A Detailed Comparison of Project Management with Change Management

May 11, 2021 | Project Management

The disciplines of project management and change management are important and equally necessary when executing a new initiative or project within your organization. Each discipline carries with it the structure needed to implement change and offer the results you require. While change management and project management do work best hand in hand, there are a few inherent dissimilarities that make them different.

The amalgam of change management with project management helps in the creation of a unified value proposition for organizations today that helps set the foundation for tactical integration. This works on both, the technical side and people side of projects.

In this article we juxtapose project management and change management together, examining and comparing the common aspects and differences between both these disciplines when used together. The aspects we consider here include focus, intent, definition, processes, tools, measurement of success, practitioners and scaling factors. Although this article primarily focuses on the point of difference between these two methods of change implementation, the important step for readers is to focus on the common objective of delivering successful change.


Change management is appropriately described as the application of processes and tools to manage the expectations people have from change in an organizational setting. The definition describes the movement from a current state to a new future state as a process of change. The movement endeavors to achieve the desired results of change and deliver the expected return on investment.

Project management, on the contrary, is the application of skills, tools, techniques and knowledge to plan project activities and meet requirements from the clients or organization. Project management includes a number of processes, which are also categorized as the project lifecycle. Different stages in the project require different avenues of management. Management styles differ along the project management spectrum and do not remain constant across the board.


By definition itself, project management is the process of taking a team through a number of tasks that eventually help in the completion or achievement of a specific goal. The project is started with the planning process, which is managed in a thorough manner before the project can be taken to the initiation phase. The manager tasked with leading the team toward the desired result is known as the project manager.

Teamwork makes the dream work.
Photographer: Dylan Gillis | Source: Unsplash

Change management on the other hand is focused on helping organizations adapt to basic and complex changes within their external environment and internal processes. Change management involves ongoing effort, without any break. The standardization of change measures can only succeed through effective change management. The end objective of change management is to improve the efficiency of change, with the proper approval and support of all stakeholders associated with an organization. Change management is an ongoing effort that has clear deliverables and includes a number of technological challenges.


Perhaps the most prominent distinction between both, the change management and project management procedures, comes in the varying degree of structure typical to each. Project management is led and organized at the enterprise level. The process itself is highly formalized and involves a number of methodologies, stakeholders and clearly defined processes, as we have also mentioned above.

Change management can also share all of these attributes, but it definitely isn’t as regimented and as organized as project management. Project management can even be categorized and recognized by the same forces more or less, but that isn’t really the case with change management. Change management has a highly unpredictable nature, which is why managers of change have to be prepared for unexpected developments and reactions. These reactions can often force them into changing their approaches with the passage of time.

Intent and Focus

Change management operates with the intent to ensure that all employees impacted by a change are able to embrace the change and adapt to the different solutions that it brings. The solution associated with the change should be standardized. The focus in change management is entirely on the employees impacted by a certain initiative or project that leads to change. All such employees are given means to adapt to the situation and understand the solutions on offer.

Gaining a deep understanding the problems that customers face is how you build products that provide value and grow. It all starts with a conversation. You have to let go of your assumptions so you can listen with an open mind and understand what’s actually important to them. That way you can build something that makes their life better. Something they actually want to buy.
Photographer: Headway | Source: Unsplash

Project management operates with its intent on ensuring that all solutions are designed, delivered and developed in an effective manner. Project management is the technical side of the change, while change management is the human perspective needed to adapt to different solutions. The focus of project management remains on the activities and tasks that are necessary for creating and implementing a solution associated with the change. The project management process is considered successful if it achieves the solutions expected earlier.

Scaling Factors and Process

Scaling factors for change management include the characteristics of the change, the degree of change required in people and the attributes shown by impacted departments. While change management has no defined process, it can be broken into the following steps:

1. Phase 1 – Preparing for change

2. Phase 2 – Managing the change process

3. Phase 3 – Reinforcing change

The project management process operates on complexity and the degree of change required during a project or initiative. Projects carry a definitive lifecycle, which includes the following processes:

1. Initiating

2. Planning

3. Executing

4. Monitoring and controlling

5. Closing


Tools used in change management include:

· Individual change model

· Training plans

· Resistance management

· Reinforcement mechanisms

· Readiness assessments

· Communication plans

· Sponsor roadmaps

· Coaching plans

Tools used in project management include:

· Statement of work

· Work breakdown structure

· Gantt chart

· Budget estimations

· Resource allocation

· Schedule and tracking

· Project charter

· Business case

Working Together

Project management and change management work together when it comes to implementing successful change in an organization. Although both of them vary in focus, intent, process and approach, the solutions they want to achieve and implement are the same.

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