Project Management & Planning Articles

Change Management – What Makes You Think You Can Handle It?

by Hadley Jones
Published on 26 August 2014

old-habits_524x340The only constant is change. That's the mantra of many organizations. What is less clear is how they intend to help change happen positively and acceptably. Because people - usually the part of the equation that is most affected - typically detest change. We're made that way, even when there are obvious positive consequences if we can just take a deep breath and get on with it.

So enterprises that need to change and that want to avoid a workforce revolt turn their attention to change management. If change is correctly managed, everything will work out fine, right? But that's assuming everyone agrees on which tools or applications can effectively help. Project management apps like Clarizen, Wrike, JIRAand Zoho Projects have been designed with change management in mind, and collaboration tools can also be useful.

What is Change Management?

Change management is how an organization gets its people to adopt new ways of working required to reach business objectives. This people-centric definition is deliberate. While load-balancing a new IT network or fine-tuning a new automated production line may also be critical factors, they are technical changes rather than social ones. This leads us to a few more conclusions too:

  • It's about reducing or mitigating resistance to change too
  • It's not about improving processes. If anything, it's about getting people to embrace improved processes
  • It's not stand-alone. It's part (a crucial part) of some other overall change

Project management app vendors EPM Live, Liquid Planner and Vorex also emphasize the need to address change socially as well as technically. You can compare other PM apps too and the ways in which they tackle change management, from either a technical or a social project management standpoint. For instance, Clarizen, Genius Project and Wrike.

No Theory X Here, Thank You

Gone are the days when it was possible to simply tell people to get on with it. That's a good thing, because the Theory X dictatorial style was mostly inefficient, unproductive and unpleasant. That means that change management needs involvement by those concerned. That participation also needs to be early and sought sincerely by the change agents or leaders. On whatever scale and often at a team or project level, software tools such as internal social networks, wikis, blogs and forums can all play a useful role in promoting healthy, constructive discussion and progress.

Change at the Speed of Agile

At the other end of the scale, some organizational activities literally have rapid change built-in. Agile project methodologies are a case in point. Software teams developing mobile applications for instance may build new versions of a product every day, and incorporate new product requirements every week. Agile manufacturing and logistics may have similarly rapid cycles of change. In these cases, software assisted solutions are often mandatory, because that's the only way teams can keep up. But they still need to be the right project management, task management and collaboration tools, designed with agile cycles in mind. Further project management applications with functionality for technical change management include Genius Project, Innotas, Projectplaceand Sciforma.

A Change Management Model

If you're evaluating different possibilities to help change leaders such as project managers succeed, compare tools or apps available with this 8-point checklist from John Kotter.

  1. Inject urgency. That's urgency, not panic. Make objectives real, relevant and manageable. Set achievable if aggressive deadlines.
  2. Create the right team. Identify resources, resolve scheduling conflicts, and build on existing emotional commitment. Reinforce with a PM app that gives you the right communications and collaboration tools too.
  3. Build a vision. More than a slick statement, use 360-degree project documentation and collaboration to engage project team members fully. Make supporting files, notes and sketches easily available online to project team members and stakeholders.
  4. Communicate. Goals, sub-goals, progress, challenges and interest in your fellow human beings. Choose a solution that multiplies your positive communication impact.
  5. Empower. Give team members not just the authority but also the tools to do what they each need to do and to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts.
  6. Short-term wins. Mark out meaningful goals that can be reasonable achieved now. Give team members a tool to let them see progress and results.
  7. Keep on keeping on. Put mechanisms in place so you can encourage the team when you're there and when you're not there, and that reinforce team auto-encouragement too.
  8. Make it stick. Track adoption of habits, validate the 'three-week rule', and build in support through technology to keep people on the new path to the results required.

Nudge, Nudge

Don't let advances in change management theory and practice pass you by either. Good software applications will let you adapt your usage to get the most out of new concepts in change management, like Nudge theory. The basic idea is to manage change by designing in helpful and attractive new choices to the way people do things. So if you want your product release cycles to speed up or you spot a need for project stakeholders to engage better and encourage team members in their efforts, choose a tool with the functionality to let you do these things too. Find out more about new ways of handling change in projects by comparing applications like Clarizen and Projectplace.

Which project management app will best help you manage change? Click the links above to see individual app descriptions and comparisons between different apps, or try these project management app reviews. You can also check out this project management software infographic.

Whichever app catches your eye, be sure to look at the list of free PM software trials available via GetApp too. Try before you make your final choice so that you change for the change management that suits you best.


Apps mentioned in this article