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Change Management Learning Center - managing change library


Five levers of organizational
change management

The discipline of project management has a set of recognized tools that support its execution - project charter, statement of work, work breakdown structure, schedule, etc. Similarly, change management has a set of tools that support the "people side" of change - regardless of the change that is being introduced.

While some in your organization might view change management as "just communication" or "just training", Prosci's research has shown that change management is most effective when it is a holistic set of tools aimed at supporting individuals though changes to how they do their jobs.


- Tutorial highlights -

Definition and tools for:
  • Communication plan
  • Sponsorship plan
  • Coaching plan
  • Training plan
  • Resistance management plan

This tutorial describes the five organizational change management plans - or "levers" - in Prosci's methodology. The methodology is available in the 3-day certification training, the hardcopy Change Management Toolkit (3-ring binder with USB drive) or the online Change Management Pilot.

  • Communication plan
  • Sponsorship roadmap
  • Coaching plan
  • Training plan
  • Resistance management plan

These five organizational change management levers are the core of Phase 2 - Managing change in Prosci's change management methodology. To be effective, each plan is customized based on the assessments and strategy developed in Phase 1 - Preparing change. Customization occurs based on the size and type of change, as well as the nature of the groups being impacted by the change. This tutorial defines the plans and shows how each of the five supports the successful transition of the individuals impacted by the change - described as Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability and Reinforcement (read more about ADKAR).


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Communication plan



Communication is more than just telling someone something. While many organizations have communication departments and many project teams build communication plans, there is often a missing component - recognizing how communication fits into the larger change process. Sometimes, people mistakenly equate change management with communication - i.e. "Change management = communication". Communication is a critical component of implementing change, but is by no means the only requirement for successful change (in fact, best practices research shows that the active and visible role of the sponsor of change is the number one contributor to success - addressed in the sponsorship roadmap section below).

Effective communication does not mean a "pretty" newsletter, the use of a standard template or even a high frequency of messages. Effective communication is targeted for each of the different audiences impacted by the change - what they care about and what they need to know. A structured communication plan, based on best practices research, presents the right messages, at the right time, in the right format or channel, and comes from the right sender. Prosci's methodology includes plans for developing these plans and key messages about change that must be communicated based on best practices research with over 1000 participants. 

Connection to ADKAR:

Communication is a tool used to build Awareness of the need for change and Desire to participate and support the change. When ADKAR is used as this foundation, communication is more effective and provides information in the correct sequence to help employees understand and internalize the change.

Communication tools in Prosci's methodology:

  • Impact Index
  • Communication plan template
  • Communication planning spreadsheet
  • Key messages
  • Key messages: executives
  • Key messages: middle managers
  • Key messages: employees
  • Communication customization guidelines
  • Communication best practices




Sponsorship roadmap


Sponsorship tools in Prosci's methodology:

  • Impact Index
  • Primary sponsor assessment
  • Sponsor competency assessment
  • Sponsor assessment diagram
  • Sponsorship roadmap template
  • Sponsor planning and start-up checklist
  • Sponsor design checklist
  • Sponsor implementation checklist
  • Sponsor customization guidelines
  • Sponsorship best practices



Effective sponsorship was cited as the number one contributor to project success in all four of Prosci's change management benchmarking studies (1998, 2000, 2003, 2005). Best practices show three high-level roles of the sponsor - to participate actively and visibly, to build a coalition of support with other senior leaders and managers, and to communicate directly with employees about the business reasons and nature of the change.

Unfortunately, sometimes even the best senior leaders do not demonstrate effective sponsorship. Some may not have experience in this role or know exactly what it looks like; others may find that competing priorities result in less than optimal involvement. It is the role of the change management resource on a project team to provide support and structure for the specific actions needed from these senior leaders - to coach upward. The sponsorship roadmap provides this structure, removing the mystique around "sponsoring a change" and making it real and concrete. A comprehensive sponsorship roadmap lays out what the sponsor needs to be doing with 1) the project team, 2) peers and other senior managers, and 3) front-line employees. It also breaks down activities by the phase of the project - for example initiation, design, implementation and closeout.

