Straight Talk on Project Management

Project change management

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The four roles of IT Project Change Management: unroll, control, patrol, enrol – a case of processes vs procession?

Change Management is something of a hot topic right now.

Stoneseed clients are initiating conversations about Change Management more than ever, each seems to have a different idea of what it will deliver and what they need, and there’s a fair bit of general discussion and confusion about the role of a Change Manager.


There’s a school of thought that believes Change Management is trending as a topic due to the more reactive nature of IT projects. Certainly, post pandemic/lockdowns and in these times of volatile trading environments, many IT Projects have become much more reactive to urgent market need. Work from home/hybrid working, the changing needs of consumers during the pandemic and the need for businesses to make efficiencies were all patterns that accelerated change.

Actually, I think it’s an acceleration of a need that was already gaining momentum way before 2020. Many organisations weren’t clear on the difference between Project Management and Change Management and more importantly the value Change Management could bring but the tectonic plates were already shifting – BYOD (Bring Your Own Device); greater adoption of Project Management resources ‘as a Service’; increased globalisation; mergers and takeovers; digitisation (even before the pandemic businesses were becoming operationally IT dependent); etc. Lots of change!

Change fosters resistance! In a sentence – there is a lot of change; people don’t like change; without the people onboard, the change won’t deliver the intended business outcomes.

“Hold my coffee,” said the change managers.

In essence, that’s what change managers do but there’s still a lot of confusion about the role and how it (paradoxically) both differs from and fits into the disciplines of project management, like governance, for instance.


I was once asked what Change Management was, so I shared a ‘Tech Target’ definition. Change Management is “a systematic approach to dealing with the transition or transformation of an organization’s goals, processes or technologies. The purpose of change management is to implement strategies for effecting change, controlling change and helping people to adapt to change.”

To me, this makes perfect sense, but the client emailed back, “So, it’s Project Management.”

“No, try this.” I replied and shared the PMI’s definition:

“Change management is an organized, systematic application of the knowledge, tools, and resources of change that provides organizations with a key process to achieve their business strategy. The purpose of ‘integrated change management’ is to achieve the desired target state by integration of the organizational and individual change processes on the one hand and by the integration of project and change management on the other hand.”

The client responded, “Yeah, still getting Project Management vibes.”

Reading it back, it is a bit of a word salad, isn’t it?

My PM friend Malc came up with “The four ROLes of Change Management: UNROLL, CONTROL, PATROL, ENROL”.

Succinct, catchy, a tad simplistic maybe, but effective to a point. Let’s be clear, you can’t achieve success in projects without successful change management – so the simpler the better!



The stage where you unroll the change (like unrolling a map): Clarify the objectives of the change in “people” terms and nail down a compelling case for the change; Assess stakeholders and initiate analysis to define the specific impact of the change on each stakeholder, their readiness to adapt to the change and support they may need; Ensure the necessary resources are in place; Align executive sponsors.


This is the planning stage – Setting out how the change will be controlled. The change management plan and its integration into the overall project management plan is key. Change management plan elements include executive sponsor activities, training, communications, how resistance will be managed, and a people focussed time line of events and interventions.


This is the management phase. Implementation of the change, based on the control protocols defined and the change management plan. Patrol is a good word because at this point you are policing your change: Execution of the Change Management Plan; realisation of actions, goals and milestones; dealing with resistance and open communication about what is happening (like an officer calming the situation at a crime scene), etc.


Arguably, “enrol” is the most valuable of the change management ‘ROLes’. It starts at that first communication of an impending change and, really, only ends when every stakeholder, end user and co-worker has bought into, adopted and adapted to the change. You literally enrol stakeholders into the change – communicate what’s in it for them, communicate the risks of not making the change, adapt your message for each stakeholder group (the “what’s in it for me” will be different for a department manager and her staff, so should the enrolment messaging.

Ok, I’m the first to admit that there’s more to change management than this simple, but rather catchy, broad-brush illustrative summary of roles, but there is a compelling argument that all elements and disciplines of change management slot into the four ROLes within the system – and it’s less of a word salad!   

I like Malc’s ‘four role’ idea, the thing is though, when you step back, these ‘ROLes’ still sound like project management – because they are similar techniques.

It is the focus that is different. I always say that we are after confidence from experience, that’s what makes a strong Project Manager, and so it is with a Change Manager – their strength and the value your project enjoys comes from their experience in applying change tools and techniques.

Regular readers will know that I like a football metaphor, imagine Project Managers and Change Managers are football players! You’re the manager, it’s the 89th minute and you’re about to make a substitution, you look at your bench and you have the world’s leading scorer and the planet’s most solid defender – to the untrained eye, they just look like footballers (same kit, both good at kicking heading and enacting a theatrical dive) but who you choose to bring on would depend on the situational reality. If your backs were against the wall, defending a slim lead against onslaught after onslaught, the striker may not be your best choice, and if you were chasing the game the defender might not be the player to bolster your attack!

