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Change management basics: Roles in change management

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Prosci and the Change Management Learning Center have released a new series of tutorials that provide some basics in change management. This series is valuable if you are new to change management by providing a solid, research-based foundation. If you are experienced in change management, this series will provide you new approaches and perspectives for building change management understanding in your organization.


Are you risking project failure by managing change alone?

Before you begin, think about these questions:

  • What is a conductor without an orchestra?
  • What is a director without the cast of actors?
  • What is a cook without all the right ingredients?
  • Now, what is a change manager without the other key change management players?

In our research and interaction with clients, we have started to come across an interesting disconnect. While there are many similarities between project management and change management (both are used to implement successful projects, both use a process, both use a set of prescribed tools), there is one major difference - a project manager applies project management on a project (a single resource can do the activities associated with project management), but it takes more than just a change management team or team member to effectively manage change.

Think about some of the key activities of project management and change management, and who completes them:

  Activities: Completed by:
Create work breakdown structure Project manager
Estimate time and schedule Project manager
Assign and level resources Project manager
Build detailed budget Project manager
Assess change readiness Change management team member
Prepare change management plans Change management team member
Communicate the business reasons for change Senior leaders (sponsors)
Communicate how the change impacts me (as an employee) Their immediate supervisors
Build a coalition of leaders to drive the change Primary sponsor
Manage resistance Leadership and mangers


Note that most project management tasks are completed by the project manager. However, note that most change management tasks are completed by someone other than the change management team. In the case of project management, the processes and tools are applied by a person working on the project team called the 'project manager'. In the case of change management, the processes and tools are applied by key individuals in the organization including executive sponsors, managers and supervisors, employees and the project team. The change management team is the architect of the change management plans, but they are not the "actors." The change management team enables the other actors required for successful change management.

Change management, therefore, is not simply a collection of processes and tools applied by a change manager or a change management team. Change management is the implementation of processes and tools that are applied by key players in the organization.

Who is involved in managing change?

Change management requires each of the 'gears' in the picture to fulfill their specific role. A change manager can facilitate assessments, create a change management strategy and develop change management plans, but they are not the only ones involved in managed change. The other groups involved in managing change include:

  • Project team
  • Senior leaders
  • Managers and supervisors
  • Employees


Now that we have a fuller perspective of change management, a new definition emerges:
Change management is the creation and implementation of the roles, processes and tools that each of these groups use to effectively manage the people side of change.


Change management

Change management, as noted above, is the use of a structured process and set of tools to support the human side of an organizational initiative.

Change management planning is often conducted by a change management team or resource on a project - building a customized strategy and approach based on the specific change and groups being impacted.

Change management activities are executed by the various 'gears' in the model presented above.


Senior leaders

Why is this group important?

  • Active and visible sponsorship is identified as the top contributor to overall project success in each of four benchmarking studies
  • Senior leaders are one of two preferred senders of messages about change

What is this group's role?

  • Participate actively and visibly throughout the project
  • Build the needed coalition of sponsorship with peers and other managers
  • Communicate the business messages about the change effectively with employees


Managers & supervisors

Why is this group important?

  • Managers and supervisors are the other preferred sender of messages about change
  • This group has a unique and well-developed relationship with the employees being impacted by the change

What is this group's role?

  • Communicate the personal messages about the change with their direct reports
  • Conduct group and individual coaching sessions
  • Identify, analyze and manage resistance
  • Provide feedback to the rest of the change management 'gears'



Why is this group important?

  • Employees will ultimately make changes to how they do their day-to-day work
  • Their acceptance and use of the solution determines the success of the project and the ongoing benefit derived from the change
  • Their speed of adoption, ultimate utilization rate and proficiency define the value of the change

What is this group's role?

  • Seek out information related to the business reasons for change and the personal impact of the change
  • Provide feedback and reaction to the change and the change management efforts
  • Take control of the personal transition (using an individual change management model like ADKAR)


Project team

Why is this group important?

  • The project team designs and develops the 'change' - they are the ones who introduce new processes, systems, tools, job roles and responsibilities
  • This groups provides much of the specific information about the change to the other 'gears'

What is this group's role?

  • Provide timely, accurate and succinct information about the change (or project)
  • Integrate change management activities into project management plans and activities


So what about the role of the change management team?

This perspective on change management does not diminish the role of the change management team, but it does help clarify that managing change involves both training of your change management team and enabling the key players  (executives, managers, supervisors, employees) to play their role in managing change. Change management is the effective application of change processes and tools at each level in the organization. The primary task of the change management team in this environment is to:

  • assess the organization's change readiness
  • develop a change management strategy
  • identify and prepare the change management resources
  • assess and prepare executive sponsors
  • create and manage the change management plans
  • audit compliance and design methods to reinforce the change in the organization including activities to celebrate success
  • transition the change management activities to day-to-day business managers

The second tutorial in this series address how you prepare each of the key players and put the 'gears' in motion.


For more information on the role and activities for the change management team, see Prosci's hardcopy Change Management Toolkit or the online Change Management Pilot.


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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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