Building change capability – are we doing enough?

I had a great day on Tuesday at the first day of the Project Challenge Expo 2017 at Olympia, London. I decided to focus my visit on change management as this is a key area of interest to me. I was keen to explore how change is discussed in a project management focussed event like this. I’m always interested (and a little confused) by the strict delineation between the two some practitioners insist on making. Now, I’m not suggesting that all project managers are change managers or vice versa but I would argue that all projects involve change. Why would it be a project if it wasn’t changing something? And change impacts people. Always.

I was looking for some insight in to how this was viewed more generally in the industry. As luck would have it the first stand I saw was the Change Management Institute’s. I had an interesting chat there about whether I define myself as a project manager or a change manager or both. She reflected that she had had this conversation with a number of people already that morning. It’s great to know I’m not alone!! Interestingly project management is a skill topic area in the Change Management Institute’s competency framework. So, there is an expectation for change professionals to have project management skills. Is the converse true for project managers? The APM has a checklist of key competencies that full members have to demonstrate in order to qualify and become an APM accredited PM. These are really thorough and refer throughout to ‘change initiatives’. The Transition Management probably comes closest to change management skills but by not having a specific Managing Change element I wonder if APM are missing a trick.

It's a truism often heard in organisations is that change is a constant. In her talk about change capability and competitive edge, Fiona MaGee of CITI Limited argued that the most successful organisations are those that can constantly adapt. In order to achieve this every employee needs to be comfortable with change. We discussed how close to this state organisations are today and what it will take to get there. The conclusion was that there was some way to go before ‘change’ is a core skill among employees across whole organisations. So how are we going to get there? Project and change managers live their working lives within change and have built up the mindset and skillset to navigate successfully through it. We are perfectly placed to share these skills with the teams we are working with. Imagine how quickly an organisation could build its change muscle if every project or change professional left a positive change fingerprint behind them within the teams they are interacting.

Whatever we call ourselves those professionals who help organisations’ make change happen can drive a shift in culture that will build competitive advantage in today’s ever-changing world. As project professionals we need to embrace these skills and lead the way in building change capability across the organisations we work with and in.

Caroline Doran is a project consultant working with busy senior leaders helping them turn their strategic ideas into operational realities.

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