The value you’d get from these similar looking players would depend entirely on their experience and nuanced execution of, what are, similar skillsets. So, it is with Project and Change Managers – they look the same, on the face of it they share the same toolsets – but experientially distinct enough from one another to effect measurably different outcomes.    

They both share a vision for the same outcome (to win the game/deliver the change) – but it’s easy to comprehend the difference between the disciplines. Even when these defenders and attackers work together to achieve goals – the defender playing the ball from penalty box to penalty box for the striker to slot into the opposition’s net, they are still objectively different disciplines based on the same basic premise.

The danger is that if you deploy the wrong talent into your project or your match, not only will you not yield the maximum return, your end result may be considerably worse than if you’d chosen the best fit (so that defender squandering your last chance to equalise by hoofing the ball into row Z, your talented project manager delivering the change but not emotionally bringing those affected by the change along with it, for instance).

So, the stages of Malc’s Change Management model are all equally stages of IT project management, but it is the experience and the application of these stages that makes the difference. The experience of a business change manager vs the experience of a Project manager (like with the defender and the striker) determines the skillset that needs to be deployed and the experience of the manager dictates how these roles are applied to a project.

Incidentally, I’ve just been advised that I have used up my quota of football metaphors for the year.


Another PM friend, Alicia, shared this observation – “the Project Management vs Change Management debate boils down to IT PROJECT PROCESS MANAGEMENT vs IT PROJECT PROCESSION MANAGEMENT.”

So, let’s explore that distinction.

OK, we’ve established that the difference between successful Project Management and Change Management is a combination of where you’re focus is, and talent experience and skillset.  Also, that Project management and change management get mixed up often because they both engage in similar activities, like managing people and processes, but they are different disciplines, and it can be hard to understand why.

Imagine those defenders and strikers on a football field, or (remembering my quota), Goal Defence and Goal Shooter in netball, or Rugby League vs Rugby Union, batsmen and fielders in cricket, Project and Change Managers – the same and also significantly but different!

Alicia’s rule of thumb is this:  


“The PMBOK guide is a good place to start!”, she told me, “Project management is described as ‘the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to meet project requirements’.”

“In other words, the process that takes a project from A to B to C … to Z is managed by talent deploying project management disciplines. Project managers manage processes within five main project stages: Initiation; Planning; Execution; Monitoring; and Control Governance, unless they’re using Agile – but even then, they’re still following a process – just not in the same order.”

Alicia is the first to point out that she’s massively simplified things for sake of illustration, so don’t “@” her – or me! Now, bank the notion that project management is people deploying processes and activities needed to complete the project and its strategic objectives, by the way,


“Change Management is sometimes rolled into the PM role,” says Alicia, “but it is a discipline in its own right, with tools and techniques to achieve success. As with project management, success is dependent on how these tools are deployed, and the level of experience your change manager has can be a major factor.”

“You could say that true change management focuses on the people affected by the project and the change,” she adds.

“Change can trigger anxiety and resistance from those directly impacted. If stakeholders do not understand the need for the change, they are less likely to adopt it. If they don’t adopt it they won’t adapt to it! If there is not universal buy-in across the organisation, a project’s outcomes can be jeopardised.”

“It’s the job of change management to ensure this doesn’t happen and that the people are all onboard to deliver a smooth procession from where you are now to where you want to be!”


In the last two thousand words or so, I’m not sure whether Malc, Alicia or I have made it clearer but, and thinking as I write, three things have really focussed in my mind.

Firstly, projects (especially now!) have a significant, long-term and business critical impact on your organisation and on its stakeholders (your colleagues!), to this end, project and change management often work in tandem to deliver enduring project success. This close working relationship is often where the confusion occurs.

Secondly, that change management needs, like project management needs, are often unique to a specific project. Identifying the needs can sometimes best be achieved by a fresh pair of eyes.

Thirdly, and thankfully, you’re not alone! Applying time-tried-and-tested tools, Stoneseed are experienced in effecting change through project delivery.

Stoneseed’s Project Management as a Service (PMaaS) provides access to project professionals, resources and tools at a flexible and predictable cost. Our services portfolio offers a true end to end service, from IT Technical Advisory, Business Analysis Services and PMO Services through to Programme & Project Delivery, everything you may need to effect business change through IT. 

Call me on 01623 723910, together, let’s tailor a ‘Change as a Service’ package that delivers the change needed to give your business the edge.

Your change project is unique – so are Stoneseed’s solutions.


Find out more about Project Management as a Service from Stoneseed


What is Project Management | PMI

Project Management vs. Change Management | Lucidchart Blog

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