Project manager or change manager? Who should be managing organizational change?

Doctoral Student, Bond University, Australia
Change Manager, Ernst & Young Australia


Professor of Project Management, Bond University, Australia
Professor of Project Management, ESC Lille, France
Director, Human Systems International Limited


Organizational change projects have become a common way for organizations to change the way they operate. However, according to French and Bell (1999), it is difficult to find practical examples of organizations that have fully transformed themselves to attain the organizational change they originally set out to achieve. The authors conclude that change is more difficult to achieve than most managers realize. A survey of 134 project professionals from all project sectors across the world confirms a high failure rate for organizational change projects, with only 44% of change projects coming close to achieving their goals (Accountancy, 2003). Partington (1996) found that the requirements of an organizational change project are very different from the requirements of any other type of project. They have specific requirements in both content and organizational context, and therefore requirements of their management practices are different.

A number of specific findings can be found in literature for failure of organizational change projects. One reason is that regardless of the type of change – whether an IT change, a framework change, a policy change, a cultural change, or a strategic change – organizational change requires people in their organization to do their everyday job differently. This calls for a behavioral change, and behavioral changes require certain interventions such as education, regular engagements, consultation, facilitation, and more. Chief Executive Officers have also realized that change cannot be achieved merely by ordering people to do so (Fitzgerald, 1988).

Another concern is limitations in a manager's ability to plan, implement and influence changes (Waldersee, Griffiths, & Lai, 2003; McCleland, 2005; Kavanagh & Ashkanassy, 2006; Smid, Hout & Bruger, 2006; Strait, 2006). According to this literature, the individual or group responsible for implementing the change can come from a variety of industries and organizational areas. It is likely that if the individual or team responsible for the change have come from a technical background or even a project management background, they would have technical skills and project management skills, but not necessarily the skills to implement changes (Pellegrinelli, 2002).

A third reason for the scarcity of examples for positive organizational transformations is that organizations are attempting to change themselves through projects and are using project management techniques to do so, which has been found not always conducive to achieving organizational change (Pellegrinelli, Partington, Hemingway, Mohdzain, & Shah, 2006b; Pellegrinelli & Partington, 2006.

Finally, failure of organizational change projects is often associated with poor management of human factors (Buchanan & Boddy, 1992; Pellegrinelli, 2002; Todnem, 2005; Luo, Hitly, Jepson, Worley & Yager, 2006; Anonymous, 2006; Maguire & Redman, 2007).

This research focuses its investigation on two phenomenon relating to organizational change projects. The first is the role and professional background of the individual who manages organizational change projects. The second is the factors contributing to the requirement for organizational changes which both influence and are influenced by the project.

A topic of often-impassioned debate in the literature and in practice is the role and professional background of the person best suited to manage change. There are many who believe that this role should be performed by the project or program manager, considering they are the ones managing the project and therefore the change the project is introducing (Kliem & Ludin, 1992; Obeng, 1994; Meredith & Mantel, 1995; Turner, Grude, & Thurloway,1996; Pellegrinelli, 1997; Kerzner, 1998; Frame, 1999; Pappas, 2006; Thiry, 2006; Leybourne, 2006). Turner et al. (1996) published a book which describes the project manager's role as being responsible for implementing change, positioning “The Project Manager as Change Agent.”

Many other authors believe that the person managing change should come from a background which is less technical or project-based and more focused on behavioral science such as human resources, organizational development, and/or psychology (Kanter, Stein, &Jick, 1992; Cummings & Worley, 1993; Connor & Lake, 1994; Doppler & Lauterburg, 1996; French & Bell, 1999; Caluwé & Vermaak, 2003). The association of failure of organizational change projects with poor management of human factors provides further support for this view.

The project and program managers' roles are well-established in literature, in practice, in academia and by professional bodies such as the Project Management Institute (PMI) and the International Project Management Association (IPMA). Change managers, however, have not received the same attention, with no well-established professional bodies and very little literature support for a role called ”change manager.”. This is despite the role existing in practice with demand for the role in change projects. Proof of this growing requirement is found in web sites such as “My Career,” “Monster,” and “Seek,” where demand for people to fill a ”change manager” role is consistent. For the sake of this study, any role with the primary purpose of managing change, other then a project or program manager, is referred to as change manager.

