Project and Change Management: Yin and Yang?

PMI East Tennessee Chapter +1

Gary is an experienced project and program professional, and an avid contributor and volunteer with the Project Management Institute.

Within the project management profession, it is a well-known and little disputed fact that a percentage of projects fail. This can be a failure to meet all or some of the intended benefits for which the project was chartered.

Based on both the literature and experience, common themes as to what causes the failure of projects emerge—like poor planning, resource allocations and scope creep. But is there a more narrowly defined root cause that sometimes leads to project failure? The contention of this author is yes—and that is the inability or unwillingness to recognize when projects are more than “just projects” and that, in reality, they require change management in order to be successful.

Without empirical data, it is difficult to determine the exact percentage of projects that failed due to the lack of change management. However, in his article "Why 70% of Changes Fail," Rick Maurer noted that 70% of change directives within organizations fail, indicating that if projects contain change directives, that is likely a culprit in the failure of some of them.  

To begin, let’s define the differences between project management and change management:

  • Project management is a discipline that focuses on the use of processes, tools and techniques to manage a defined body of work. Project managers are entrusted to use their …

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"I have often regretted my speech, never my silence."

- Xenocrates

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