Thought Leadership Articles

    Part 1 The roles of Project, Programme and Change Managers

    Apr 28, 2017 | Posted by Michael Campbell
    Historically, Project Management originated from engineering with the goal of optimising planning and maximising control. In contrast, (enterprise) change management derived from the discipline of Organisational Development (Vaill, 1989) which focuses on the behavioural aspects of managing change or in our favourite phrase - the People Side of Change. This has led to the distinction of two pools of knowledge supporting the practices of Project Management and Change Management.
    At the current state, the body of knowledge underpinning Project Management is thoroughly established in standards and guidelines by multiple project management professional associations whereas the development of practice standards of Organisational Change is less bolstered by professional bodies* although it may be more abundant in theoretical foundations (Hughes, 2007, p. 47). Due to their differences in background and training, the literature suggests that Change Managers lack the technical tools and administrative know-how of project managers while Project Managers often overlook that business outcomes are achieved only when people change old habits to adopt and sustain new working behaviours. Engagement needs to take place at all levels, particularly middle managers, for successful change.

    In our previous post, we highlighted the prevalent confusion about the roles played by change, project and programme managers. This blind spot is sometimes a result of a rivalry between Change Managers, Project Managers and several other contenders (e.g. Programme Managers, Senior Corporate Executives, Business Managers etc) for the management of business change at an organisational level. This rivalry does more harm than good to the overall success of delivering change outcomes. When multiple parties, particularly managers with business influence, argue and compete for a chunk of the "Change Management" pie, what is happening as a result? If you thought of "obstacles to success", you are right.

    According to Prosci® 2016 Best Practices to Change Management benchmarking report, the greatest obstacles to success when applying change management are 

    1. Lack of active and visible sponsorship
    2. Lack of change management resourcing
    3. Manager and supervisor resistance
    4. Employee resistance
    5. Lack of buy-in from project teams

    If you understand how people work in companies with poor organisational culture, is it not clear how the rivalry between the various contenders (i.e. Change Managers, Project Managers, Programme Managers, Senior Executives, Business Managers) compounds to and complicates the obstacles above? What can we do to mitigate this?

    The first step the organisation must take is to help the various managers understand how their competencies converge and differ so as to complement and support each other. In effective change management it is important for all participants to understand and stick to their role. For the purpose of this study, we have compiled a list of competencies in Table 1 below for Project, Programme and Change Managers based on the results of a robust and comprehensive study conducted by Crawford and Nahmias (2010). 


    After helping the different professionals understand how they could complement each other, the next is to set the standard practice of integrating project management and change management. This requires more work than what a blog can cover. 

    CMC Partnership provides Prosci® Delivering Project Results - a one-day, engaging and results-orientated workshop which is designed to explain how the two disciplines can come together. Participants will gain awareness of how change management can help them meet a Project’s intended outcomes.

    Interested in finding out more? Access our brochure to learn more about the Prosci® Delivering Project Results workshop.

    Read our Brochure

    Keen to sign up?

    The upcoming Prosci® Delivering Project Results workshops are to be held in London on 6th June or in Singapore on 3rd July. If you're interested in managing transofrmational change within your organisation, register below. 

    Register now



    *Having said that, the scene in the discipline of Change Management is changing rapidly as more professional associations and representatives seek to increase awareness and practice of Change Management and provide accreditation to professional Change Managers. For instance, the Association of Change Management Professionals® (ACMP®), which was launched in 2011, has recently established the Certified Change Management Professional™ (CCMP) Programme, requiring aspiring change managers to have attended formal training in a structured Change Management methodology, experience (measured in professional hours) in managing change projects, and taken a standardised examination before being recognised as a professionally accreditated Change Manager.



    1. Crawford, L. & Nahmias, A. H., 2010. Competencies for managing Change. International Journal of Project Management 28 (2010) 405–412
    2. Hughes, M., 2007. The tools and techniques of change management. Journal of Change Management 7 (1), 37–49.

    3. Vaill, P.B., 1989. Seven process frontiers for organisation development. In: Sikes, W., Drexler, A.B., Gant, J. (Eds.), The Emerging Practice of Organisation Development. NTL Institute and University Associates, La Jolla, CA.

    Topics: Integrating change and project management