In the nearly 20 years of practicing project management and organizational change management (OCM), one of the top questions I’ve received from the C-Suite is about the difference between the two.

Generally, the concepts behind OCM came about as a response to understandings made by social scientists throughout the 1900s about how people react to change. These concepts began to filter into business as these academic ideas developed into new approaches to managing people.1 At the heart of it – OCM is exactly about people. OCM methodologies are used to prepare people for the changes associated with projects – create buy-in, facilitate required knowledge and skills, and track adoption.

Before going any further, I’d like to clarify that the people aspects of OCM have very real effects on project success. Prosci, a major trainer on OMC concepts, shares that projects with excellent change management are six times more likely to have their objectives met or exceeded than projects with poor change management.2 As you’ll see below, the two practices compliment each other and its recommended that firms have competencies for both. Where these practitioners sit varies and is still developing. Sometimes OCM practitioners are in their own department; sometimes practitioners are in HR; and sometimes they’re in a firm’s Project Management Office (PMO).

As you think back on your organization’s goals for 2019, what headway did you make? If the answer is, “Not as much as we wanted,” or, “We implemented a lot, but people just haven’t caught on,” you’ll want to consider integrating OCM practices with your projects in 2020.

Key differentiators between PMO and OCM

Project Management

  1. A project is, “…a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.” Project management, therefore, is the skilled use of a methodology to meet project requirements.
  2. Project managers are generally entrusted to track and manage the requirements that cover time, budget, scope, and quality. Good project managers are skilled at creating and maintaining forward momentum towards a goal. They’re adept at identifying areas of risk and working with others to develop mitigation or contingency plans. Overall, they’re outside of the day-to-day operations of an organization and therefore can generate focus around these temporary endeavors.
  3. Project managers track time – often people think of the schedule as the project plan. Project managers know, however, that the schedule is only one (key) piece of the overall plan which tracks when a project, phase, or task will be executed.
  4. Project managers track budget – The total cost of labor, materials, software, consultants, incentives, etc. to carry out the project.
  5. Project managers track scope – What will be completed and what will NOT be completed as part of the project.
  6. Project managers track quality – The measurement of the project’s output versus the desired output.

Organizational Change Management (OCM)

  1. If Project Management is the science of getting projects done on time, within budget, and scope; OCM is the social science of ensuring the benefits of those projects are realized. The focus of OCM is people.
  2. Organizational change managers plan for preparing people for the change associated with projects. Change managers seek to understand the landscape of changes across the organization and apply that understanding to their change management plans. The result is an executed change management plan tailored for the environment that the change is occurring in.
  3. There are many methodologies surrounding change management but generally change managers track awareness and desire – do people know about the change? Do they want to help carry out the change?
  4. Change managers track ability – the knowledge and demonstrated ability to carry out the change.
  5. Change managers track adoption – long after a project is “complete,” how has the organization truly adopted the change?
  6. If you had to boil it down, OCM focuses on buy-in. Essentially, the investment in change management can be thought of as an insurance policy on your projects because buy-in and adoption on the intended goals of the project increases.

It’s worth noting that as OCM continues to develop in the marketplace, you may see various titles for practitioners. New titles you may see is this space include Change Managers, Business Transformation Manager, and Progress Leadership as they all refer to that practitioner or department that work in this arena. As you start to work on your firm’s goals for 2020, all of those areas are worth exploration.

For more information, Christine Flott, LBMC Director of Change Management, can be reached at 615-306-2339 or christine.flott@lbmc.com.

1https://www.prosci.com/resources/articles/change-management-history-and-future

2https://www.prosci.com/resources/articles/why-change-management