No two organizations doing project-based work are exactly the same. Depending upon the maturity of the organization, project teams might use spreadsheets and sticky-notes or sophisticated project and portfolio management software. Managing change is an almost daily requirement as an organization’s project management needs change and evolve.

Benjamin Franklin said, “In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.” Although Franklin wasn’t talking about project-based work, he could have been. As an organization’s project management processes mature, change happens. Whether unintentional or by design, it’s never easy implementing new work management methodologies.

Sometimes it’s necessary to overcome what will someday be considered the irrational fear of a particular change.

For years, it was considered impossible for a man to run a mile in four minutes. In fact, physiologists even thought it was dangerous to the health of any athlete foolish enough to make the attempt. On May 6, 1954, a 6’1″, 25-year old medical student at Oxford, Roger Bannister, was foolish enough.

On the Oxford track at Iffley Road, Bannister ran before a meager crowd of about 1,000 people (most of them students). Running against what the New York Times described as a 15 mph crosswind, Bannister was the first man to run the mile in under four minutes, 3:59.4.

When the time was announced, the crowd only heard the first word, “Three…” The rest was drowned out by the roar of the crowd. Bannister is a great example of overcoming what we might now consider an irrational fear; he changed the way we think about how far we can push the human body and accomplished something really incredible.

Like the fear that limited Bannister’s competitors, many times the roadblocks to the change we face are sometimes just excuses—at least Bannister treated them that way. When implementing new methodologies or technology, knowing what to expect can make the shock of change a little easier to deal with.

Seldom are the challenges or obstacles we face as difficult to overcome we might believe. In fact, I’ve found that “fear of change” in most cases is really a fear of the unknown. Here are some of the most common fears that organizations face as they try to change or implement new project management methodologies:

It’s different. Realizing that there are some people who thrive on change, but most people don’t, is important. Some people push back simply because it’s a change.
Some people are uncomfortable with additional scrutiny. Projects that might be important to one senior manager or team may not be as important to others. This could make some people a little nervous that their project might not stand up to peer review.
Some projects are more important than others. Implementing a sound work management methodology will mean that only those projects that provide business value will get pushed forward—not the “pet” projects of influential stakeholders. Because this might negatively impact some projects, those stakeholders may try to block the process.
There are tough decisions to be made. Best practice requires that some projects will get funded and others will not. It’s important that senior managers understand that they have a responsibility to the organization—not just their individual departments. There will be managers who don’t like this fact.
Implementation takes time. Implementing a new methodology for project-based work takes time. Because it doesn’t happen overnight, there will be those who will say they don’t have time for this—but it’s necessary to take the time to be successful.

Like any organizational culture change, there will be those who embrace the change and others who don’t. Be prepared for both, and your organization’s ability to cope with change will be successful.

As an “accidental” project manager and marketing veteran with over 25 years of experience, Ty Kiisel makes the concepts and best practices of work management accessible to both the expert and novice project professional by weaving personal experiences, historical references and other anecdotes into daily discussions around effective leadership approaches that maximize the effectiveness of project teams. Ty is also the host of the popular podcast,
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