To master project management in government, learn the ways of change management

- April 2024

As government projects grow more complex, so does the demand for project managers that go beyond the usual role of overseeing tasks. This article from Parbery Partner Kim Moeller serves as a call to action for aspiring project managers to embrace change–and change management–if they want to lead teams to success on government initiatives. 

I have long held the view that those that come from the change management discipline make great project and program managers. The killer combination of project management practices that focus on a plan with the ability to embrace uncertainty, ambiguity and build trusted relationships with stakeholders is what government needs to meet the strategic objectives of ever-increasing size and complexity of government projects. 

These days projects are everywhere. The trend by government towards ‘projectification’ has meant that more and more activities are being organised into projects and more and more people are working as project managers.  

These project managers need to be more than a manager of schedule, budget and resources. The contemporary project manager needs to be a creative problem solver, critical thinker, relationship manager and strategic advisor. They need to embrace uncertainty and ambiguity to meet the strategic objectives government executives seek from their projects. 

Senior executives have always valued good project management skills, particularly if they deliver outcomes with the expected governance and assurance required of their projects. Increasing complexity and size of projects are raising what they expect from a project manager. While agile approaches are often desired, the reality is that senior executives need project managers to be strategic partners capable of guiding projects through unforeseen challenges, the complexity of government approval processes, and the multifaceted nature of stakeholder engagement. They need project managers who can anticipate and mitigate risks, communicate effectively across various levels or their organisation, and make decisive adjustments when necessary.  

To meet the needs of their masters, project managers need a deep understanding of change management practices to navigate large and complex projects and meet strategic objectives. They need leadership skills that are both visionary and grounded in practical, adaptable execution. 

The emphasis on these project management attributes aligns with the dynamic and evolving nature of the Australian Government and Defence sector, where the ability to adapt to change and drive successful project outcomes is increasingly important. Large and complex projects don’t just need agility and automation, they need authentic project managers to lead for outcomes. 

So, if you are a budding project manager, consider this: the evolution of project management from a task-oriented discipline to one deeply integrated with change management principles reflects the growing complexity and strategic importance of projects in government. You will need to grow your skills to be a strategic partner capable of guiding projects through government approval and the delivery life cycle. You will need to become the architects of change, driving not just the rapid completion of projects but ensuring they deliver strategic value. As the landscape continues to evolve, you will need to embrace this multifaceted role, leveraging your skills in project and change management to lead your teams and projects to successful outcomes. Seek out training and experiences, but always stay true to yourself. 

by Kim Moeller, Partner