Project Management

The Politics of Change

Lisa Hillenbrand and Ellen Auster

Project and programs are the drivers of change in organizations, but too often more attention is paid to the plan and cost than to the people who can make or break these initiatives. To succeed, we must embrace our “inner politician” and work closely with both the key influencers and the skeptics within our organizations.

One of the biggest pitfalls we see across organizations big and small is ignoring the politics and emotions of change. Too often, we focus on the things we can control — the hardware of change (strategy, structure, budget, metrics, milestones) and pay insufficient attention to the software of change — the people, culture, politics.

To be successful we need to lead change on both the hardware and software sides of change. In any change we lead, we must focus on the substance of the change and the relationship. Emotions run high on all sides. Some people have egos that are easily threatened. Others see only their perceptions and assume negative intent. Some misinterpret what is said. Some form armies of passive resisters if they believe their point of view has been ignored. They say yes but then don’t commit. People tend to blame each other when things go wrong.

In other words, we’re all human, with different backgrounds, values, needs, experiences, and points of view. By understanding individual and collective stakeholder needs, …


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