To understand the role of the individual managing change, this research investigates the requirements for organizational change. These are organizational factors that are both influenced by the project and influence the project. Examples of organizational factors are culture, organizational structure, leadership, size, products, customers, and competitors. An example of a project influencing an organization is when the project requires a change to the structure in order to implement a certain system. An example of how organizational or contextual factors influence the project is if there is resistance to the change. The project needs to take steps to deal with that in order to achieve successful implementation. Contextual factors can also influence the project positively. For example, if leadership is supportive of the change, then the project has a greater chance of success. All of these factors can influence decisions about who should manage the change, which is the focus of this study.

A primary aim of this research is to address the emerging and very practical debate about choice of managers of change projects. The literature is reviewed to provide a comparative analysis of the competencies expected of project, program and change managers. Such a comparison provides a useful basis for determining whether project/program managers can be expected to have the necessary competencies for management of organizational change. Having examined the literature, a similar comparison is conducted of practice across three case studies of organizational change projects. The case studies were carefully selected to provide insights into the relative roles and contributions of both project/program managers and change managers in the implementation of organizational change. From the case studies, the activities undertaken by project/program managers on the projects are compared with those of the change managers. Specifically, what do project/program managers do to implement change compared to change managers?

Literature Review

Project/Program as vehicles for managing of change and the project/program managers as change managers

Turner, Grude, and Thurloway (1996), in positioning ”The Project Manager as a Change Agent,” suggest the modern view of project management as the management of change. Although this view my be accepted from a project management perspective, there are those with organizational behavior and development background who can very reasonably make similar claims. There is, therefore, a gap that needs to be bridged between the perception that both change managers and project/program managers can manage organizational changes effectively.

Pellegrinelli and Partington (2006), discusses the pitfalls associated with program managers managing organizational changes using a project management approach. Some of the pitfalls identified are:

  • The resemblance pitfall: This pitfall is about program managers managing organizational changes like project managers and focusing too strongly on internal factors as well as micro managing the project managers reporting to them, thus subtracting rather than adding value.
  • Definition pitfall: Project managers like to have a baseline so that they can control the work, but this can inhibit provision for the fluidity and changing nature of a change project. Fixed baselines are relevant in a stable and knowable environment, but change projects are usually not stable and knowable environments. Many opportunities for improvement can be lost by forcing the ”frozen” plan on this kind of a project.
  • Delineation pitfall: Projects usually have very strong delineations and demarcations. This is useful when the work is detailed and specific. With the fluid and flexible requirements of change programs, with multiple stakeholders and many unknowns, strong demarcations create an ”us and them” mentality. This means that the program will require more resources to develop relationships and integrate and absorb the program deliverables into the organization.
  • Decomposition pitfalls: Due to the common view that programs are a group of projects, the business cases for programs are often the sum of the project's business cases. These normally will not have a sound economic basis for analyzing the effects of overruns, alternative scenarios, or variations to scope of the overall program. Programs may, therefore, lose their integrity and be disconnected from the overarching strategic purpose, as well as not be able to add the enterprise-wide perspective.
  • Can-do pitfall: Project management tends to place a heavy significance on risk management and avoiding adverse events. At a program level, new risks and issues are constantly emerging. If these are the focus of the program manager, and the possibility of failure is not truly embraced, ways of rendering the organization less vulnerable in case of failure may not be put in place. Decisions to stop programs or radically change their scope and outcomes may be delayed, wasting resources and making remedial action more difficult.
  • Enterprise wide pitfall: Project managers tend to prefer coordinated initiatives and perceive the promotion of local priorities and interests, as well as unresolved opinions, as hindering the initiative and generally unhelpful. Political agendas, indecisions, and reversal of policies are anathema to a project/program manager's desire to create and maintain order. This may stifle responsiveness and experimentation. Portfolio planning and control frameworks may be ill-advised defenses against the rising tide of economic change and turbulence.

Based on these many pitfalls, it is clear that there are potential problems with having project managers, who were promoted into the role of program managers, run organizational change projects.

Pellegrinelli and Partington (2006) continue by suggesting that the project management application has extended beyond its traditional domains and the success of the project management discipline has reinforced a subtle perception that it is universally applicable in all planned changes. The authors continue to suggest that the pitfalls, stated above, are the reasons project management has been so successful, but only when applied to projects that suit the traditional project management approach, which is not necessarily a fitting approach for most programs with goals of achieving complex changes in organizations. The authors go further and suggest that all this does and will take a big toll on organizations and individuals in terms of lost advantages and increased stress and dissatisfaction.

