Achieve Project Success Through Effective Change Management

Paul Naybour

One of the reasons why projects fail is because project managers fail to introduce new risk parameters once change has been implemented. In this post, we take an in-depth look at how effective change management helps ensure project success.

The vast majority of project managers, of course, plan for success by following established project management methodologies. Nonetheless, there is a significant degree of project failure across organisations of all sizes all over the world. One of the main reasons why projects fail is because project managers fail to introduce new risk parameters once change has been implemented.

There are a number of factors that can influence successful change. This is something we will discuss in this guide in further detail, as we take an in-depth look at change management. This is the structured and strategic approach to transitioning organisations, teams, and individuals from a current state to a desired future state.

What is change management?

There are a number of different definitions of change management. One of the more basic definitions is that it is a formal procedure whereby project changes are introduced and approved. There are then more complex definitions. Overall, effective change management is a systematic approach that involves dealing with change, both on an individual level and from the perspective of the organisation. It may be an ambiguous term to a degree, but it involves three key parts: adapting, controlling, and effecting change.

Implementing change can be a difficult process, especially in multinational businesses. There are many different issues that can impact planned changes, for example, cross-cultural problems. It is a risky and time-consuming process, which is why the transitional period of change needs to be handled carefully.

change management activities

The significance of change management

Before we delve into the ins and outs of managing changes within a project, it is important to look at the significance of change management. No matter what industry you operate in, market needs will continually change. Cultural changes, speed, flexibility, strategic business planning, and market adaption are more than mandatory.

Project management methodologies tend to focus on quality, cost, and time, but they do not all take business cultural issues into serious consideration. While there is great emphasis on the outcomes or deliverables of a project, culture itself is difficult to define, and people respond in different ways to understanding and adapting to changes.

If there is not a careful and considered approach to change requests, this is when projects fail. Requests for a change can be internally or externally initiated, indirect or direct, legally mandated or optional. They can also result in the modification of project budget or cost, scope, procedures and policies, and much more. Change is inevitable, and change management is, therefore, a necessity.

Five basic yet crucial elements of change management

To get from the beginning to the end of the project, there are many paths that you follow. If you have tried the same approaches again and again, and you are not seeing the results you anticipated, it can be as simple as determining how you should implement change in the right way. When deciphering change, your needs can be broken up into five key elements, which are as follows:

  • The goal: You must understand the objective of the task at hand. Who will the project impact; a client or the company? What does the project aim to achieve?
  • Your team: Assessing your team is critical. After all, they are your most important asset.
  • The what – What team members are going to work on what areas of the project?
  • The rules – Effective change management control processes must clearly define how you determine the teams that are selected, how you assign tasks, and the rules you implement for changes, accountability, and objectives for project completion.
  • The future – Analyse your control process at the end of the project.

If you approach the five elements mentioned above in the correct order and with effective control measures, you can achieve successful change management. Change control can be considered a guide flow chart, which determines what comes next and when to implement change.

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Successfully approaching change management within your project

There are a number of steps that need to be taken when approaching any type of change within your project and organisation. The first thing you must do is involve management or any key stakeholders. Your team members are going to look to leaders to deal with issues and guide them along the way, so make sure that senior executives and stakeholders are fully invested in the change.

You also need to ensure that everyone understands the reason why the change is being implemented. Clearly explain why it is vital for your project, and show them that you have the adequate resources and capability to successfully put the change in place. Your team members will be much more enthusiastic and willing to put in the extra work if they understand why they are doing so and they know that it is achievable. In fact, this is something that is applicable to all elements of project management. Clearly defined roles, responsibilities, and reasonings are pivotal to the success of any project, especially when change is involved.

Finally, identify project leaders at this point – individuals that have the capacity to take charge and assist you with the intended change. You can then use the cascade method to implement changes throughout the project team. This is one of the more efficient ways of ensuring change is introduced the right way. You must address each person on your project team, being honest about how their role will alter.

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Why does change control need to be a managed process?

