors
  • executing change work plans
  • engaging employees in the change design process
  • gathering feedback

It is also about adapting change management plans as necessary, coaching sponsors and training employees. Change is a process that helps move the organization to its desired state, yet recognizes that not everyone in the organization changes at the same pace.

Create successful projects

The best scenario for project success occurs when Project Management and Change Management processes are seamlessly integrated.

Project success is far more likely where:

  • senior leaders connected to the project have a high level of experience with change management
  • project mangers recognize the importance of change management and support its inclusion in the project
  • the organization has previous experience with changes where the people side of change was either effectively managed or ineffectively managed
  • change management activities were incorporated into the launch of the project


We would love to hear your change management stories – especially the horror stories – they are so much better for learning!  Please post them in the comments.


A senior consultant with Delta Partners, Allen has successfully managed an assortment of projects in several Departments of the Government of Canada, covering a range of issues in organizational management, project management, change management, and organizational development.  See his full profile on LinkedIn.

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About this Article

Posted by Allen Black
Posted on September 24, 2010

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Categories: change management, leadership, project management