Oct 26, 2012

The Change Agent and the Project Manager: A Cautionary Tale

Posted by in Culture & Change Management, Project & Program Management, Project Management Office (PMO) | 0 Comments

"Change agent" has become a popular title. But ...

Back from the PMI Global Congress in Vancouver, I thought I'd share a couple insights from my session on "Creating a Transformation-Ready Organization." With the prevalence of major organizational change projects (something I've written about on this blog previously), the role of the change agent in managing these large initiatives has never been more crucial. Yet, as my session audience confirmed for me, when seeking to manage change "like a project" the change agent can be a help ... or a hindrance.

The difference is in the way the organization structures change initiatives. Some attendees described a situation wherein the lines of communication to the project sponsor were muddied by having a change agent and a program manager reporting separately, and not necessarily in communication with each other. This diluted the authority and complicated the accountability of the program manager. Another issue was that, in large organizations, multiple change projects simultaneously may impact the same target population. Who coordinates this to prevent overload?

Our prescription, of course, is that more project management is better. The title "change agent" is becoming popular, but not all those who are tagged with it have project or program management skills. If a company cannot appoint a project or program manager as change agent then, at the very least, that title should report to the PM. This prevents the muddied communication between the intiative and its sponsor. It also can prevent the overload situation, if the organization has included all change initiatives in the project portfolio. Within a fully-staffed PMO, project, program and portfolio managers can work in concert to keep change programs on track and in sync with each other.



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