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The disciplines of change management and project management are both necessary when executing a project or initiative. Each discipline brings the critical structure needed for effectively implementing change and achieving the results you want. Yet, change management and project management must work together to achieve successful change. Doing so creates a unified value proposition, which sets the foundation for tactical integration and delivers value across all aspects of the project, including both the people side and technical side.


Depending on your role, the meaning of change management can vary. Project managers tend to think of it as managing changing resources, process and people on a project. Others may think of it as change control or managing changes to the project itself. When we speak of change management at Prosci, we’re referring to the application of a structured process and tools for managing the people side of change to achieve a desired outcome.

Similarly, project delivery has evolved to include a variety of iterative approaches to solutions design and development, such as Agile, especially in technology projects. Regardless, you can adapt change management to work with sequential, iterative and even hybrid approaches to solutions design, development and delivery.


The paragraphs below juxtapose change management and project management, comparing common aspects of each discipline, including focus, definition, intent, process, tools, scaling factors, measurement of success, and practitioners. Although this list highlights the differences between the disciplines, it’s more important to remember that change management and project management are complementary disciplines that share a common objective: to deliver successful change.


Change Management – the application of a structured process and tools for leading the people side of change to achieve a desired outcome (such as ROI) on a project.


Project Management –  the use of specific knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to deliver something of value to people

(Source: Project Management Institute)


Change Management – to ensure that impacted employees embrace, adopt and use the solution associated with the change


Project Management – to ensure that the solution is designed, developed and delivered effectively


Change Management – employees and stakeholders impacted by a project solution or initiative (those who must adopt and use the change)


Project Management – tasks and activities required to create and implement the technical solution associated with a change

Scaling Factors

Change Management – characteristics of the change, attributes of impacted organizations, and degree of “people change” required


Project Management – complexity and degree of technical change associated with the project or initiative


Change Management

  • Phase 1 – Prepare Approach
  • Phase 2 – Manage Change
  • Phase 3 – Sustain Outcomes

(Source: Prosci 3-Phase Process)


Project Management/Solutions Development “Domains”

  • Stakeholder Performance
  • Team Performance
  • Development Approach and Life Cycle Performance
  • Planning Performance
  • Project Work Performance
  • Delivery Performance
  • Measurement Performance
  • Uncertainty Performance

(Source: PMBOK Guide®, 7th Edition)


Change Management

  • ADKAR Model
  • Readiness Assessment
  • Risk Assessment
  • Impact Assessment
  • Project Health Assessment
  • Change Management Plans
    • Communications Plan
    • Training Plan
    • Sponsor Plan
    • People Manager Plan
    • Resistance Management Plan


Project Management

  • Statement of work
  • Project charter
  • Business case
  • Work breakdown structure and/or project backlog
  • Milestones schedule (e.g., Gantt chart or sprint-release planning)
  • Budget estimations
  • Resource allocation
  • Tracking (e.g., burndown chart, Kanban board)

Success Measurement

Change Management – measurement focuses on the elements of the people side of change, including:

  • Speed of adoption by impacted employees
  • Ultimate utilization by impacted employees
  • Proficiency of impacted employees
  • Achievement of results and outcomes*
*Because results and outcomes depend on individuals adopting the change (i.e., the people-dependent contribution to ROI), this is a primary focus.


Project Management – measurement focuses on the technical side of change elements, primarily:

  • On time
  • On budget
  • Meets technical requirements
  • Achievement of results and outcomes*

*In some cases, projects are considered successful at go-live or launch, despite the fact that organizational benefits may not be realized at that point.

Who Practices

Change Management – involves a coordinated system of support throughout the organization, not just change management practitioners:


Project Management – typically practiced by a project manager and a project team assigned to a specific project or initiative:

  • Project managers who manage the tasks, activities and resources to execute the technical side of the effort
  • Project team comprising subject matter experts and representatives from the organization


Project management and change management each contribute a critical ingredient to successful change. Although they vary in terms of focus and approach, each discipline is essential to moving your project and people from the transition state to the desired future state. Understanding how each discipline works alongside the other is the first step in achieving a unified value proposition and the strongest foundation possible for your change initiatives.

Tim Creasey