Should a project manager be a change manager? The traditional answer was YES, a project manager should know how to manage change. Today the answer is more often NO, as there are new and better ways to manage change.

Change initiatives are increasingly using a new role of Business Change Manager to manage complex change. In such cases, the project manager is no longer a change manager. Apples are apples and pears are pears: project managers manage projects. And change managers manage change.

What is wrong with a project manager running change management? Why invent this new role of Business Change Manager?

If we understand the Customer – Supplier relationship in projects, we will understand why. A Customer – Supplier relationship underpins most change initiatives: the project teams are on the supplier side, delivering a solution. The business teams are on the customer side, using the solution.

This “customer – supplier” relationship is not a question of contracts or invoicing. This relationship exists even for internal project teams working inside one company – an internal supplier provides a solution to an internal customer

This is why the we have two distinct roles, the project manager role and change manager role. One role on the supplier side, a separate, distinct role on the customer side.  And this is a peer-to-peer relationship, where the two roles are equal, not hierarchical.

Programme management methods like MSP (Managing Successful Programmes) recognise this separation. MSP has two two key processes
    ❑    a supply side process, called “Delivering the Capability”, for building the solution in project mode 
    ❑    a change management process on the customer side, called “Realising the Benefits”, for transitioning to the new solution and measuring the success of the change.

This approach has many advantages. Notably, it recognises that the motivations of the Project Manager and the Business Change Manager are very different.

The Project Manager is often motivated by
    ❑    technology (performance, features, innovation)
    ❑    sign-off and approval
    ❑    project performance measures such as finishing OTOB (On-time and On-budget)
The Business Change Manager has different concerns
    ❑    reliability, stability
    ❑    ease of use, training, support
    ❑    good documentation
    ❑    long term benefits

The Business Change Manager role needs business skill, rather than project management skills. The Business Change Manager should be chosen from the business area that will use the new solution. Crucially, after the solution is implemented, the Business Change Manager will return to the day-to-day business, and will use the solution week-by-week, month-by-month.

This reveals another important difference in motivation between the two roles the Business Change Manager (and his or her colleagues) is going to use the new solution, whereas the Project Manager will probably never do so. That’s a big difference, and that’s another reason why we we need a dedicated Change Manager.

So for your next business change initiative, try not to mix apples and pears. Don’t confuse project teams (apples) and business teams (pears). Project managers should manage projects. And change managers should manage change. Keep those apples and pears apart.

Written by Jeff on October 6, 2013 in blog
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