Pellegrinelli et al. (2006b) and Partington et.. al. (2004) have contributed a significant body of work to the question of a project managers' ability to bring about organizational change. According to them, the task of introducing and managing changes in organizations belongs to the program manager. However, project management, according to the authors, evolves into program management and as program managers are usually project managers who have been promoted, this causes some difficulties. The authors suggest that as programs are used to establish a bridge between projects and the strategic goals of an organization, they move into the traditional domain of strategic change management and organizational development. Performing such a role, according to the authors, demands high levels of competence, astuteness, and sensitivity. It also demands a fundamentally different approach to the candid, direct, and rational style valued in competent project managers. The authors also suggest that these traits are difficult to obtain, and if one does not possess them, they are likely to take a long and confrontational time to achieve.

As it appears that program management has emerged as a key player in the change management field (Pellegrinelli et al. 2007), it is necessary to define what a program is and what is the responsibility of program managers, especially in relation to change initiatives. It is questionable, however, whether program managers are any different from project managers, except that they are a higher level. In fact, Partington, Pellegrinelli, and Young (2004) suggest that managers have found that promoting project managers to become program managers has proven unreliable. program management seems to require a greater degree of organizational development capabilities.

Program managers, who are essentially change managers according to Pellegrinelli et al. (2007), need to raise their game significantly to address the cultural, political and organizational challenges of spearheading major transformation programs. They need to learn skills and capabilities beyond those of a regular project in order to drive change. According to Balogun and Hope Hailey (1999), program managers need to develop analytical, judgmental, and implementation skills as well as their ability to handle complexity, increased sensitivity, and self awareness. They need to be able to assess and deal with power and culture in organizations, which is on par with scoping changes and leveraging internal capabilities.

The numerous papers written and studies conducted by Pellegrinelli et al. (2007) and Partington et al. (2007) suggest important insights into both what program management means and the role of the program manager. They maintain that the phenomenon known as program management is more complex and diverse than indicated by prevailing, predominantly normative literature, but claim that program management is the vehicle used today to implement organizational changes. A challenge is that program managers are project managers who have been promoted to the role and who therefore, in most cases lack organizational development skills required to deal with the requirements of organizational changes (i.e., focusing on business and people issues rather than technical solutions, creating a strong team environment, communicating with confidence at all levels, understanding the nature and differences of cultures and how they interact in organizations, and, finally, being competent facilitators). In their research, they have identified two profiles that can differentiate successful program managers from the unsuccessful ones. These are what the authors call “High Order and Low Order informants.” The difference between the two is mainly in their cognition and the way they work, that is, the way they view their work and the way they view and deal with the people around them, as well as their ability to work in chaotic, complex, and unstable organizational environments to bring about the required change successfully.

Pellegrinelli et al. (2007) and Partington et al. (2007) also highlight some important issues with the current definition of the program manager's role. These issues include: 1. The extensive differences between programs, which make it difficult to pin down the specific definition of the role; 2. Once analyzed, program management seems too similar to general management with generic leadership qualities; 3. The more senior the manager, the greater the distance from the actual tasks where mistakes occur, therefore, success or failure of the role is harder to gauge (Partington et al., 2004)

In summary, project and program managers are expected to manage and lead changes to organizations, however, their ability to do so has been questioned and requires further investigation, which is the topic of this study.

The change manager as Implementers of Change

In practice the role of the change manager has emerged from a different disciplinary background to that of project and program managers. The change manager is responsible for the management of change with a focus on the human side of the change. In practice, this is an emerging role and with responsibility for the management of any type of organizational change. When searching for the role of a change manager in popular job search web sites, there is always a minimum of two advertisements requiring a change manager. This has been the case since the beginning of the new millennium (,,

Within the academy, however, the role of the change manager has not been popular; there are very few journal articles that discuss the role and fewer studies. The field of change management, as opposed to the role, is highly developed with a significant amount of literature dealing with how to manage change. However, the papers discussing this field, and various studies and books dealing with it, do not always suggest who should be responsible for this work.

Additionally, there has not been the same development of professional associations and industry recognition for the role of the change manager as there has been for the role of the project and program manager. The academic field and literature reviews are slowly catching up to the workforce and professional practice in relation to this emerging role (Pellegrinelli, 2007).