Connection to ADKAR:

When senior leaders demonstrate their and the organization's commitment to a change (by following the sponsor roadmap), employees take notice. Effective sponsorship is needed to create an Awareness of the need for change, as benchmarking research indicates that the sponsor is the preferred sender of messages related to the business reasons and organizational implications for a particular initiative. Sponsorship is also critical in building the Desire to participate and support the change with each employee. Sponsors also play an important role in Reinforcement - as their involvement shows employees that the change will be sustained.



Coaching plan



Coaching takes place between an employee and their direct supervisor. The managers and supervisors in an organization play a critical role in successful change. They communicate messages about the change and how it directly impacts employees. Their attitudes toward the change filter directly and immediately to how their employees react to the change. They identify and manage resistance. And they provide recognition and reinforcement during an implementation. Unfortunately, benchmarking research shows that this key group is often overlooked and not properly engaged in many projects.

The coaching plan outlines the steps for involving managers in change management activities. First, it lays out how the project team and change management resource will build commitment, train and skill up managers and supervisors related to their role in a change. Once onboard, managers and supervisors then conduct both group and individual coaching sessions to engage front-line employees. These coaching sessions are crucial to getting employees and the organization moving forward with change adoption.

A final note - you cannot try to use a "proxy" for coaching activities - not members of the project team, not external consultants, not human resources representatives - no one. Coaching is built upon the relationship that an employee has with the person they report to. Do not try to circumvent or substitute anyone as the role of coach. Instead, invest the time, resources and energy to engage and empower your managers and supervisors to be good coaches and to build their own personal competency to lead change.

Connection to ADKAR:

Coaching touches virtually all of the elements of ADKAR. Research shows that employees want to hear the personal Awareness of the need for change from the person they report to. A manager's desire to change directly influences an employee's Desire to support the change. In on-the-job support and coaching, managers and supervisor help build Knowledge and Ability. Finally, by showing their own support and commitment to the long-term adoption of a change, managers and supervisors provide Reinforcement to keep a change in place.

Coaching tools in Prosci's methodology:

  • Impact Index
  • Coaching plan template
  • Coaching training template
  • Group coaching agenda
  • Individual coaching plan
  • Change management guide for managers and supervisors tools
  • Coaching customization guidelines




Training plan


Training tools in Prosci's methodology:

  • Impact Index
  • Training audience identification
  • Needs assessment and gap analysis
  • Requirements document
  • Training customization guidelines



Training is an intervention to build skills and capabilities. In addition to communication, training is probably the most common of the change management plans. One interesting reason is that your organization probably has a training department and a communication department, but you probably don't have sponsorship, coaching or resistance management departments.

Without the larger context of change management, training can often be used as a crutch and in place of other critical activities like sponsorship and coaching. One of the biggest errors a team can make when introducing a change is to take the stance of "just send the employees to training, that's all they need". This is poor change management, and is illustrated in more detail below in the ADKAR section.

The change manager's role in training is to identify the skills and capabilities that are needed, any gaps that exist and the training requirements. When change management is being applied effectively, a partnership emerges between the change management team (who documents knowledge needs) and the training group (who develops and delivers the needed training).

Finally, don't forget about the training in "change management" that is needed. Already, sponsors and coaches have been identified as important participants in change management - these two groups likely need training themselves about their roles and responsibilities in change management.

Connection to ADKAR:

Training is focused on building Knowledge - and is not effective for building Awareness and Desire. Think about experiences where you sat through an entire day of training, rolling your eyes and wondering why you just wasted a day in a training you didn't need. The people delivering the training, and those who wanted you to take the training, both thought it was a valuable and necessary experience. But since you did not have the Awareness or Desire, you were not enthusiastic about the knowledge transfer (and most of it probably did not sink in). Training is an important part of creating successful change, but must come after sufficient Awareness and Desire already exist.



Resistance management plan



Resistance to change is the number one obstacle to successful change based on Prosci's research over the last nine years. While resistance to any change is a natural reaction, there are steps that organizations and managers can take to prevent and mitigate the impact of resistance. Some might be surprised to see resistance management planning on the same level as communication and training. You may view dealing with resistance as primarily reactive - how do we respond when we see resistance. However, there are some significant and meaningful steps that can be taken early in a project to address resistance. This is what Prosci calls proactive resistance management and is the focus of a resistance management plan.