Some project managers make the mistake of handling changes as and when they come, without any formal procedure to follow. This is very likely to lead to project failure. The change control process needs to be a managed one, and there are many reasons why. Changes in a project can happen due to a number of internal and external factors, and they can upset resource allocation, costs, and schedules. Changes could occur due to the market strategies of a competitor, technical advancements, or any other marketplace driver. These are changes that cannot be predicted or stalled, and today’s astute project manager must know how to adapt quickly and efficiently. The only way to do this is by considering change control as a managed process.

Also, a clear communication system for handling changes needs to be pre-determined. This is because most changes are requested by project owners because they do not fully understand the project’s objectives or goals. Therefore, to make sure the final achievement and target are fully understood, as well as any changes that must be implemented in order to reach the said objectives, a clear communication system with stakeholders is a must. This will only be put in place if project change control is deemed a formal process.

The change control process

There are a number of key steps that are involved in the change control process. These are as follows:

1. Record: Firstly, the client must initiate the change by putting in a proper change request. The request will be recorded and categorised by the change control process. The classification will feature an estimate of complication, change effect, and the significance of the change.

2. Evaluation: Next, a risk analysis will be used to assess the change. This will include looking at both the risks to the process as well as the product. All stakeholders must evaluate change justification, and the change will then be forwarded for the process of planning. At this point, the group or individual that is going to be responsible for introducing the change will also be determined.

3. Plan: A specific team or individual will be assigned the change, and so they will be responsible for incorporating it into the project, product or services. A plan for change execution is put together, which will include a regression plan for if the change needs to be cancelled.

4. Build: Next, we have the build stage. The team will build and then test the solution. The change will then be approved for implementation, which will involve putting together a final change schedule.

5. Implementation The change will now be implemented, and it will continually be reviewed to ensure that it is having the desired effect.

6. Closure: The change should be officially closed once it has been successfully implemented and the customer agrees that it has been.

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Clearly, responsibilities and procedures with regards to the analysis and implementation of changes are involved in a structured change control process. For this reason, effective change control processes can often include the likes of:

  • Relationship with management procedures, for example, configuration management
  • Authority level for change approval
  • The forms that must be used for the change control process
  • Groups or individuals that are responsible for change
  • Change control board members
  • The basis on which changes may be sanctioned within a project
  • What should you include in your project change management document?

As project change management is a formal process, it must be put together in a written document. No two project change management documents will be the same. After all, projects vary in scope and size, and this will be reflected in the document that is put together. Nonetheless, there are key elements that should be included across all project types, businesses, and industries. These are as follows:

Change management goals:

What are the objectives of the project’s change management plan? Outline these clearly. For instance, the aim of the plan may be to ensure that changes are clearly determined, and effectively assessed, approved, and efficiently tracked. At this stage, you should also outline how the project will benefit from having this change plan.


Next, you must deal with change management responsibilities. You must clearly define the roles and responsibilities of all parties that are involved in affecting a change in the project. For example, who is going to communicate project changes? Who is going to assess them?

Change management model

This part of the document is where you will provide details regarding the process of change management. How are change requests going to be made and assessed? Who is authorised to approve change requests? How are they going to be recorded?

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Project cost change

This section will involve deciphering how the budget of the project will be altered and developed in respond to a change in the project, and how cost baselines and changes will be impacted.

Project schedule change

At this point, you must provide a clear definition with regards to when and how schedule baselines and changes will be amended and under what circumstances.

Project scope change

Project scope changes often occur when there are changes made within a project. Therefore, you need to outline how the project scope will absorb any project changes. Moreover, state how the priorities of the project and the requirements of it will be re-assessed and enacted.

Change request logs and forms

Finally, another pivotal section of the change document for all projects is including details on change request forms and logs. This should be where you incorporate an example of the project change management tracking log and the project change request form. You can put together these documents yourself, or you can find templates online, which you can use.

As you can see, there are many factors that need to be considered when putting effective change management controls into place. For your project to be a success, you need to plan for changes before they arise. You cannot simply deal with them as and when they come. Instead, you need to put a formal procedure into place, which documents how you will handle change requests and clearly defines who is responsible and what their roles are. Moreover, when implementing a change, ensure the entire project team is on board. They need to fully understand the change, why it is happening, why it is beneficial, and how they will be able to implement it using the

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