There is incremental research and analysis of the change managers role in terms of professional and educational background and the competencies required to be considered competent (Paton and McCalman, 2000; Kotter & Cohen, 2002; Pellegrinelli, 2007). There is a Journal of Organizational change management; however, unlike the Project Management Journal and the International Journal of Project Management, which are associated with PMI and IPMA, respectively, this journal is not tied into any particular professional association. It states that its audiences are the following groups:

  • academics and libraries
  • consultants
  • general managers
  • government agencies
  • management and organization development professionals
  • personnel and training specialists.

There is no mention of change managers as an audience to this change management-related publication.

Some authors imply that it is the organizational development consultant who is typically in charge of implementing change initiatives (French & Bell, 1999; Caluwé & Vermaak, 2003). In these cases, the changes being managed and the responsibility of the change manager are within the realms of organizational development with an emphasis on the behavioral aspect of managing change. Whether this includes change efforts such as an implementation of a certain system is a matter for debate.

Organizational development has always paid close attention to the cultural, attitudinal, and behavioral changes inherent in realizing any significant corporate transformation. Interventions aimed at changing cultural norms, improving team and individual capabilities, and facilitating communication and learning throughout the organization are common within organizational development assignments. Methods and approaches used in the organizational development practice include facilitation, mediation, and relationship building.

Most of the prominent authors dealing with the topic of change management emerged from the organizational development field (Lewin, 1947; Beer, 1980; Beer and Walton, 1987; Cummings and Worley, 1993; Burke, 1994; Kanter, 1983, 1992, 1995; French & Bell, 1999; Kotter and Cohen, 2002). Examples supporting the view that people influencing organizational change need to come from an organizational development background come from authors such as Cummings and Worley (1993) and Beer (1980). They suggest that there is no change unless the behavior is dealt with, and that psychological knowledge must be applied to achieve behavioral change. Behavioral change encompasses any change to what people are doing in the workplace. This is echoed by a research study conducted by Smollan (2006), where he states that when people are faced with changes to some aspect of their working lives, they respond to these changes psychologically. According to him, behavioral responses are outcomes of cognitive and emotional reactions which respond to various contexts surrounding them such as the organization, the change manager, and the change itself.

Another example for writings about change managers coming from an organizational development background is that of French and Bell (1999). These authors start from organizational development and say that the bottom line of all organizational development efforts is the introduction and implementation of change in organizations. They also note that any change, whether it is organizational culture, process, structure or system, should be dealt with by using organizational development methods. Sminia and Nisterlrooij (2006) conducted a study that found that organizational changes are successful with a bottom-up organizational development approach. Additional support for the requirement of change managers to come from organizational development background and have an understanding of behavioral aspects of organizational dynamics can be found in other papers and studies including Zaugg and Thom (2003), who go so far as to say that organizations need to decrease the amount of changes they are imposing on their staff, and that the only way to positively introduce changes is by using organizational development competencies.

Wood (1998) claims that the person responsible for influencing change must be able to influence the psychology of people. According to him, most change efforts fail due to the lack of emphasis on the ability of the manager to deal with people problems. These types of problems are ambiguous, fuzzy, and cannot be planned, therefore require ”out of the box” innovative thinking and problem-solving capabilities usually held by professional behaviorists or psychologists (Wood, 1998).

Based on the above one can summarize that a change manager is an individual who has been brought up in the field of organizational development and who performs the role with great emphasis on the behavioral aspect of managing change, that is, the psychology of people going through change and what support they need to deal with their emotional reactions.

Organizational factors that influence and are influenced by change projects

The second phenomenon investigated was the organizational factors/drivers that contribute to the requirement for an organizational and behavioral change. Literature provides very little coverage of how projects are able to influence and be influenced by organizational factors (Morrison et al., 2006; Pellegrinelli, 2007). Organizational factors drive the requirement for change in two ways. The first way is by influencing the project requirements (e.g., if there is resistance to the project changes, the project would need to establish a strategy to deal with this resistance). In that way, the factors influence the project. The second way is where the organization is influenced by the project requirements, (e.g., when the change project calls for implementation of a system which requires a change to the management structure). In that way, the project influences the organization.

In the discussion of who manages change, it is critical to understand the requirement for change. This would lead into an understanding of when a project manager can manage the change component of a change project and when the project can use the expertise of a change manager. This study investigates the factors in three case studies. The investigation looks at any contributing factors for project success or failure which stems from the organization rather than the management of the change project.

Who is the Change Manager?

