Why so many Project Managers move to Change Management

change management confidence leadership project management project succes projects Mar 15, 2022

I've helped a LOT of women make the move to a career in Change Management. And a pretty solid number of Changies started out as Project Managers.


So why do Project Managers jump across to Change? And is it only Project Managers who can transition easily?


In my experience, a lot of Project Managers love working on projects. They love working on short, sharp pieces of work, earning contracting day rates (or great salaries), and working with multidisciplinary teams to deliver incredible outcomes and transformations. And given the same could be said for Change Managers, why not just stay working as a Project Manager? Why bother making the change to Change at all?



There are 3 things I hear Project Managers say time and again as reasons for why they made the move to Change Management:


They want their projects to be more successful

It's a sad truth that an alarmingly high number of projects fail. In fact, a 2020 Forbes article found that the number of technology projects that can experience serious issues in things like cost, schedule and goals can be anywhere between 16% and ... 60%! To work so hard on a delivery and not meet budget, benefits or ROI can be heart-breaking for the most seasoned of Project Managers. 


That same Forbes article, ironically, found the answer to reducing project failure rate is often... people. 

"All of the software, tools and management elixirs in the world will not save project management.  Only people can save project management."


People is exactly what Change Management focuses on, and doesn't do so from a fluffy, silly place, but from a real and practical place of improving the end result.

The Forbes article also suggested soft skills, supporting leadership, and better training experiences can greatly improve project success rates... which are all major elements in great Change Management!


So while many Project Managers do make the move to the Change side of projects, many others simply learn Change to manage their own projects better and give themselves more chance of making their efforts successful.




They want to make more impact

I think there comes a time in every Project Manager's life where delivery isn't enough. As we mature in our career, we realise that achieving tasks and outcomes often makes us feel proud in the moment, but not always feel lasting fulfilment beyond launch. 


We often find the fulfilment comes not from delivery, but from the positive impact that delivery has on the lives of others - our leaders, our teams, our customers, our clients, our community. These are our stakeholders and while Project Management focuses on delivering them the "thing", Change Management focuses on them loving it, using it, and experiencing it into the future. Success is not dollars spent, deadlines hit and scope maintained, but instead people engaged, real world value realised, and ongoing improvements supported.


Many of the Project Manager students in my Leading Successful Change program love the sense of meaning and purpose they get from bringing Change into their work, and the fulfilment they experience from knowing they positively impact their lives of others.




They want to have more freedom

This one is CONTROVERSIAL! Alrighty... Project Managers have a LOT of responsibility. They have a lot of authority, as they are often calling the shots, hiring the resources, making the decisions, and managing the plan for the entire project or program of work. It can be exhilarating... but over time, can lead to burn out and resentment. The Change side of the project, however, often has very little authority, none of their own budget, and only the ability to influence decisions, plans and project teams!


These challenges in Change can also be blessings, because it frees up Changies to learn about the broader portfolio and business, make connections and build stakeholder relationships far and wide, and bring more creativity and flexibility to the project. As well as take leave or work part-time, because the whole project won't stall without them (this seriously does happen sometimes!).


Leading change for a project is a much more fluid role, and I teach my students to lead fit-for-purpose Change and use their freedom to make better decisions on what to focus on to get the most bang for buck for the project.




So yes, a lot of Project Managers make the move to Change Management (or even just bring Change skills into their current role).


And it's not just Project Managers... people come to Change from a range of professions and industries, for the reasons above and others. This can be Marketing (like me!), Learning & Development, HR, Communications, or even just business leaders who have a passion for people and results.


Because here's what no one tells you: everyone makes the move to Change from somewhere else. You just have to have the confidence to do it. 



If you're interested in learning more about Change Management to move to Change or bring change leadership into your current role, totally register for my free Change Tools Masterclass. We kick off tonight Tuesday 15 March at 6.00pm AEDT and it will be a week of all things change inspiration. 


CLICK HERE to register your free spot on my masterclass


Lata xx


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