Over the last year I have invested a lot of time and money attending courses on change management and project management. Sadly, as is often the case, I subscribe with high expectations but do not always see them all fulfilled.    In theory there is very little difference between theory and practice; in practice there’s a hell of a lot of difference. Well that’s what I experience every day working on my client’s projects.

Of course I am convinced that learning new skills and working in a structured way, using a shared methodology does enormously increase the chances of success in projects.  But if I were to follow the guidance I get from some courses, I would need 3 months of preparation with my client just to get started.

In reality, I rarely get this time … In most cases I come on board when the ship has already left the harbour and is experiencing rough waters.  None the less, my clients expect me to deliver them a strategy and plan that will instantly solve all the problems their project is facing.

The obstacles that I come often across are:

  • Limited time and resources
    In many cases project team members are appointed their project role on top of their normal daily job which is already a stretch for them. They consequently suffer from the pressure to combine both and do not have adequate time to complete either satisfactorily.
  • Poor sponsorship
    Executive sponsors do not always play enough of a visible role in supporting, what is after all ‘their’ program or they shift their support to somewhere else too soon after the project has started.
  • Corporate politics
    Sometimes it is hard to change the company culture, where political games are seen as part of daily business. It takes a lot of effort to identify the hidden agenda behind the scenes.

Now what do I think I need to ‘make a difference’ as a change manager?  Besides strong influence, good communication and an inspirational leadership, I need:

  • Casper the friendly ghost
    As a change manager the project is not my show. I am Casper, the friendly ghost. I work behind the scenes within all levels of the organization. (I strongly believe that a good change manager can make a difference by helping to create an environment open for creative thinking and action… An environment where everyone feels part of the new future).
  • Chemistry within the team
    The skills and expertise of my team are important but not the most crucial factor.
    Creating a bond, a certain trust and respect for one another defines the chemistry within the team. That is my responsibility. Being able to work with an open attitude and mind, and having the belief that they will succeed, is what will make the difference to the project. By inspiring those around me, I help them turn their vision into reality.
  • Right on the spot communication.
    Effective communication that is consistent, open and honest. “The Right communication to the Right stakeholder at the Right time during the project.”
  • An organized approach
    Organization and planning will contribute to the success of the project. (For this I use a specific plan, initiate change management activities early on and try to anticipate as much as possible to decrease resistance).
  • Walk the talk
    I regularly meet clients who have been working with consultants who are very good on selling the theory, inspiring leaders with nice fancy slides but leave them behind when it comes to operational work and getting the real job done. This is for me the most critical part: ‘walking the talk’

I don’t know about you but I get my pleasure from leaving teams satisfied with successful new ways of working. It’s only then I know I have made the difference as a change manger, and for me that is the most important thing of all.


“Never give your client what they want, give them what they need” – Harley Lovegrove