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Role of Internal Consultants in managing change

Internal Consultants play a unique role in driving successful change in organizations across the globe. Not only do they support the specific solution development and expertise, and sometimes the project management support, but they are often times a key player in the change management activities that support project implementation.

This two-part tutorial includes an overview of internal consulting and a look at how internal consultants support change management. The first part is written by Dr. William Trotter, Managing Director of the Association of Internal Management Consultants, and looks at the role of Internal Consultants. The second part is from Tim Creasey, Prosci's Director of Research and Development, focusing on the role of internal consultants in supporting effective change management implementation.

Prosci's own Tim Creasey, Director of Research and Development, will be presenting at this year's Association of Internal Management Consultants 2008 National Conference. Find out more at the AIMC National Conference website.


Understanding the Internal Consultant

By Dr. William Trotter, Managing Director of the Association of Internal Management Consultants


What is an Internal Consultant

Our working definition is that an Internal Consultant (IC) is any individual/group which serves internal clients in an advisory capacity, including:

  • Bringing a specialized management consulting expertise to improve the bottom line performance of the company/organization
  • Working within the corporate structure to resolve business issues and implement solutions in areas that include organizational effectiveness/development, strategic planning, or process improvement
  • Serving as a change agent, coach, educator or facilitator within your company
  • Supporting internal clients in a shared service type organization, such as: Human Resources; Training & Development; Information Technology; Finance; Quality Management; Health, Safety & Environmental Services; Competitive/Business Intelligence and Planning; etc.

My experience is that of the total number of people in a company performing this function, there are only a small portion of them in formal Internal Consulting Groups. Many formal IC groups have a combination of employees from various areas of the organization, either on a permanent or rotational basis, and external consultants hired into the group to bring their expertise and knowledge of how to provide the services needed. While some organizations do have formal internal consulting groups, there are many people fulfilling the role without the title. These individuals are often in HR, OD/OE, or Project Management Offices. Regardless of organizational affiliation, those performing internal consulting type services need core consulting skills which the AIMC helps to develop.


What makes a good Internal Consultant

Internal Consultants need a combination of company/industry knowledge and core consulting skills. It is also helpful to have additional expertise in one or more key practice areas such as: strategic/business planning and performance measurement; process management (including quality management and Six Sigma); or organizational effectiveness/development.

It is also important to understand the essential dynamics of managing a consulting type of organization.

The AIMC has developed a number of tools/frameworks to help organizations better manage IC services. The first is the IC Operations Model which provides key insights in the areas of: client relationship management, operating processes such as contracting, culture and people including staffing and development. This is linked to the IC Performance Measurement (Balanced Scorecard) System which provides key measurements in the financial, internal process, customer and innovation/learning areas to help ensure a balanced results focus. The next tool to be provided is the IC Competency Model, which will be presented at our AIMC National Conference in April. This has competencies for both individual contributors and IC leaders/managers, which will be linked to skill-building programs.

Individual contributors in IC Competency Model Leadership elements in IC Competency Model
  • Management Consulting Skills
  • Client Service Focus
  • Professional Impact
  • Change Management
  • Business Acumen
  • Coaching
  • Project Management
  • Business Process Optimization
  • Communicating Vision
  • Selecting, Managing and Developing Others
  • Decision Making
  • Team Building
  • Strategic Business Planning and Implementation
  • Managing Cross Business Unit Collaboration

AIMC Internal Consultant Competency Model Categories - Draft (February 2008)


Where organizations are using Internal Consultants today

Internal Consultants are being used across the organization from corporate planning/business development to various human resources and other support/service functions.

The growth of internal consulting has been due in part to organizations trying to get more value from their overall “consulting spend.” This includes focusing more on implementation and continuous improvement in addition to more effectively transferring technology from external consultants to the organization. ICs are also often involved in negotiating external consulting contracts, teaming with external consultants on large projects and maintaining a roster of qualified consulting suppliers who can supplement their services in times of heavy or specialized demand.

One of the rapidly evolving growth areas in internal consulting is enterprise change management. Here, ICs are working with top levels in the organization to implement a consistent change methodology and build it into various activities throughout the firm, such as project management.


How Internal Consultants support change management

By Tim Creasey, Prosci Director of Research and Development

Internal Consultants play an important role in managing the people side of change - applying structured change management tools and proceses. Below are the two simplest and most common team structures for change management.

Team structure 1

Team structure 2


Team structure 1 shows an existing member or group from the project team taking on the change management activities. In this case, the change management team does have the project knowledge and background, but may lack change management experience or expertise. Team structure 2 is the use of Internal Consultants - whether or not they have the title "Internal Consultant" - to support a project team and sponsor on the change management front. Many internal consultants attend Prosci's change management certification program. These consultants tend to serve in a support role on projects in the organization, developing and delivering change management strategy and plans to internal clients. Many times these individuals are formally HR consultants, communication specialists, OD consultants, part of the Project Management Office or a separate strategy or transformation staff. In some cases, organizations are formalizing the role of the Change Management Office or the Change Management Consultant.

