How To Successfully Lead Change In A Project

Paul Naybour

Change is essential for the success of organisations. It enables them to grow and be dynamic and companies that are fluid and respond well to external factors are most likely to gain a competitive advantage. Organisations that are resistant to change risk falling into stagnation and failing. Change is not always easy but the key to implementing a project that will bring about change is good leadership.


Why is change needed?


The need for some kind of change exists in every organisation. A good leader should be able to identify the right kind of change and pursue it for the right reasons. There are three main types of change:


  1. Developmental: this involves managing a project to improve existing processes, skills or performance.
  2. Transitional: an example of this is a project which seeks to create a new product or service to replace an existing one.
  3. Transformational: this is often the most challenging as it means a radical change to create an entirely new process or service. It is an unknown quantity which will require new behaviour.


Why are people so afraid of change?


Change is often resisted by employees, teams and departments. Change represents an end to certainty and the possibility that people will need to move outside of their comfort zone, this loss of familiarity can be really challenging for some people. They may feel that the changes will alter their sphere of influence or shift power away from them. This negative mindset and unwillingness to cooperate with change can lead to the ultimate failure of projects, even if everything else on paper looks to be successful, such as managing the project within an agreed time frame and budget.


How can leaders successfully manage change?


Leaders must advocate for change. This is essential to lead change successfully. If senior members of staff don’t support the project, then others are likely to follow this lead and potentially sabotage the change or at the very least avoid becoming involved with it. Managing change is unlikely to be successful if the project suffers from weak leadership, a bad choice of strategy or approach, poor planning or inadequate stakeholder engagement. This is why it is so important to have good project management skills. Project managers need to become a driving force behind the project and aim to convert people who are not supportive. It may be helpful to gain some project management qualifications before embarking upon sensitive change management.

The main things a project manager can do to help people come to terms with change are:

  • Engage staff early. Make it a team project rather than an individual one. Staff tend to be more enthused when they feel they are involved in the process and fully understand what it is you are trying to achieve. It can take a while to get everybody on board so start the process early.
  • Talk to staff. Try to understand the reasons for resistance and address those concerns.
  • Make it easy. Simplify how you lead change as much as possible. People are more likely to embrace it if it isn’t difficult for them to do so.

Leading projects that manage significant change can be challenging but are crucial in order to enable a company to gain a competitive advantage. A strong project manager who can lead change can bring about new ideas and positive innovation. Just remember to take your team along with you for the ride.

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