Project Management as Change Management in Heritage Institutions

Adhering to proven project management practices reduces risk, cuts costs, and improves the success rates of projects. Organizations are likely to nurture a project management culture when they understand the value it brings and how projects drive change. Organizations also recognize that when projects fail, they are less likely to achieve strategic goals. Archives, libraries, and museums should acknowledge the value of people who are resourceful, have strategic insight, and champion knowledge development and transfer as essential to performance improvement. Utilizing project management makes success possible.

Project management is closely tied to change management because projects, by their very nature, cause change. Change management is the implementation of planned alterations to established missions, objectives, or procedures within an organization. It typically refers to the intentional processes undertaken by organizations in response to internal needs, but it may also include strategies for reacting to external events. Lasting change incorporates the mission, goals, and objectives of the institution. Simultaneous changes in structures, systems, and people leads to changes in the culture of the organization. As with project management, change management requires that stakeholders understand the rationale for change and that they are engaged and supportive of new solutions.

Information professionals need to be capable of managing and participating in projects and should be able to anticipate and support the resulting organizational change. Indeed, change management is crucial to the success of projects involving the integration of new information technologies. For example, it is not enough to implement a new content management system and incorporate it into organizational functions. It must also be accepted and applied by the creators and users of documents, which involves the application of change management skills.

Weingand (1997) writes:

Too often, organizational culture is rooted in tradition and habit, and change is often an unwelcome visitor. Yet, change is today’s one constant, and no organization can escape its presence and effects. Whether regarded as an opportunity or as a threat, the specter of change sits on every organization’s board of directors; the library is no exception (7).

In the world in which most information professionals work, innovation and the change that comes as a result have not always been welcomed in organizations focused on maintaining the status quo of previous generations. Memory institutions like libraries, archives, and museums adhere to traditions, which can sometimes make change difficult. Schreiber and Shannon (2001) write:

The hyper speed of change in information services now demands libraries that are lean, mobile and strategic. They must be lean to meet expanding customer expectations within the confines of limited budgets; mobile to move quickly and easily with technological and other innovations; and strategic to anticipate and plan for market changes (36).

Additionally, information professionals work in environments that include complex classification systems, technical infrastructures, and organizational configurations. It is tempting to view these conditions as constraining. However, thinking about organizations structurally overlooks the challenge that is central to the information profession: deploying information services in ways that change the communities libraries, archives, and museums serve. Information professionals are increasingly called upon to facilitate the reconceptualization and redesign of services. As project managers, team members, or stakeholders, information professionals are involved in projects that change organizations.

As a result, Doan and Kennedy (2009) note that information professionals have: come to view change as the means of accomplishing significant goals, recognizing that our organizations must keep pace with user needs, acknowledging that we do indeed have information competitors and that we are part of organizations and therefore must align with larger objectives than our own. It is essential to innovate to continue to be meaningful (349).

Munduate and Media (2009) state similarly, “Organizations will only survive if they have the flexibility to react to the constantly changing demands and if they are adept enough at redirecting, orientating, and exploiting their resources efficiently” (299). Successful projects are one way to create an environment that embraces change as an opportunity, not as a threat.

Present situations in organizations are largely the result of decisions made in the past. Information professionals should not allow themselves to become captives to previous decisions. They must question decisions made in the past and effect changes that would position the organization well in the future. Innovation and the systematic abandonment of obsolete practices is a critical factor in the renewal and growth of memory institutions.

Works Cited

Doan, T., Kennedy, M.L., 2009. Innovation, creativity, and meaning: leading in the Information Age. Journal of Business and Finance Librarianship 14 (4), 348–358.

Munduate, L., Media, F., 2009. Organizational change. In: Tjosvold, D., Wisse, B. (Eds.), Power and Interdependence in Organizations. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 299–316.

Schreiber, B., Shannon, J., 2001. Developing library leaders for the 21st century. Journal of Library Administration 32, 35–57. 

Weingand, D.E., 1997. Customer Service Excellence: A Concise Guide for Librarians. American Library Association, Chicago.

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