Change management: The undercover role of Project Manager

Consider the case of introducing a swipe card system for British Airways employees to clock in and out of work (Tran, 2003).  From the organizational view, the introduction of a swipe card system was one of the strategy to modernize its internal technology and aid more robust planning.  This project was implemented as a technology improvement project with the focus on choosing the right system, making sure it has the necessary functionalities and reporting required and implementing it at all offices and locations for its team.

The result?   

On the launch date of this project, British Airways experience an unplanned and unexpected wildcard strike that costed the cancellation of over 400 flights with an impact to revenue ranging from £30M to £50M (Tran, 2003).  This case study points out the importance of change management when implementing projects.

Inevitably each project is introducing a new way of doing things, rather that is new process, a new product or service or changing the organizational structure.  Whenever there is a change, there will be fear and resistance.  Change is not easy!  Think of a time when you have to change your own behaviour (ie your new years’ resolution) – quite smoking, stick with a diet, exercise more – how many of your resolutions was successful?  Did that change stick?  For how long?

The undercover role of Project Manager

Due to the nature of introduce of newness within each project, I would argue that there is an assumed role for project managers to think about when planning and running their projects – the change manager.

The most difficult component of change to manage is the human aspect.  Naturally, people dislike change because of the unknown and it requires effort to learn and do something new.  As a project manager, you need to identify these impacted group of stakeholders early on to collaborate and plan the change activities with them.  Looking at the case of British Airways, many scholars will argue that the failure of this project can be blamed on the lack of communications prior to implementation.  The surprise introduction of the new system shocks its employees; to express their fear, the impacted employees decide to walk out and creating the chaos for the company and its customers.

What roles does a PM has in change management?

Change management is a very board topic and has its own body of knowledge that differentiate itself from project management.  However, since introducing a new system, process or structure can be so impactful, a project manager should consider the following during project planning and execution phases:

  • In what way will my project impacting the organization and its employee?
  • Who will be impacted by this projec
  • How big is this group of impacted employees?
  • What will their reaction be when they learn about this change?
  • Do I know any supporters or ‘nay-sayer’ of this change? How can they help my project?

Answering these questions as part of your stakeholder analysis would have you better plan your project plan and associated change management activities.  Just a note on supporters and “nay-sayer” to the change, you will need individuals representing both groups if you want a full picture of impact of your project.  By gaining buy-in from both groups, they can help advocate and be the role model for their teams when you are ready to launch your project.

Source: Vivify Change Analyst


QNET, n.d. Certificate in Change Management. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 25 March 2017].

Tran, M., 2003. BA and unions end swipe card dispute. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 25 March 2017].

Vivify Change Analyst, 2015. Kenneth Benne, Robert Chin and Change Management Strategy. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 25 March 2017].


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