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Change Management or Management of Change?

Two terms that are frequently used interchangeably in industry are Change Management and Management of Change.
Is there a difference? Does it matter?
To use what some might consider a comparable question, does it matter whether we refer to “basis of design” or “design basis”? In this case I would have to say that would be pure semantics because we are talking about the same thing and merely reorganising the words that describe the term. However, in the case of Change Management and Management of Change there are two distinct processes as I explain below, and although they have several common threads, they are used for completely different purposes therefore differentiating is clearly important.

Change management

For those who have only worked with one or the other this difference may not at first be all the evident. So, the crux of the difference should be explained.
Change Management is a Project Controls function implemented on projects to provide some control around changes to scope, schedule, and budget. These are often referred to as the basis of the Project Management Triangle. There is a need to find the optimum balance with respect to managing the scope of the project against the cost and schedule requirements.
The balance point determines quality.

Anyone familiar with project controls will be aware of the challenges in keeping the contractors under wraps and reining in scope creep. And not just the contractor as owner influences may also lead to pressures to add scope without due concern for the budget or schedule. I am sure most are familiar with the expression, “we are building a Chevette not a Cadillac” or something comparable.
In any case I believe what is clear is that we are talking about a process used on projects to manage changes. And just to address an element that will come up in the other topic, process safety is an engineering responsibility that is inherent in developing a new design and ensuring changes are adequately assessed. HAZOPS, HAZIDS, etc., occur during the design as the engineering progresses.

Management of Change

Then what is Management of Change? This is a valid question if your only experience is with projects and you have not been exposed to brownfield modifications.
Once a project is completed and it becomes an operated asset, the project team is dismantled. Some might like to think that the job is done and there is no need of any further modification. It is much more likely that before the project is handed over to the operations team there is already a list of proposed modifications being prepared.
Then why is control / management of these any different from the control of project changes?
Because now we have a facility designed under certain parameters and requirements that has been commissioned and approved to operate. Introducing change to something that is already operating is quite a different matter.
Now we must utilise Management of Change, which is classified as a Process Safety function, to ensure that any changes are carefully assessed against the original design parameters to ensure that we are not introducing undue risk to the facility.
The focus is no longer on project cost although the cost of the proposed modification is naturally a factor in its likelihood to be implemented. I guess you could argue, as well, that the schedule could be impacted but a proposed change will likely be included in the scope of a shutdown so the scheduling element is of a different nature.


Although it would be fair to say that not everyone involved in these two processes has adopted the same consistency in describing one or the other by the terms I have provided here, I think I have demonstrated that there are two different processes used in two different situations.
My experience is that where they are identified separately, the norm is to assign the terms to the definitions as I have. It would be to everyone’s advantage to encourage further consistency amongst the practitioners (Change Management Coordinators and Management of Change Coordinators for example) although there is perhaps less to be gained in trying to enforce that consistency on those who only participate in the processes unless they are exposed to both.

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This article was written by G. Scott Gillis and first published in March 2019.