A delicate world economy has given birth to an era of extraordinary change. The usual push to manage costs has spun into a major shove. Companies must pursue significant organizational, process and technology projects to address this business reality. Although project management (PM) skills and resources are obvious requirements, organizational change management (OCM) is the key to success.

Project management addresses the technical or task side of a change. Project Managers use their training and experience to create detailed project plans and measure progress by completing tasks on time and within budget. They declare victory (and generally move on to the next thing) when the new technology and processes are in place, the staff is trained and the organizational charts are redrawn. But is the project really done or, more importantly, a success?

OCM is a structured process that rallies support for the change at all levels of the organization while building the knowledge, skills, and incentives to sustain it. It is the people side of change. Best practices data from Prosci's recently updated comprehensive benchmark study reveals that projects with poor change management meet desired outcomes only 16% of the time. Prosci found a 95% chance of project success—defined as meeting or exceeding project objectives—when using excellent change management. Projects with excellent change management are on or ahead of schedule 72% of the time.

Three key steps to embed change management into a project are:

Get buy-in to change management

Educate executives on change management and clarify the difference between project management and change management. Use research data to demonstrate the value of change management. Anticipate their reactions and prepare your responses.

Leverage staff from the trenches

Enroll an executive sponsor, key stakeholders, and frontline staff (agents and supervisors) onto your change management team. Sponsors play a vital role in promoting the initiative across the organization. Key stakeholders facilitate all elements of change management and identify synergies within and between teams and departments. Frontline involvement ensures the "rubber meets the road" with all projects. They carry the "real world" view of past successes and failures and offer insights on how to successfully execute changes in your organization. Include these resources in your project activities and ensure that their change management tasks are included in your project schedule and status reports.

Use a structured change management methodology

Address executive and employee fears about "touchy-feely" activities by using a proven change management methodology. Describe the approach, the link to measurable outcomes, and the research and examples that prove its effectiveness.

Change is certain. In uncertain times, raise the level of your game to make sure you achieve target outcomes for each project. Get past the temptation to merely survive. Become an advocate of change management! Every change project should:

  1. Plan for change management (be a change sponsor yourself).
  2. Budget for change management as part of the project.
  3. Begin change management early—right at the beginning if possible.

"You must be the change you want in the world." Mahatma Ghandi