Throughout years of research and helping clients develop individual, project and organizational change capabilities, we have come across several common objections to change management. Addressing these "myths" is key to bringing change management into the organization as both a tool to use on specific changes and as an organizational competency.

One of these myths is, "We are introducing change and managing the project, so aren’t we managing change?"

Root causes of this myth:

There are a variety of reasons that you might hear the objection: "We are introducing change and managing the project, so aren't we managing change?" Below are some common reasons for this objection followed by actions you can take to address the specific objection.

1. 'Project management' is a discipline in and of itself, separate from change management. Managing a project effectively has its own set of processes and tools, which are different than those for managing change.

Project management is defined by PMI in the Third Edition of the PMBOK® Guide as:

"Project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to a broad range of activities in order to meet the requirements of a particular project. Project management is comprised of five Project Management Process Groups - Initiating Processes, Planning Processes, Executing Processes, Monitoring and Controlling Processes, and Closing Processes - as well as nine Knowledge Areas. These nine Knowledge Areas center on management expertise in Project Integration Management, Project Scope Management, Project Time Management, Project Cost Management, Project Quality Management, Project Human Resources Management, Project Communications Management, Project Risk Management and Project Procurement Management." -Source

While the definition is complex, it highlights some of the key project management tools. Project managers use tools like work breakdown structures, issue tracking, scheduling, cost estimation and risk management techniques to move the 'hard' side of the project forward. Change management has its own set of tools to move the 'people' side of a change forward, including readiness assessments, sponsorship and coalition building, coaching, communication, training and resistance management.

2. There is not an understanding of what change management really means.

As in myth 2, your job is to give the organization an understanding of the whole system of change management. You want to show the people in your organization introducing change that change management is a holistic process for implementing change successfully in an organization. It is the set of tools that allows management to accelerate the speed of adoption and overall participation in change. Like project management, change management follows a process of understanding the situation and then utilizing the right tools to make the change happen. 

3. Change management has five distinct tools that can be applied to accelerate change adoption.

Just as project management has a number of tools practitioners can use to keep the 'hard' side of a project on track, change management has five distinct 'levers' that are used to make the people side of change successful. Prosci's research-based methodology uses the following plans to build buy-in, control resistance and accelerate how quickly people adopt a change:

  • Communication plan
  • Sponsorship roadmap
  • Coaching plan
  • Training plan
  • Resistance management plan

The Change Management eToolkit provides step-by-step instructions for applying a holistic change management process, including templates for developing each of the plans mentioned above.

4. Projects have an organizational perspective, change management includes both an organizational and an individual perspective.

Typically, project management is concerned with organizational factors - what changes are needed to improve how the organization operates. Change management is effectively and successfully moving the individuals in an organization from the current state to the desired future state. The organizational change management tools map directly to the project management organizational factors.

In addition, change management incorporates the individual perspective of a project by utilizing the Prosci ADKAR Model. The ADKAR Model is a results-oriented change management tool used to help project teams and change management teams understand how an individual experiences a change. Each individual who changes how they do their job needs the five ADKAR elements to make the change successfully.

Figure 1 below shows the ADKAR elements as they align with management activities or other catalysts that enable employees to move from one ADKAR element to another. In this figure, the elements of the ADKAR Model are shown on the left hand side, and the enablers or catalysts for change are shown on the right hand side.

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5. If a project changes the way people do their work, then you need change management.

If the project you are working on involves people, change management will be necessary for success. According to the Best Practices in Change Management Report, the number one reason for resistance in projects was not the lack of a good project plan or project solution but a lack of awareness about the change and the business reasons for the change. In an empowered work force, the right answer is not enough. People need to have answers for 'why' changes are taking place as well as 'what' is changing and how these changes will affect them personally.

Assess the levels of awareness for your project by using the ADKAR Model presented in action number 4. 


"We are introducing change and managing the project, so aren’t we managing change?"

  • Just because you are introducing a change does not mean that you are managing the people side of that change. Change management is a systematic approach to accelerate adoption and mitigate resistance.
  • Change management is the process, tools and techniques for managing the people side of change. It is not sitting around in a circle singing 'kumbaya'. It is a proven management process for leading people through change.
  • There are five "levers" you can pull to encourage effective change - sponsorship, communication, coaching, training and resistance management. These are the tools of organizational change management. Effective change management uses all of these tools in the right mix to achieve the desired outcome.
  • In the same way that you have tools to manage the project side of the change - issue tracking, documentation, work breakdown structures, design processes - there are specific tools you can use to encourage adoption, to mitigate resistance and to manage change.

Remember, when you ask a project leader or project team to apply change management, you are asking them to make a change to how they do their jobs (the same is true when asking senior leaders to be sponsors of change, or supervisors to be coaches of change). The ADKAR Model can be applied to understand the key building blocks for individuals to make the change (i.e. "applying change management") successful.

  • Awareness of the need to apply change management process and principles
  • Desire to participate and support the application of change management
  • Knowledge on how to fulfill my role in change management
  • Ability to implement the skills and behaviors of my role in change management
  • Reinforcement® to sustain the use of change management

Project teams are a key source of information related to the details of the change, and they will be crucial partners in efforts to integrate change management and project management activities. Understanding the most common change management myths and objections will help you facilitate the individual change of "applying change management" with your project leaders and team members.

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Written by
Tim Creasey
Tim Creasey

Tim Creasey is Prosci’s Chief Innovation Officer and a globally recognized leader in change management. His work forms the foundation of the largest body of knowledge in the world on managing the people side of change to deliver organizational results.