If there is a role called change manager, and this individual is responsible for the management of change, as their title suggests, how does this role interact with the project and program managers' role, considering that according to the literature, and in practice, they are so often being nominated to manage change? Where are the boundaries between the roles and how does one know when there is a requirement for a project/program manager and when the role calls for a change manager?

It has been established that project managers, program managers and change managers are referred to in literature as managers of organizational change. Establishing that one does a better job in implementing change than the other is a tall order. It goes into the measurements of change and what is a successful organizational change project, which is a topic that requires much further investigation and is beyond the scope of this study.

The construct that can be researched and analyzed, however, is what the three roles, in practice, do. Along with the competencies of each role on an organizational change project, this may provide an answer to the main question being asked in this research study:

1.  What do project managers and program managers do on an organizational change project that is different from what change managers do?

To support the response to the first research question, another question needs to be asked regarding the conditions under which one would appoint a change manager to manage change, as opposed to a project/program manager, and vice versa, or perhaps apoint both. This is the second question of this research, which is:

2.  What are the organizational “factors” that determine the change required in a change project?


There are two parts to this research study. The first is an analysis of the literature to derive a comparative list of change management competencies of project/program managers and change managers. The analysis was done using Crawfords' (2000) method of analyzing the role of the project manager. Crawford (2000a) analyzed the literature to identify aspects of project manager competency by identifying aspects of competency which were most frequently found and identified in research based literature. Results from Crawfords' (2000a) study were updated and enhanced by inclusion of additional and subsequent research results. The same process was then applied to derive comparable set of competencies for change managers. Finally, the two lists were compared.

The second and most substantial part of the research was qualitative in nature, designed to provide insight into what Project /program managers and change managers actually do on organizational change projects, the competencies that these required and the relationship with context. Three case studies of organizational change projects were studied in three different organizations. Both organizations and change projects were carefully chosen to provide as much control as possible over variation. The three organizations were of similar size but in three different industry sectors:

  1. A large telecommunications company with 9,000 employees
  2. A financial institution with 12,000 employees (before a merger, under which grew it to 30,000)
  3. A public university with 10,000 employees

To have as much control as possible over the type of change project, its influence and its measurability, the change projects were also chosen based on a set of criteria:

  • Type of change: All change projects are an implementation of an organization-wide IT system. These are the most common changes found in organizations today.
  • Number of influenced staff: Each organizational change has been implemented for a minimum of 1,000 people and a maximum of 3,000 people within the organization.
  • Project expenditure: cost for implementing each of these major technological implementations ranges from $5 million up to $20 million.

For all projects, the change had already taken place, the project had been completed, and the results of the change had been measured or could be estimated. The change projects were chosen on the basis that there was successful implementation as perceived by the sponsor. A critical factor in choice was that one was managed by a change manager, one by a project manager, and another by both a change manager and a project manager. For each project, interviews were conducted with the leader/s of the change project, whether that is the project manager, the change manager, or both; the sponsor of the change project; three employees influenced by the organizational change; and a project team member (see Figure 1).

Participant structure

Figure 1: Participant structure

Interviewees were asked to participate by each organization's project sponsor, and were told that the research study investigates both the project/program manager and the change managers roles. Interviews were conducted, transcribed and then analyzed using grounded theory techniques (Strauss, 1989) with the aid of NVivo quality analysis software.


The major findings of this study relate to the role of the individual managing the change and to the contextual factors affecting the change. Competencies of a project/program manager in literature were found to be very similar to those of a change manager, with only slight differences. See Table 1.

Table 1: Literature based project, program and change management competencies across the three roles

What project managers do What change managers do What program managers do
Similar Competencies
Leadership Leadership Project/program organization and management (leadership)
Stakeholder management Stakeholder management Understanding clients objectives/managing client interface
Planning Planning Approach and strategy for the project/program (planning)
Team selection/ team development Team development People and resource management/ team selection
Communication Communication
Decision-making and problem-solving/Strategic decisions Decision making and problem solving
Cultural skills Cultural awareness
Different competencies
Administration Analysis and assessment Risk management
Monitoring and controlling Training and education Scope management
Closing Creative and challenging Commercial awareness
Technical performance Initiative
Organization structure Facilitation and presentation
Project definition Action orientation
Process design

In the case studies, however, greater differences were found between what project/program managers and change managers do. See Table 2.

