Skip to main content

Clifford Chance

Clifford Chance

Innovation Insights

Create. Disrupt. Deliver.

Change Management and Project Management: What is the difference and why does it matter?

Getting used to new technology – or ways of working – involves an initial period where things are challenging. People often have a tendency to stay with a method they know, especially when working under pressure. This is still as true today as in 1985, when a Harvard Business Review article noted the challenges of introducing technological change into any organisation.

This is why effective change management is needed to drive adoption of new working practices – and ensure they are a success.

Ignoring feelings of uncertainty, or not considering them valid objections, can damage the effective adoption of new ways of working. Perhaps just as damaging would be to lose sight of the fact that people adapt to change at different rates and according to different drivers. This builds a strong case for a change management plan based on people, instead of just process and technology. To do this requires us to understand the difference between project and change management.

How can change management influence new ways of working?

Clifford Chance has not only invested in legal technology solutions, but in people who can effectively deliver and embed change. Change management means helping lawyers and clients understand and embrace the benefit of new technology and ways of working. We have seen how worthwhile this investment can be with technology to manage checklists via a secure online platform. The previous way of doing this resulted in high email traffic and additional admin, which was inefficient for lawyers and clients.

As a specialist in process improvement, the benefits of the technology were clear. However, even solutions with clear benefits take time to embed when they require behavioural change. Change management must focus on 'people' aspects like these in order to be successful.

People versus process: The difference between change management and project management

Change management and project management are often, and incorrectly, conflated. Maybe the simplest way to tell the difference between change management and project management is to think of it in terms of 'technical' and 'people' change.

Project management focusses on moving through a process that changes the way something is done. Change management, however, is about how you ensure that new process is used and – more importantly – accepted as a better way of working.

The change management process exists alongside the management of any project. It will often start prior to any formal kick off, and lasts well beyond those final items being 'ticked off' the actions list. While it's tempting to think a project is complete once all the relevant steps are executed, the reality is there is always more work to do. You need to ensure that a change is successfully embedded – and accepted by those who are now working in a new way.

Achieving this involves connecting with the people involved in the change. Providing training, clearly communicating benefits, continuously collecting and responding to feedback, developing an understanding of why any resistance may occur – and working together with stakeholders to address this – are all key.

Change management: Why does it matter?

It is vital to ensure change management does not fall by the wayside in an attempt to complete a project quickly. This means investing time in developing a lean change management plan that is based on an understanding of your stakeholders. Part of this should include reinforcement of your key messages throughout and beyond the scope of your project timeline.

Otherwise, any changes affected by your process improvement project may well be short-lived.

What does effective change management look like at Clifford Chance?

With our checklist management process, work to change behaviours continued after the technology to achieve this had been onboarded. The Best Delivery teams worked closely with lawyers and clients to help them understand the value of the new way of working. This also helped them better manage any teething problems using the tool.

We leveraged the power of peer-to-peer promotion by sharing success stories across our global network. We also used metrics such as usage stats to ensure our communication and training plans were tailored to different groups and offices.

This work continues today through training incoming lawyers alongside their wider tech training, and refresher sessions for other lawyer groups. We also continue to solicit and action feedback and ideas to further improve the tool and process.

While the change management process is people-based, there are a number of frameworks and methodologies that help us implement it effectively. By considering these within the context of our Firm, we can find more effective ways of integrating change management and project management to achieve the outcomes we wish to see.

Learn more about how we can develop the right solutions for your people and help you manage that change. Get in touch with a member of our Best Delivery team today.