The integration of project management and (organizational/behavioral) change management has recently become a hotly debated topic amongst project professionals. Some argue that project management and change management are separate and distinct disciplines that complement each other, while others argue that change management is something that is embedded within “really good project management.”

However, long before the debate between project professionals became visible, project sponsors and other customers of professional project related services were asking a different question. The question was a simple one…. “What do I need to make my initiative a success?” Unfortunately, the response was (and still is) often a disjointed mishmash of both project management and change management key concepts and principles.

This issue reminds me of a television commercial I once saw a few years back in which a parent helps to heal a child who just skinned his knee at a playground and asks “How can I best treat my child?” Besides the requisite hugs and kisses, the skinned knee needs to be properly treated. In most cases, this requires placing antibiotic ointment on the scrape to prevent bacterial infection, and a bandage to cover the treated wound.

Now at the time, there were companies who made antibiotic topical ointments, and companies that made bandages. Despite the fact that both of these products were needed to heal the wound, they were both manufactured, marketed, distributed and sold as two separate (albeit complementary) products.

However, what made this commercial stand out was that it introduced a new, more efficient way of treating minor wounds. The company introduced “Advanced Protection” bandages that already had antibiotic ointment embedded within the gauze pad. Voila! An efficient and effective seamlessly integrated solution!

Creating successful organizational initiatives are a lot like treating that kid with the skinned knee. Rather than seeing “project management” and “change management” as two separate disciplines that are administered separately, it is much more efficient and effective to create a single solution out of the two.

Whenever I mention this to groups, I always have at least one person telling me that “Yeah, but project management and change management need to be separate because they ARE different. Change management focuses on the ‘people-side’ while project management only focuses on technical details.” The point that they are missing is that good project management relies on people just as much as good change management requires the rigor and structure that project management provides.

This is why it is so important to seek out change management practitioners that not only understand the change management side of the equation, but also understand the principles and activities behind project planning and execution as well. It is equally important to seek out project managers who understand the need for change management.

By embedding change management into project management, you help to address client needs in a more efficient and synchronized manner. Like the “Advance Solution Band-Aid,” it is a holistic approach towards change success that will get the client up and running again in the most efficient way possible. And this, in the end, is how we can best help our clients become better caretakers of their initiatives.

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