Table .2: Similar and different change management activities undertaken by project and change managers in the case studies

Change management Case study activities Project management Case study activities
Similar activities
Communicating and managing stakeholders and their expectations Communicating—organizes presentations, represents the project at team meetings and reports to sponsors
Stakeholder management and management of teams with interface to the project
Change management planning Planning
Different activities
Changing behaviors and organizational culture to achieve the goals Coordination and management of meetings
Preparation of users Strategic decisions
Organizational structure Team development
Political diffusion Reporting to board and business
Impact analysis
Selling the change
Champion schemes
Involvement in process analysis work
Training and education to affected staff

The findings in relation to context are that some organizational factors such as supportive culture and leadership can assist projects in achieving their goals. However, it is unlikely that these factors will completely eliminate the requirement for change management activities. For instance, as demonstrated in these case studies, a culture that recognizes the value of project management, good teamwork and strong leadership supporting the change may enable the project to succeed, regardless of the quality of change management activities. Factors that are influenced by the change project are the degree of behavioral change required and the extent of changes to the way people perform their jobs. These were influenced in the case studies using project engagements, communication, training, and process redesign.

The following reviews findings of this study and presents a practical process and decision-making matrix so that managers and project staff are able to apply the findings in practice:

Organizational factors and the role of managing change

Process for determining the change management requirements

Figure 2 represents a decision-making process based on the findings from this study.

Suggested process model for project and change managers' involvement in organizational change

Figure 2: Suggested process model for project and change managers' involvement in organizational change

The following are the steps in this model:

  1. The organization decides that it needs a project based on a technical requirement and the project is initiated.
  2. The project then decides who the project manager is and what are the ”technical” project deliverables.
  3. The project establishes if there is a need for any organizational or behavioral change. For example, if the project is implementing a system that relies on two departments to communicate with each other, but these departments work in silos, then this would require an organizational behavioral change that would raise a requirement for change management.
  4. The project assesses the contextual factors, such as culture, leadership, and teamwork, that act as filters for decision making. The continuous loop between step three and four represents the ongoing relationship between the requirement for organizational and behavioral change and organizational factors/filters. Each time, a requirement for organizational and/or behavioral change is raised, the organizational factors need to be assessed, as described in steps three and four.
  5. The project assesses the degree of change. For example, is an organizational restructure required? Or does the change merely involve facilitating discussions between the two departments?
  6. The project assesses what change management-specific activities or interventions need to be performed. The project must gain support and commitment from all influenced parties of the organization to perform the agreed-upon changes, taking into account the factors that will negatively influence the execution of these changes. The activities also need to be those that will assist in arriving at the new factors required for the organization and the success of the project.
  7. Based on all the above steps, the roles, responsibilities and focus of the projects' change management aspect emerge.
  8. Finally, the project proactively pursues both the implementation of its technical requirements and the organizational changes that will make the technical implementation possible and successful.

Guide for deciding on change project management structure

Suggested decision matrix for engagement of project (PM) and/or change managers (CM)

Figure 3: Suggested decision matrix for engagement of project (PM) and/or change managers (CM)

Based on the results of this research, Figure 3 is a suggested framework to assists in making a decision about the circumstances in which to consider a project manager, a change manager, or both on a change project. The two axes represent the key contextual factors found in the research to influence the intensity of change management activities required (see step 4 of Figure 2). A high degree of behavioral change and a weak supportive culture and leadership will require more intensive change management activities, highlighting the need for a designated change manager. At the other end of the spectrum, if there is little behavioral change required and there is strongly supportive culture and leadership, then the change may be effectively managed by a project manager with some change management skills. Other scenarios would suggest project managers with varying degrees of change management competence and / or engagement of both a project manager and a change manager.

A guide for project/program and change management competencies and activities

In this study both literature and empirical research were utilized to provide a guide for the competencies required and activities to be undertaken by a project/program manager and a change manager to successfully implement change on change projects.

Tables 3 below shows the change management competencies that were found in literature across the roles of the project/program manager and the change manager and those that were similar for the three. These competencies, according to literature, are those needed by project/program and change managers to implement change successfully as part of a change project. Table 4 presents the change management activities that were undertaken by the change managers on the case study change projects, and have been directly linked to achieving behavioral and organizational changes.

In summary, in order for an individual, whether project/program or change manager, to successfully implement change into organizations, he or she should possess all the competencies listed in Table 3 (as they are similar across the roles), as well as be able to perform all the activities listed in Table 4, as they are directly related to proven achievement of successful change.

