Change Management: Walking in the Footsteps of the Project Lifecycle

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Over the years, many theories of change have been proposed. For example, Kotter’s theory of change articulates 8 steps in a change management process, starting with the first step of needing to ‘create urgency’ through to the final step of ‘anchoring change in corporate culture’. 1

Lewin’s change management model proposes 3 phases for organizational change, starting from phase 1 which involves ‘unfreezing’ (preparing the organization to accept change that is necessary) to stage 3, which involves ‘refreezing’, which occurs when the organization is back in homeostasis.2

However, in my view, what has been poorly defined in the literature thus far is the difference between general cultural change within an organization and change management that is indigenous to the project lifecycle.

Take a typical project lifecycle as shown in Table 1.3 When we try to superimpose an aforementioned change model (let’s take Kotter’s), on the project lifecycle, it is easier to see why the change model isn’t entirely commensurate with the project stages.


Table 1. Kotter’s 8 stages of change superimposed on a typical project lifecycle

This reflects the fact that existing change models relate to general cultural change rather than project-specific change. However, in projects, both types of change are at play. We need a new model of change that adequately reflects both the cultural and project-specific change that occurs within projects. I have proposed a new model below in Table 2.

In this model, stages of cultural change and project-specific change are highlighted alongside each of the project lifecycle phases. The cultural change elements draw on Kotter’s model of change.

Table 2. New paradigm for change within projects.

By using such a model, project managers can know with greater clarity what activities they need to partake in at each stage of the project lifecycle when putting on their change management hat.

  1. (2022). Kotter’s 8-step change model. Available at: (Accessed: 17th September, 2022)
  2. (2022). Lewin’s Change Management Model: understanding the three stages of change. Available at: (Accessed: 17th September, 2022).
  3. Adobe Communications Team. (2022). Project life cycle: a guide to what it is and the 5 life cycle stages. Available at: (Accessed: 17th September, 2022).

Ali Raza

Ali Raza is an alumnus of the NHS Management Training Scheme. Ali has worked in many NHS organizations including commissioning and provider organizations.