A PM’s guide to adding ‘Change’ to your projects


Change can be a frightening word to most people, especially when it is used in the context of a corporation. However, we encounter change on a daily basis and we may not even notice it. Change is a part of life and thus it is part of all projects. Projects themselves cause change and because of this change there will be resources that will fear and resist the project. How do you as a good project manager manage to that change? Easy, you engage a change manager. Oh, you don’t have a change manager, well that makes it a little more difficult but not impossible.

Managing change in a project can be easy if you add change to your project. What do I mean by that, start with your project charter as it will give clues as to how the project will impact employees and customers alike. I’m going to outline thoughts on determining high level needs and tasks to add to your project plan that address change. This is meant to provide a basic overview of what change management to expect as you plan your project.

For clarity sake I’m going to break this down into two separate pieces, the first will talk about determining change. The second will discuss adding possible change tasks to your plan.

Determining project change needs

Setting some ground rules as it’s always easier to work from a foundation. I’ll use a scenario that an organization has standard project classifications, for this discussion the project standards will be broken down into four classifications based on risk and project cost. Please keep in mind, your organization will most likely use different project classification standards. The following figure outlines the classifications used in this article; Class A represents the highest risk and cost classification and on the opposite end, the N/A class is the lowest risk and cost.

The reason for classifying projects into these groups is to outline that projects themselves can be classified much like object oriented classes, i.e. they have attributes, they contain functions, they can be governed by other projects or groups, and once instantiated they represent an implemented finished product. See the figure below for a breakdown of a project class. More on this at a later date as the focus of this article is to discuss adding change tasks to projects.

A project is and contains:

Attributes Functions Definition Examples
  • Non-routine
  • Start & end
  • Cost/budget
  • Scope
  • Well defined
  • Provide Change
  • Developmental
  • Transformational
  • Scope
  • Project Plan
  • Resource Plan
  • Schedule
  • Implementation Time
  • Implementation Cost
  • Budget
  • Risk
  • Budget
  • Progress
  • Issues
  • Benefits
  • Performance Metrics
  • Projects are individual or collaborative endeavors that are carefully planned and designed to achieve a particular aim.
  • Projects contain a defined scope, cost, and timeframe
  • Projects introduce change to the organization
  • They are not part of Business as Usual Operations.
  • Launching a new product or service
  • Upgrades to systems and installation of new equipment
  • A change in the current process or system

Project change requirements/expectations

Now that project classifications have been outlined, the expectation of change in each classification can be discussed. The picture below outlines the amount of expected change per classification.

As the project grows in complexity, cost, length, size and risk the requirements to plan for change grow. Thus, the larger need for a change management team and additional planning must be added to your project to combat the change impact that will happen in your project. For those interested in what to expect as ‘Change’ tasks in your project, please read on.

Plan for Change in your project – adding tasks to your project

So you’re interested in what to add to your project at a high level, in order to address change. To discuss change tasks there is a need to look at how change tools as Change tools aid in understanding how change impacts projects. The project life cycle outlines the phases that we go through to implement a project, the six items listed explain some of the tools that are used to identify change in your projects. Using the outlined tools will aid in determining the amount of change, change level, and when to expect the change in each project.

Working through a project change assessment is a first step to understanding the scope and complexity of the change within the project. This type of an evaluation gives the Project Manager a sense of the risk level and amount of change that is expected in the project. High risk levels or large process changes would indicate a larger number of change tasks are needed to complete the project. Also, a Change Manager should be engaged to aid in project development and implementation as indicated.

Possible High-level Tasks to add to your plan around Change Assessment

Change Assessment
Complete a project change assessment
Pre-assess project for Change impact
Meet with a Change manager to assess project
Identify Change complexity
Discuss assessment with LOB
Project Change reassessment #1 – Post planning
Project Change reassessment #2 – Post design

A change story will aid in identifying the change in your projects. Working through the Change Story, the team will uncover issues and risks, create a project story, and describe the What, Why, When, and How that are used to complete the project. The Change Story will be a driver into many of the other documents in the project.

Possible High-level Change Story Tasks to add to your plan

Conduct and Approve Change Story
Meet with Change team to discuss Change Story
Conduct Change Story Session
Complete Change Story template
Vet Change Story with Subject Matter Experts
Share Change Story
Meet with Sponsor to discuss Change Story
Obtain approval of the Change Story
Complete the Change Story
Confirm Business Scope and Benefits
Meet with LOB to complete/receive Business Case
Draft Project Charter
Confirm project benefits

The stakeholder assessment will aid in understanding the need for resources, confirm that you have engaged the correct resources, and aid in determining stakeholder influence.

Assess Stakeholder Groups
Meet with Sponsor
Identify Business Resources
Confirm Business Resource effort commitment
Identify Tech, Marketing, Process, Customer Experience, and Sales Effectiveness resources
Identify critical vs non-critical resources
Identify Change management needs
Assess resource influence
Assess Stakeholder Needs
Confirm Stakeholder Groups
Review SMEs for compliance/risk/legal
Meet with Subject Matter Expert project manager
Draft Subject Matter Expert list
Create draft Governance Document
Identify Marketing, Procedural, Customer Experience, and Sales Effectiveness resources
Setup Core project group meetings

Change Management Strategies determines how and when you will work with employees and customers






Leadership Engagement
Identify leaders’ thoughts on participation
Create an engagement strategy
Identify knowledgeable resources
Discuss various engagement vehicles
Determine best engagement vehicle
Confirm communication vehicle
Confirm leaders wants and needs
Confirm success factors
Outline each want and need
Identify engagement risk and socialize
Customer Communications Strategy
Identify project impact to employees and customers
Determine Marketing Communication Strategy
Meet with subject matter expert project manager
Draft subject matter expert list
Create draft Governance document
Identify Marketing, Procedural, Customer Experience, and Sales Effectiveness resources
Setup Core project group meetings









Employee Training Strategy
Identify project impact to employees and customers
Meet with training coordinator
Identify training resource (the trainer)
Identify employee training needs
Confirm training budget
Create a training plan
Get sponsor approval on training plan and budget
Create or update training material
Setup Core project group meetings
Other Strategy Tasks
Review and confirm project resources and governance
Remove old and add new resources to the project
Conduct follow-up meetings with communication groups
Meet with Change team to confirm change resistance plan
Consider and discuss project Pilot with Sponsor
Discuss and confirm success factors and indicators with Sponsor

The detailed change management schedule contains the tasks that aid you in managing project change

Detailed Change Planning
Meet with organizations customer and employee advocate stakeholders
Identify change impacts
Outline items that will change
Draft changes
Meet with other stakeholders to discuss change items
Finalize Change Items
Obtain changed items approval (Leadership/Legal/Compliance/Risk)
Plan change implementation
Revisit and walkthrough Change Plan
Announce Change
Conduct a Dry Run implementation
Review dry run results and change the plan accordingly
Plan for communication
Identify communication needs
Obtain final communications approval
Communicate Change
Confirm message received and understood

Once the project is implemented – the sponsor and business will need to take-over/own the product

Project Exit Tasks
Meet with organizations customer and employee advocate stakeholders
Confirm project delivery date
Review milestones for completion
Deliver metrics

Hopefully, this gives a good understanding when and what ,at a high-level, to add to a project plan to account for change.