One of the primary roles of Project Management is to support organizational change. This may seem like a niche role. Especially if your background is in IT development or construction project management. But organizational change is a big component of our work for two reasons:
I hope you can start to see how important supporting organizational change is to our role as Project Manager. Whatever products or deliverables we create, the sponsoring organization will get no benefit or value from them, unless it puts them to good use. And that relies on behaviors and attitudes. And that’s the domain of Organizational Change Management.
So, your project needs to support organizational change. That’s something PMI has come to realize is an important part of the training of a professional Project Manager.
In its recent update to its premier qualification, The PMP Certification, PMP has made big changes to the exam syllabus. And now, supporting organizational change features in the 2021 Examination Content Outline, with three enablers:
So, as we usually do, we will tackle this topic in a broad way. But we will also relate our content directly to the PMI’s syllabus, to help candidates for the PMP Exam. We will cover:
Right… Let’s get started.
PMI PMP ECO Enabler: ‘Assess organizational culture‘
Organizational culture is a big topic. It’s one that Project Managers need to understand, but is itself not a part of Project Management. So, we have covered it in our sister YouTube channel, Management Courses.
There, we have a whole course on Organizations and Organizational Culture. What PMI seems to mean by organizational culture is a mixture of what we describe in the course as:
Here is the first video in the course:
As it grows, this course will contain modules on:
So do check it out. This course is entirely FREE and rolling out throughout the first half of 2021.
The easiest way to think of organizational culture is as ‘the way we do things around here’. And that divides into two parts:
These include elements of the organizational structure:
There are many ways that organizational culture will affect the projects you do. The first – and most obvious – is in which projects will get support.
Some organizational cultures will create a high-governance environment, where projects and programs are launched in a very deliberate manner.
Other organizations will take a far more informal approach – sometimes even launching projects on the whim of an individual manager. In an entrepreneurial start-up, you can look at the whole organzational structure as a project or a series of projects. Rather than supporting organizational change, they are creating the organization!
A big cultural impact on your day-too-day work as a Project Manager can be how how you interact with the operational managers and teams whom your project’s deliverables will serve.. Examples of the sorts of relationships you may see are:
This aspect may be closely linked to the relationship between your project and the operational team. But this is about how the organization goes about identifying and making available resources to support its projects. Again, there is a spectrum of possibilities:
Do take a look at our paired articles:
…and our video, What is Resource Levelling?
Here is a big topic for us: what methodologies and project approaches are used and preferred within the organization?
Some organizations have gone full-on Agile and use agile methods for everything. And they may or may not have a single preferred methodology, such as Scrum or Scaled Agile.
Others still only use traditional, predictive project management. Of these, a small proportion may have made a conscious and informed decision thatches is right for their business. Many others will simply be locked into a past , with a culture of ‘that is how we have always done things’.
And, of course, in between are organizations with a mix of flexibility of approach, with access to a mix of traditional, agile, and hybrid methods at the disposal of their project teams.
ome organizations are prepared to accept high levels of risk, to support organizational change that they see as necessary. Others are, often rightly, more risk averse. Compare for example:
Do take a look at our video, What is Risk Tolerance?
This again links closely to the relationship that forms between your project and your operational colleagues. How do you handover your project’s deliverables to the new beneficial owners? And how do you stay engaged to support organizational change that results, and the benefits that you projected?
We’ll say more about Project benefits Management and Benefits Realization below. And you may want to take a look at our video, What is Project Handover? For a fuller account, we also have our Ultimate Project Handover Guide: What You Need to Know.
You’ll find formal definitions in the Glossary to the PMBOK Guide 6th edition.
The documentation an organization uses to record its processes, plans, knowledge, and policies.
Factors within the wider organization that a project team cannot control, yet which can affect their project or program. We often document these as Constraints and Dependencies. See our article: ‘Are You Making Proper Use of Dependencies and Constraints?‘
Our sister channel’s video course on Organizations offers videos about a wide range of Organizational Structures. I recommend you review a few of these. Particularly relevant would be:
However, as far as Project Management is concerned, we often focus on the way the organization is structured with reference to its projects. And there many structures that can help us support organizational change. These are in addition to a simple structure for which project management is somewhat alien; an exceptional and unfamiliar activity.
Table 2-1 of the PMBOK Guide 6th Edition has a full range of alternatives. But they are variations on or composites of three principal types of structure
The organization’s functional structure dominates, meaning projects sit within the functions and are owned/sponsored by functional leaders. Therefore Project managers need to negotiate to secure additional resources with skills that fall within other functional disciplines.
This refers to a range of more or less complex organizational structures where managers and teams sit at intersections of organizational groupings like function, region, brand, market. Projects usually address one dimension in particular, but the matrix nature of the organization makes it easier to secure resources. However, the complexity can leave the PM with uncertain and even conflicting reporting lines.
In organizations like this, projects atre the primary way the organization is managed and projects support organizational change constantly.
As a result, Project Managers are important business leaders, with a lot of authority to request – and expect – the resources they need. Team members are often allocated full-time to the project and projects enjoy the budgets they need, allocated through proper project prioritisation and portfolio management.
Increasingly, many organizations have PMOs – sometimes at different levels and certainly with varying responsibilities and resources to support projects and their teams. PMOs are small organizations themselves. So, they also have a culture and structure of their own!
We have a number of articles about PMOs, with more to come:
PMI PMP ECO Enabler: ‘Evaluate impact of organizational change to project and determine required actions’
Organizational Change Management is at the other end of a spectrum from Project Management. Take a look at this short video:
And, if you don’t know what we mean by the term, ‘Change Management’, here’s another short video that spells it out:
We have a lot of resources on Change Management (as you’d expect, I hope). These include a full video course. I’ll list them in a box, below.
In our course on Managing and Leading Change, we use the idea of a Progression Plan to move people from one stage of the change cycle to the next. It has 4 phases:
In building your roll-out plan to support organisational change, you will include all of the usual things. But it will often be built around your communication program. So, include things like:
Here is a list of all of our resources that will help you understand Change Management.
A Practical Introduction to Change Management
for Project Managers and Change Leaders.
Change is Predictable. You can anticipate how people will respond, and what you need to do to engage them positively. You can plan, prepare, and handle the resistance that will certainly come. To help you, we have practical tools and models.
Here is a list of all of our resources that will help you understand Project Benefits Management.
Learn Project Benefits Management Step-by-Step
Our organizations and clients are investing a lot in their projects. So, they will be right to expect us to realize the benefits that those projects promise. And it’s time for us for focus on Project Benefits Management and Benefits Realization.
PMI PMP ECO Enabler: ‘Evaluate impact of the project to the organization and determine required actions’
If any aspect of Project management demands an adaptable, agile approach, it’s the part where we support organizational change. You can never expect people to think and behave the way you expect them to! So you need to be prepared to adapt your plan to new information.
If your project is a formal one that follows a more traditional approach, this means Change Control – a means to stay in control of changing requirements and solutions to issues.
If you are not familiar with how this works, do take a look at or feature article, ‘All You Need to Know about Project Change Control‘.
If you are taking an agile or hybrid approach, regular reviews and changes will be baked into your process.
Either way you need a mechanism to review the progress and effectiveness of your plan. What changes do you need to make to:
We love to hear tips, questions, and insights from our community. And I will respond to every comment.
Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.
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