Tricks and Treats of Project Managers and Change Managers


A Project Manager (PM) is responsible for developing a solution to a business problem that is within scope, budget and within a given timeframe. 

A Change Manager (CM) is responsible for helping employees and the organization move from the current state to the future state while using the business solution.  So, the question becomes:

Does a PM need a CM?

The trick of a good PM is to know when to call in an Organizational Change Manager.  The treat, if you get this right, is that your implementation will go smoothly, and the business solution will be a success.  My advice to every PM is to call in a CM at the beginning of your project and ask him/her to complete a Change Strategy.  This will take a couple of hours, but it will indicate the degree of the change resulting from your project. It may be as small as advice on a communication plan, or as large as a full-scale implementation.   If you take this one step, you will be more likely to stay on time, on budget, within scope, and have satisfied customers.

There are three comments I often hear prior to being asked for CM help.


“This solution is so easy to use, everyone will want it”.

This is a common thought among PMs. The solution makes complete sense to them and therefore everyone should agree.  Unfortunately, that is not always the case.  I remember a PM making this very statement.  After a few prying questions, I discovered that indeed, everyone would want the business solution.  Unfortunately, they were going paperless and the end-users did not have iPads or laptops so they would not be able to access the new software. In this case, the trick was to bring in the CM at the planning stage instead of waiting until implementation. The treat was that the solution was implemented with the appropriate tools.  Unfortunately, time had to be added to implementation and the cost of the iPads and laptops was not in the original budget.  So, I ask you again, 

Does a PM need a CM?


“Nothing is going to change”.

This is one of my favorites.  The PM working on a software upgrade told me that nothing was going to change so I asked him to walk me through the upgrade.  When we finished, I asked him where all my email had gone.  He said they would all disappear with the new upgrade.  I asked him to clarify that the entire organization was about to lose all their read and stored email, and he confirmed that to be true.  I asked him if he thought it might be a good idea if he notified the organization and he said that someone probably should do that. The trick was that by waiting so long to bring in the CM, additional time was added to the implementation.  The treat was that no one lost their email.  So, I ask you again,

Does a PM need a CM?

“This solution is incredible; how can there be resistance?”

I received a call one day from the PM of a large project in which they were implementing Continuous Improvement across the entire corporation of 100,000 employees worldwide.  He said everyone was excited about taking waste out of the system and working more efficiently.  Unfortunately, when they went into an organization, trained the employees and left, no one used the new skills.  Leadership began forcing the employees to conduct Continuous Improvement meetings, but the savings were minimal. 

After a few interviews, it was discovered that there was nothing wrong with the training, or the employees; it was a cultural issue.  They were trying to implement a participative process in a hierarchal organization.  We implemented a culture change and modified the continuous improvement process to match the changing culture in the organization.  The trick was that the implementation of the business solution took much longer and put the organization through a lot of pain before the CM was contacted.  The treat was that significant savings were found.  So, I ask you again,

Does a PM need a CM?


Every Project Manager should have a CM conduct a Change Strategy at the beginning of the project.  Whether the CM is full-time with the project will depend upon the degree of change that will be felt by the end-users.  CMs have the skills to hear what employees are saying and understanding their fears.

“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” –  Peter Drucker

According to Arrowhead’s Senior Consultant, Cody Snow, PMP, “PM’s tend to lose sight of the impact of the project on the “customer” which is ultimately the end-user as they are concentrating on delivering the project and solution on time and under budget. Having a CM engaged in your project is instrumental in the project’s overall success as their focus is on the “customer” and they are hearing what isn’t said”.

Yes, a Project Manager does need a Change Manager.

If you or your organization are looking for Organizational Change Management services, please reach out to me at


Arlene Johnson, Organizational Change Mangement – Arrowhead Consulting