Home » Free Resources » »

What is Change Management in Project Management?

Change management in project management

When people need to accomplish a specific task or achieve an assigned objective, they typically turn that effort into a project. Organized teams meet and brainstorm the project’s stages, timeline, points, and objectives. By doing this, a team creates an organized plan to help them complete that task or meet that objective. Nothing could be simpler.

However, life is full of surprises, and sometimes, in fact, things change. Perhaps the stakeholders have reduced the deadline or added another objective (or both!!). The project team must be flexible enough to work through the changes in the process, available resources, or personnel and still meet their deadlines. That’s where change management comes in.

This article explores change management in project management. We will define the term, explain its importance, acquaint you with its types and benefits, and compare it to project management and change control. We’ll also share a project management bootcamp for professionals to upskill.

Let’s kick off with a definition. What is change management?

What Is Change Management?

Change management describes the tools and processes a project team uses to manage changes within the project and its team. Change is anything that impacts or alters a project or its tasks, structure, processes, or personnel.

Change management processes typically include a project manager and a dedicated change management team. The project manager oversees the team members’ work to ensure they have successfully incorporated any changes into their practices while achieving the overall project objectives. Team responsibilities usually include communicating with stakeholders, creating training programs, and tracking engagements.

So, change management in project management is a mix of managing change and managing people (e.g., the project teams and stakeholders) to incorporate changes. The process can significantly affect employee motivation and performance.

Also Read: What is Project Resource Management? Everything You Need to Know

Why Is Change Management in Project Management Important?

Change management is essential because project management is a fast-paced process where things can change quickly. Therefore, project managers must be ready to quickly adapt to these unexpected changes accordingly.

It is also necessary to maintain a structured process so team members know how to react to pivot yet stay on the right track to meet their project targets. The Wall Street Journal says, “Good change management can help employees embrace new technologies and directions and keep companies relevant.” When everyone in the organization is aligned on change management, it increases the likelihood of project success.

Here’s a rundown of how it helps various aspects of an organization.

  • Day-to-day operations. Change is a constant factor in the daily routine of business operations. These changes might be small, such as a slight adjustment to the team’s workflow, but their impact, when unmanaged, can lead to significant company-wide problems. Daily operations can slow down and become inefficient without an organized, structured approach to managing and communicating changes. Change management helps sustain smooth operations, even during busy times, ensuring that employees understand the established structures and procedures and have the tools needed to adapt, work, and maintain productivity.
  • Large-scale transformations. It is also beneficial for larger organizational targets and objectives. Strategic initiatives usually require notable changes to existing systems, processes, or structures. With effective change management, initiatives may succeed and create teams and stakeholders resistant to change or need clarification on how to proceed. By ensuring that changes are suitably explained, understood, and effectively implemented, it can help businesses align workforce capabilities with strategic objectives, creating an environment of shared purpose and engagement.
  • Project management. Projects inevitably face change, whether planned or unplanned. These changes can impact project resources, timelines, and scope, resulting in new challenges that must be handled for the project to succeed. Change management offers an efficient, replicable approach to handle these challenges and changes. This approach includes identifying and evaluating the challenges’ potential impact early in the project planning stage, devising strategies to handle them, and communicating with stakeholders to ensure everyone remains on track to achieve the intended outcomes.
  • Internal communications. Unchecked change leads to uncertainty and confusion. Thankfully, these changes can be mitigated through clear and effective communication. Organizations can prevent rumors and false information from spreading by regularly updating employees, managers, and stakeholders on any upcoming changes, explaining the reasons behind them, and outlining what these changes mean for everyone, ensuring everyone stays informed and on track.
  • Client satisfaction. Maintaining client satisfaction can be challenging in the face of organizational change. Changes can potentially impact product quality, service delivery, customer support, and other essential aspects of the business, leading to customer dissatisfaction. Organizations can minimize these effects by introducing effective change management. Companies can maintain and even enrich customer satisfaction during turbulent times of change by proactively communicating with their customers, managing consumer expectations, and addressing their concerns.

Change Management vs. Project Management

Change and project management processes can try to achieve the same specific outcome, but they approach the task differently.

Project management concentrates on executing a specific assignment with a clearly defined beginning and ending date and specified budget, scope, and resource parameters. It includes planning, organizing, and directing resources (personnel, equipment, and materials) to meet the project goals.

On the other hand, change management is a process designed to deal with any modifications to the organization’s objectives or processes. It can exist under the project management umbrella or stand alone. Change management initiates strategies for controlling, affecting, and helping teams adapt to change.

To frame the comparison in different terms, consider project management as the means of delivering a technical solution on schedule and within its budget, and change management to ensure that any changes within the project or organization will be smoothly implemented while achieving lasting benefits.

For instance, project management could ensure that a company’s cloud migration project is designed to meet the company’s needs and requirements, including cost, anticipated downtime, and timeline. In contrast, change management would train and onboard the company’s staff to use the new system, improve company-wide performance, and develop contingency plans to handle any surprises during the migration process.

Now that we’ve seen how change management and project management differ, let’s see how change management differs from change control.

Also Read: Best Apps for Project Management You Should Know in 2024

Change Management vs. Change Control

Change management and change control both exist to manage change, but they have different focus areas since each affects changes in different project stages.

