Ask someone which delivery roles are critical to successfully completing a project and you will get a wide range of recommendations. Three of the more common roles likely to be stated include a project lead, a requirements lead and a solution lead. This is logical as the first is responsible for the delivery process, the second what needs to be delivered and the third how it will be delivered.
But aren’t we missing a vital role on most projects?
Sponsors are funding our projects to realize expected business outcomes and these outcomes are achieved through successful change implementation and not just by completing project deliverables.
Your core delivery team should be the Four Musketeers instead of the Three Amigos through the addition of a change lead.
On small, low complexity projects, a person fulfilling the project lead or requirements lead role might be able to wear more than one hat and take on a change lead role but the same reasons apply for not doing this on larger, more complex projects as would for combining the project lead and solution lead roles.
It’s a question of both capacity and capability.
The more complex a project, the greater the likelihood of the project or requirements lead focusing on the current stage and progress of the project and its deliverables rather than planning and preparing for successful change adoption and sustainment. While they will be actively engaging with stakeholders, the conversation might not stray into post-project topics. While good project and requirements leads are expected to possess advanced soft skills, the emphasis on specific soft skills required to be a successful change lead will vary from those for the other roles.
Looking beyond delivery risk a change lead has the ability to elevate the visibility of execution and operational risks caused by or impacting a project. One example of these is change storms which result when multiple projects and operational events impact a specific stakeholder community within a short period of time.
Change leads are more than just a nice-to-have role on most projects, yet are often ignored or eliminated through a myopic focus on cost containment.
You get what you pay for.