Project Managers ARE Change Agents

This week’s post has been written by my friend and colleague, Laura Barnard, in response to my post last week.

Laura is the Founder and CEO of PMO Strategies, the host of PMO Strategies Podcast and the Founder of PMO IMPACT Summit.  In 2021, she was named the Top Global PMO Influencer, the only award of its kind, by the PMO Global Alliance. She is also a contributor to www.ProjectBites.com.

She responded quickly to my post entitled “Project Managers Are NOT Change Agents”.  Well said….

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Hmmm….I see it differently…

Project managers are the facilitators of change and need to be successful in the eyes of the business leaders, they need to be able to bring people together to do the change together:  with people instead of to people. They absolutely ARE agents of change if they are doing it right.

I agree that they don’t OWN the change (the sponsor, product owner, or business owner own the change), but they are the facilitators of that change by bringing the people together to focus them on making that change a reality – from the leaders in the organization through to the people doing the work.

Only one person has their hand on all the pieces. The project manager knows how it all comes together and can see the whole chess board – knowing what pieces must move where for this project to not simply achieve outputs (a.k.a. deliverables), but also achieve outcomes.  

That’s what business leaders want to see – outcomes, not just outputs. Outputs don’t guarantee the project was worth doing or that anyone will benefit from what was created from those outputs – if we focus too much on checking the boxes of creating deliverables. Outcomes that achieve the business goals – that’s what we’re driving for here. No matter how hard you push people to create outputs, they won’t necessarily get to the right outcomes unless you focus on bringing all the stakeholders and team members through the process with you. From idea to IMPACT – everyone must be aligned toward the goal of getting to results.

As business leaders, educators, consultants, and thought-leaders, we must equip project managers to drive this change – through people. We much teach them how to do it. Abdicating responsibility of the people parts of change leaves the PM only with the role of project administration, box checking, and work machines can do. That PM is replaceable, cheap, and not very valuable. That’s not a leader. That’s a project administrator. Project administrators can be replaced. Project leaders are valuable strategic business assets. They are the IMPACT Drivers of the organization.

There’s art and there’s science to project management. We are all taught the science when we get our certifications. The art is the change management – doing change with people and through them instead of to them. How do you get buy in, attention, support, focus, and results? Change management. Not beating people over the head or chasing them down for status. And certainly not by focusing on outputs.

Organizational change management – the people side of change delivery – is the way PMs stop being task administrators and start being leaders.

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Thank you Laura.

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