Table 3 : Literature based project/program and change management competencies similar across the three roles, required for implementing change successfully on a change project

Project manager Competencies Change                  manager Competencies Program manager Competencies
Leadership Leadership Project/program organization and management (leadership)
Stakeholder management Stakeholder management Understanding clients objectives/ Managing client interface
Planning Planning Approach and strategy for the project/ program (planning)
Team selection/ team development Team development People and resource management/team selection
Communication Communication
Decision-making and problem-solving/ Strategic decisions Decision making and problem solving
Cultural skills Cultural awareness

Table 4: Change management activities required for implementing change successfully on a change project, derived from the case study research

Change management activities
Impact analysis
Communicating and managing stakeholders and their expectations
Coaching and challenging (only found in one case study)
Selling the change (only found in one case study)
Champion schemes
Involvement in process analysis work
Change management planning
Issues resolution (only found in one case study)
Training and education to affected staff
Changing behaviors and organizational culture to achieve the goals
Preparation of users
Organizational structure
Political diffusion


The goal of this study was to investigate the relative roles of project/program managers and change managers on organizational change projects and the contextual factors that might affect the change management competencies required, the change activities that need to be undertaken, and the most appropriate professional background to manage the process. Analysis of literature and rich data drawn from carefully selected case studies has contributed to theoretical and practical understanding of the phenomenon and provides a sound basis for future research testing the findings in other settings and with different methodologies. In this study, the types of change projects were all IT implementations conducted in different types of organizations. Studies of different types of organizational change would be a useful further progression of this research.

The organizational factors that were studied here were specific to those that emerged in the three case studies, there are many other factors in organizations that influence or are influenced by organizational change projects. It would be worthwhile investigating organizational/contextual factors in greater depth, perhaps investigating each factor separately. A study such as this would contribute greatly to the understanding of how contextual factors influence project performance and how projects can obtain greater success and implement changes by recognizing and utilizing environmental factors.

This study has implications for both the theory of project management and change management. From a theoretical perspective, this study brings together two largely disparate fields that operate within the same organizational territory, that is, the management of change. The two fields are project/program management and change management, a field which has evolved from organizational development and human resources practices. In practice, there is often competition between project/program manager and change managers for the management role on organizational change projects but this study has demonstrated that there is opportunity for a fruitful partnership. From a theoretical perspective, change management can be seen as theory-rich while the role of the change manager is weakly supported in terms of professional formation. The project/program management field is generally considered to be theory-poor, while the roles of project and program manager are very well supported by professional bodies, standards, and certification processes. This suggests a fruitful opportunity for partnership not only in the management of organizational change projects, but in the theoretical and professional development.

Another contribution of this study is in testing the claims of project and program managers as implementers of change. According to this study, and in contradiction to many papers and books written to date on the matter, project and program managers do not necessarily have the required competence or perform the full activities required to promote and implement the changes that they are leading as part of their projects. Although many authors suggest that project and program managers are implementers of change (Kliem & Ludin, 1992; Meredith & Dinsmore, 1993; Obeng, 1994; Mantel, 1995; Turner, Grude & Thurloway,1996; Pellegrinelli, 1997; Kerzner, 1998; Frame, 1999; Leybourne, 2006; Pappas, 2006; Thiry, 2006), the case studies analyzed do not support this when compared to change managers. The findings of this research have potential to contribute to curriculum and educational development for project and program managers.

A further contribution of this study is to highlight the need for professional formation for the role of change manager. This role has significant application in practice, but has been subjected to little scrutiny in terms of research. To date, there are few or no industry bodies representing the role, there are few academic courses designed to cater specifically for the role and there is no agreed governance for how the role is executed. The widespread and growing application of this role in practice suggests a need for professionalization.

In a practical sense, as a result of this study, a process model for project and change managers' involvement in organizational change and a matrix to assist in decisions about appointment of a project manager or change manager or both for organizational change projects have been presented. Results support the already well-practiced use of a change manager in the management of change and enhance understanding of how the Project / program manager and change manager relate to one another on Change projects. In recruitment for organizational change projects there needs to be consideration for the management of the change and the person who will drive the changes into the organization beyond the daily tasks of managing the project/program, performed by the project/program managers. The implications of having this additional role are in changes to the way projects are run, including their governance, reports, and all other project activities as well as the development of new project activities which are change management-specific.


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