The role of the Internal Consultant in supporting change management is three-fold:

  1. Educate about change management
  2. Develop strategy and plans
  3. Enable the other 'doers' of change management


Educate about change management

Internal Consultants who support change management in an organization first must answer two questions for those they interact with: What is change management? Why is change management important? While the change management specialist has a full understanding of change management, what it means and what it looks like, many in the organization may not have the same perspective. For example, some might think change management is just communication. Others might think it is version control for IT hardware and software (this is a common use of the term "change management"). Those with a background in project management might think it is the steps to follow when there is a change to project scope. Still others might think it is just holding a group therapy session where people can vent.

The first challenge is to accurately define change management for people in the organization as the tools, processes and practices for managing the people side of organizational change. Several recent tutorials might help you in educating about the what and why of change management:


Develop strategy and plans

When Team structure 2 from above is utilized, the Internal Consultants who support the project team are responsible for developing the change management strategy and plans. These activities are not done in a vacuum. Input is solicited from the project team, the sponsor, impacted leaders and managers and supervisors throughout the organization. For instance, when conducting the change management readiness assessments, the Internal Consultant might interview a business leader from each impacted group in the organization. However, it is ultimately the Internal Consultant who captures and delivers the strategy and the subsequent plans.

Prosci's change management methodology is based on three phases - Preparing for change, Managing change and Reinforcing change. The action steps contained in each give the Internal Consultant guidelines on how to develop and present the strategy and plans. The recent change management methodology overview tutorial provides a high-level description of the methodology, as well as key benchmarking findings related to methodology use and selection.


Enable the other 'doers' of change management

The internal change management consultant has much of the responsibility for strategizing and planning the change management program, but there are a number of other 'doers' who must execute the plans. As an illustration, think about one finding from Prosci's 2007 Best Practices in Change Management benchmarking report with 426 participants from 59 countries. Participants were asked, "who do employees prefer to hear messages about change from?" Resoundingly, there were two preferred senders of change messages. First, employees want to hear from someone at the top of the organization about the business reasons for the change - e.g. why it is happening, what are the risks of not changing, why the change is happening now. Second, employees want to hear from their direct supervisors about the personal impacts of the change - how will this change impact my day-to-day work, how will it impact our group. Employees do not want to hear from HR, or a communications specialist, or the project leader or the change management consultant. They want to hear from someone at the top and the person they report to. So, the role of the change management resource is to enable the preferred senders (senior business leader and managers/supervisors) to deliver these messages. They can segment the audience, create talking points, build presentations and even schedule communication events, but the messages should be delivered by the preferred sender.

Prosci released a Roles in change management tutorial that describes the different 'doers' required for successful change. It outlines how the change management resource - or internal change management consultant - plays a role in energizing, activating and enabling these different players.



About the AIMC

The Association of Internal Management Consultants (AIMC) connects you to a powerful network of consulting professionals and provides linkages to leading businesses and public sector organizations. The AIMC provides an avenue for learning about best practices and trends, and opportunities to increase your skills and achieve professional certification. For more information on the association and the upcoming conference, please visit out website or reach out to the AIMC directly at


About the AIMC 2008 National Conference

When: April 27-30, 2008
Where: Hilton Beach Resort, Marco Island, Florida
Who: Internal Consultants, both by title and by role

This fantastic program focuses on providing key insights regarding managing a successful internal consulting practice including: marketing/business development and overall operations management. Leading-edge service offerings will be presented in strategy/performance management, process improvement and organizational development. A key emphasis will be on presentations by leading consulting practitioners along with their external partners – including skill-building workshops, with leading presenters and interactive sessions providing numerous networking opportunities. Another important feature this year is our IC Share Fair where leading internal consulting organizations and sponsors will have an opportunity to showcase their service offerings, marketing programs and other insights.

Tim Creasey, Prosci's Director of Research and Development, will be delivering a presentation on the latest research on change management and a workshop on Prosci's 3-phase change management methodology at this year's AIMC National Conference.

  • Keynote: Best Practices in Managing Change - Tim will examine the role of change management and present key insights from the 2007 benchmarking report including the greatest contributors to success, biggest obstacles, most common sources of resistance and the role of executive sponsorship. Tuesday, April 29th at 8:30 AM
  • Workshop: A Structured Approach to Change Management - Tim will present Prosci's research-based, holistic change management methodology for Preparing for Change, Managing Change and Reinforcing Change. The workshop will also include a presentation and case study by Dr. Wendell Nekoranec, Mutual of Omaha, on the Business Initiative Measurement Model he has developed.

Find out more at



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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.
  • 2007 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 2008 ($449) - online tool including Prosci's change management methodology, eLearning modules and downloadable templates, assessments, presentations and checklists
  • Change Management Pilot Professional 2008 ($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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