What steps can you take to prevent or mitigate resistance before it emerges and impacts the project and the organization? Begin by identifying what resistance might look like and where it is likely to come from. Typically people involved in a project know where resistance is likely to come from based on past experience and the nature of the change. Next, develop a set of steps that you can take to answer these objections before the manifest themselves and impact the project. The resistance management plan also identifies who will be involved in managing resistance and how you will prepare them to intervene.

Finally, there is a component of reactive resistance management in a complete change management plan. How will you monitor acceptance and resistance? What triggers will you use to know that there is significant resistance, and how will you respond? ADKAR provides a simple but powerful model for understanding the root cause of resistance when it does emerge during a change.

Connection to ADKAR:

Any missing ADKAR element can result in resistance to a change. A lack of Awareness of the need for change can directly result in resistance to change. When an employee does not have a Desire to change, they oftentimes resist the initiative. Fear of not having the Knowledge or Ability to be successful in the future state is another main source of resistance. Without Reinforcement, employees will not sustain the change and will revert back to the old way of doing work. The important point to remember about resistance is that you need to identify and address the root cause of the resistance, and not just the symptom. For this reason, ADKAR can be used in both proactive and reactive approaches as a guide for effectively engaging and overcoming resistance to change.

Resistance management tools in Prosci's methodology:

  • Impact Index
  • Proactive resistance management plan
  • Resistance management plan template
  • Reactive resistance management diagnostic tool
  • Top-10 resistance management steps
  • Resistance management customization guidelines
  • Best practice findings - most common reasons for resistance




Putting together your change management plans

Effective change management cannot be viewed as a "recipe for success" - effective change management must match the change and the people that are being impacted by the change. While any change needs each of the five levers above, the relative balance and effort will depend on the specific change you are implementing. A merger is managed very differently than a technology upgrade, but each require the five levers of change management.

Once the plans are created, to be most effective they are integrated into the project activities outlined in the project plan. This means that during the initiation of the project, there are already communication and sponsorship activities taking place. Before the "go-live" date, coaching is already taking place and individuals are trained. Beginning at the launch of the project, resistance is actively anticipated, identified and managed. This is what is meant by effective change management - it is holistic (using all of the tools), proactive (starting at the beginning of the change) and integrated (working in unison with project activities)

There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Prosci has spent nine years research what works and what doesn't when managing change. As a research and publishing firm, we spend our time turning the best practices into easy-to-use, holistic and research-based tools. Prosci's methodology is available in both the hardcopy Change Management Toolkit (3-ring binder with USB drive) and the online Change Management Pilot - complete with assessments, templates and checklists for creating the five organizational levers.

Or, to really experience the methodology, bring a project you are working on to the 3-day certification program and apply the tools as you learn them.


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Ask a Prosci analyst - find out about best practices and how you can use the checklist in your organization
Order online - secure server Order the Change Management Toolkit or Change Management Pilot for complete change management assessments, templates, guidelines and plans



Tools for applying change management:

  • Change management certification ($2800)- 3-day program where you bring a project you are working on and apply all of the assessments and tools as you learn them - taught by former Fortune 500 executives at locations across the U.S.
  • Best Practices in Change Management benchmarking report ($289) - journal-style report with lessons learned and best practices from 650 participants, presented in an easy-to-use format - reads as a checklist of what to do and what not to do
  • Change Management Toolkit ($389) - hardcopy 3-ring binder presenting Prosci's change management methodology, includes templates, checklists and assessments for managing the people side of change (includes USB drive)
  • Change Management Guide for Managers and Supervisors ($189) - tools to help supervisors engage and coach their direct reports through change (includes 4 copies of the Employee's Survival Guide)
  • Change Management Pilot ($449) - online tool including Prosci's change management methodology, eLearning modules and downloadable templates, assessments, presentations and checklists
  • Change Management Pilot Professional ($559) - the content of the Change Management Pilot plus additional benchmarking data and an online version of the Change Management Guide for Managers and Supervisors
  • Change Management: the people side of change ($18.95) - a primer for anyone involved in organizational change that addresses why manage change, individual change management and organizational change management
  • Employee's Survival Guide to Change ($14.95) - a handbook to help employees survive and thrive during change, answers frequently asked questions and empowers employees to take charge of change


*** Prosci also offers leadership packages - groupings of products at discounts that offer you some of the most helpful and common combinations of Prosci change management resources


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Email a Prosci analyst or call 970-203-9332 with questions about the methodology, its application, or finding the right resources to support your change management activities.




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