Creating the Project Office – Part Two – making change happen

jungle Part One creates conditions so that change could happen.  In Part Two, change the emphasis from planning to doing.  Now is the time to make contact with those people in the organization who must actually carry out the planned changes.  A military dictum asserts “no plan ever survives contact with the enemy.”  The members of the organization are not the “enemy” in the classic sense, but they can be expected to respond in ways that are perhaps not expected, not planned, or not even imagined.

Here are some observations:

· Be flexible – a plan is a metaphor, not a law.  Treat the organizational change plan as a guide to behavior and not as an imperative.  This is the essential idea in another military dictum that “a plan is nothing, but planning is everything.”

· Beware – things may go easily at first.  Change agent teams often report that initial efforts are met with easy acceptance.  This often instills a false sense of security, an idea that things will continue without much resistance.  However, what it usually means is that the opposition has been caught off guard.  It is an easy time to prevail until the opposition gets organized.

· Be alert – unforeseen opposition could arise at any moment.  The path may seem clear but there are lions, tigers, and bears hiding in the bushes.  Develop a political plan and implement steps to approach the jungle proactively.

· Be ready – to improvise and make changes in the plan to adopt it to reality.  There are three choices for every step in the plan.  First, exit that step, leave it if it does not seem to be working.  The second choice is to modify that step, making change based on the reality encountered.  The third choice is to push on if the step seems to be working as planned.

    Find a small project that is in trouble, show how standard project management methods can help the project, generate a “win” from this project, and then use that win to develop legitimacy and move on to larger projects.  The project office team may suddenly find themselves involved in the huge, highly visible, bet-the-company type project.  This case requires a radically different approach, an obvious change in plan.

    Some suggest that to develop broad-based actions towards a project office should begin with project manager training and then develop expertise so it can eventually help in project portfolio management.  However, it may be that assisting in portfolio management is the first task that the project office members are requested to do.  A change in plan would be needed.

    Contact with the organization often results in situations that seem chaotic.  There is no clear cut organized approach to respond to chaotic situations.  Consult your map, and push on.

Adapted from Creating the Project Office:  a Manager’s Guide to Leading Organizational Change by Englund, Graham, and Dinsmore.
– Randy Englund,


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