Where projects end and change begins

Change adds value to projects

Why do change? In a recent Prosci article the author provides useful questions to elicit the value of doing people change on top of a delivery project. I also find that many people in the project world just don’t get the ‘change’ bit. A large multinational company I have talked to wants to do programme management; but still call it ‘coordinating a number of projects’. They don’t see that the difference between a project and a programme is people change.

The questions posed by Prosci attempt to define the line between projects and change by identifying what value people change activities add to the project in terms of meeting the project objectives and business benefits. They start with the ‘null hypothesis’; lets assume the project delivers its outputs on time, on budget, and to specification but no one in the business changes their behaviours; then ask what part of the project objectives and benefits are at risk? That risk can then be managed by the people change work when the project has completed. The value that the people change activity can add is then obvious. Lets see how it works.

The questions

The first two questions identify the value that is at risk from poor behaviour change:

What are the project objectives?

The start of the project definition. This is an attempt to describe the outcomes in the business that we should see as a result of this project. These should be specific and measurable. Note any outcomes that involve people in the business behaving differently from before the project.

What are the business benefits expected as a result of this project?

The basis of the project business case. These will all rely on the outcomes described above, and may require further long term behaviour, or even cultural, changes.

Next we move on to identify what proportion of these objectives and benefits are at risk to people change.

What proportion of these objectives and benefits depend on behaviour change?

Just reading through the definitions of objectives and benefits will identify which ones need some behaviour change from people in the business. Not all will be impacted, for instance increasing the storage capacity for a database will have a business impact but does not need a behaviour change. But an increase in storage capacity to allow the CRM system to be rolled out to the rest of the sales and marketing staff requires a lot of people to change the way they work. Almost all attempts to do something quicker, or more efficiently, will require people to perform tasks differently.

Now we can apply the null hypothesis.

What percentage of the objectives and benefits will be obtained If no one changes the way they do their job?

This is where the amount of the business case that is at risk to people change is calculated. This simple calculation will identify the value that people change has to the success of the project. This figure then identifies the importance of effective change management and the resources it should have invested in it.

Its a very simple process. It really identifies the value of Managing Change. It should ensure the deployment of sufficient resources to do Change Management.

Is this what happens in your organisation?


Say you end up deciding that more than 50% of the project objectives and benefits are at risk to poor people change. This implies that the project itself is contributing less than 50% of the value to the business. Many project managers and sponsors won’t like that idea! You can see some resistance to the analysis! Be prepared.

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