Change control is the decision to implement a change, while change management is dedicated to the aftermath of the decision. Change control evaluates the incoming change request and decides which to prioritize and proceed with. Change management ensures the personnel affected by the new solution are ready for it, have accepted the change, and know how to work with it.

So, change control is procedural and is typically carried out at the team level. In contrast, change management is strategic and must be approved by upper management or the top management team.

Let’s look at an example.

A project manager receives a change request from a client who wants a new feature added to the mobile app the project team is developing. Since this new feature was never mentioned in the original app’s project scope, the project manager brings the request to the change control team. The change control team typically consists of representatives from contributing teams who are responsible for evaluating these requests.

The change control team evaluates the request by considering vital factors, such as:

  • The estimated time and cost of implementing the new feature
  • The potential impact on the overall project’s deadline
  • The value the new feature would add to the application
  • The possible risks associated with adding the requested new feature

After evaluating the request, the team concludes that the new feature would improve the application’s functionality and give the client some added advantage in the marketplace. However, the team also realized that implementing the new change would extend the project timeline and raise costs. The team communicates this to the client before approving the request and adjusts the project budget and timeline accordingly.

The Types of Change Management

Change management in project management comes in several forms, including:


This type involves planning changes ahead of an expected situation. Once the project manager verifies the likelihood or inevitability of such a change, the team can implement plans for when it inevitably arises. An example could be a client who didn’t factor in different displays for their mobile app. Still, the change management team is smart enough to realize that this feature will inevitably be asked for, so they craft a plan for when the customer approaches them and says, “We forgot about this feature. Can you please put it in?”


This process refers to introducing changes gradually over a prolonged period, like adding additional new features to our mobile app example. Since these alterations are minute, they are unlikely to cause any noticeable upheaval in the project timeline. Additionally, incremental changes share a close affinity with scope creep in project management.


Life is unpredictable, so the reactive approach is used when an unforeseen event arises. This type is typically used in crises where there is little reaction time to plan, and the project manager needs to think on their feet. Reactive change management could be better, but it is often necessary.


These changes are significantly larger and can affect the organization’s overall direction. A strategic shift in project management may involve introducing brand-new technology or requiring a significant rewrite of the original project plan.

The Benefits of Change Management

Change management offers plenty to organizations that want to keep up in today’s fast-paced, competitive digital environment. It boosts the odds of a successful project delivery and organizational success by:

  1. Reducing disruption. Any change in a project can cause disruptions, leading to unexpected problems and even failure. Change management lessens this possibility and ensures that ongoing projects and the organization operate smoothly during and after the changes.
  2. Promoting acceptance and adoption. It addresses stakeholders’ resistance to changes. This benefit is particularly useful for projects involving changes to processes, workflows, or technologies since these projects are only successful when those affected go along with them.
  3. Improving team performance. Proper change management is essential for employee performance in individual projects and even entire organizations. It ensures that performance is maintained and improved since employees are supported through transitions.
  4. Fostering a culture of adaptability. It develops and nurtures a culture of improvement and adaptability. This process contributes to the organization’s longevity by ensuring the company remains open and willing to try new ways of working while keeping processes and capabilities in place to adapt to change without grinding to a halt.

A Change Management Example

Let’s look at a fictitious example. A software company is transitioning from the traditional Waterfall development methodology to a DevOps project management approach. This transition would include how tasks are assigned and tracked, any changes in project team structures, and how outcomes would be delivered. So, effective change management in this scenario would involve:

  • Communicating why the transition is happening and the benefits of the DevOps methodology to the team members, appropriate management, and stakeholders.
  • Providing the necessary training and support to help the teams adapt to the new way of working
  • Establishing new metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) to track progress and success using the new system
  • Continuously monitoring the transition and dealing with any issues or concerns that manifest

We see how mastering change management can help organizations establish a forecasting system and mitigate the unintended adverse effects that typically come with change if they are otherwise unmanaged.

Do You Want Project Management Skills?

If you’re considering a project management career or want to expand your skill set, consider this online project management program. This 24-week bootcamp is aligned with PMI-PMP and IASSC-Lean Six Sigma and imparts valuable project management skills.

Glassdoor.com reports that project managers earn an average of $98,433 annually, and the demand for project managers is consistently high. So, check out this online project management course and get the skills you need to deliver better projects for today’s digital economy.

You might also like to read:

How to Measure Project Success? A 2024 Guide

Remote Project Management: How to Manage Remote Teams Effectively

What are Project Management Skills? Here are Top Skills You should Know in 2024

A Project Management Process Primer

Why Study Project Management? Top 5 Reasons

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

How to Use Microsoft Access

How to Use Microsoft Access: A Comprehensive Guide

Explore the comprehensive guide to Microsoft Access, covering everything from basic functionalities to advanced features. Learn how to use, download, and install MS Access, compare versions, and integrate it with Excel. Ideal for beginners and seasoned users alike.

Resource Management Tools

Top Resource Management Tools in 2024

Are you curious about the best resource management tools in 2024? Get our curated list with detailed insights into features, pros, cons, and pricing.

Project Management Bootcamp


6 months

Learning Format

Online Bootcamp

Program Benefits