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Change Management, Continuous Improvement, Lean, Process Improvement, Project Management, Six Sigma

Project Management and Change Management: necessary, but not sufficient

I’ve had a number of conversations recently about the relationship between Project Management and Change Management. Generally, these have focused on the need for Project Managers to be more aware of the importance of Change Management to facilitate the transition from projects to business as usual. This may require PMs to develop CM skills or, in some cases, for specialist CMs to be appointed as part of a project or programme.

However, although Project Management and Change Management are necessary, they are not sufficient to enable projects to succeed in their core purpose which is to create improvement for an organisation. What’s missing is “how to do improvement”. Neither of them give you a method for:

  • Improving customer satisfaction
  • Reducing errors, waste and rework
  • Reducing process cycle-times and in-process delays
  • Increasing employee engagement

For these, you need a third set of methods and skills. Broadly, there are three “improvement processes” that are core to all continuous improvement:

  • Problem Solving
  • Process Improvement
  • Benchmarking

Of course, there are many different “flavours” within each of these three, just as there are different  Project Management and Change Management models. Take your pick from Root Cause Problem Solving, Triz, PDCA, Lean, 6-Sigma, BPR, BPM, or many more. Choosing the most appropriate improvement approach is just as important as choosing the right Project Management or Change Management approach. Underpinning all three is effective Leadership, which usually translates into the actions and behaviours of senior managers required for success.

CI-PM-CMYou can be pretty certain though, that without an improvement model, even the best Project Management and Change Management is not going to be successful.

It’s also worth reflecting on the importance of all three of these approaches (Project/ Change/ Improvement) to understand why some other typical corporate initiatives “fail”. An initiative to reduce waste (e.g. using Lean) without effective Project Management is likely to fail. Similarly, a 6-Sigma initiative to reduce process variation and product defects may have well-structured DMAIC projects, but without effective Change Management, it too is likely to be unsustainable in the long-term.

In conclusion, before rushing to select a Project Management approach or establishing supporting Change Management capabilities, be sure to understand what you are trying to achieve by way of IMPROVEMENT. As Simon Sinek says, “Start with why?”, then decide how to achieve that with relevant improvement, project and change methods and tools.

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