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Anchoring "what is change management" to what
your audience cares about


How do you begin to have the "what is change management" discussion? And how does the person you are talking to impact how you have the conversation? This tutorial presents some tips and thoughts on how you can be more successful at building buy-in and support for change management by changing how you talk about change management.

While it is easy to begin a change management discussion with a formal, academic definition of change management, this may not get you the results you are looking for. Prosci defines change management as "the application of a structured process and set of tools for managing the people side of change to achieve a desired outcome". And while this definition is certainly correct, is it enough to get a project manager or Six Sigma black belt or CIO excited and interested in change management? Probably not.

The secret to building support and buy-in for change management is to position change management as a solution for driving results and outcomes by using the language and context of the other person. By becoming more "you focused" instead of "me focused" in your presentation of change management, you can create a more compelling case for change management and ultimately get the head nod and commitment you need to successfully apply change management.


Two paths for introducing change management

When introducing change management to someone, there are two different paths you can take:

  • Path #1 - This is change management
  • Path #2 - This is how change happens, and here is a solution to drive better outcomes and results

Path #1 is a more academic approach. Here, your focus is on what you do as a change management professional. This path typically revolves around a more formal definition and presentation of change management. You may provide some examples of the types of activities you would complete when applying change management (for example, readiness assessments, stakeholder identification, impact analyses, communications plans, etc.), but this is a "me focused" approach.

Path #2 is a "you focused" approach. Rather than leading with change management, you first establish some "realities" of change that can be easily agreed upon and understood. You build your story for change management by first establishing some common ground regarding how change happens, and then you position change management as a solution.

Here is one way to tell the story using Path #2.

Organizations create change by introducing projects and initiatives. The project or initiative you are working on right now is one of these vehicles of change. These changes impact how certain employees do their jobs, requiring them to exhibit new behaviors, use new tools or technologies, or follow new processes. Your change ultimately causes a group of individuals (i.e. Andy, Becky, Charlie and Debbie) to do their jobs differently. The ability of the project or initiative to deliver intended results and outcomes is intrinsically and inextricably tied to individuals doing their jobs a new way. Your new processes will only deliver value if employees follow them; your new tools will only deliver value if employees use them. Because change success depends on individual employees doing their jobs a new way, a tool to support those individual transitions is essential to capturing the value of projects and initiatives. Change management is a solution to help you deliver on the results and outcomes you need from your project because of how changes really happen - one individual at a time.  

This is a new perspective on how to introduce change management - starting with what they know and their role in change rather than with what you do as a change management professional. With this new approach, you can create common ground and build the support and buy-in you need for applying change management.


Having the discussion with different audiences

In addition to taking a path that begins with the reality of change rather than beginning with change management, you can also build more support and buy-in for change management by putting "change management" into the the language and context of your audience. For example, is there a way to talk about change management to a Six Sigma practitioner by anchoring your story to what they know, care about and value?

You can begin effectively anchoring change management in the context of your audience by answering three questions:

  1. Who is your audience?
  2. What do they care about? What is their language and context?
  3. How can you talk about change management from their point of view?



Below are several examples for talking about change management in the context of different practitioners and specialists in your organization by connecting change management to what they know and care about.


Project management practitioners

What do they care about? What is their language and context?
Project management is about sequencing activities and resources to meet requirements through the achievement of defined MILESTONES.

How can you talk about change management from their point of view?
When we ask an individual to change how they work, they must achieve certain personal milestones to make the change successfully. Change management is about sequencing people-side activities so that individuals achieve their own personal MILESTONES and are able to make a change to how they do their jobs.


Six Sigma specialists

What do they care about? What is their language and context?
Six Sigma is about applying a structured methodology to improve the quality of outputs by minimizing VARIATION in the process.

How can you talk about change management from their point of view?
People experience change as a process. The "output" of a change from a people-side perspective is individuals doing their jobs in a new way. Change management is a structured methodology for reducing the VARIATION in how an individual employee experiences the change process resulting from projects or initiatives.


Lean specialists

What do they care about? What is their language and context?
Lean is a structured discipline for improving performance by isolating and eliminating WASTE and non-value-adding work from a system.

How can you talk about change management from their point of view?
When a change to how someone does their job is introduced by a project or initiative, there is the potential for waste and non-value-adding activities during the transition (resistance, waiting for answers, confusion, stress, loss of focus, wasted training). Change management works to eliminate WASTE created during the change process by minimizing non-value-adding activities and supporting individuals in their own personal transitions.


Operational Efficiency specialists

What do they care about? What is their language and context?
Operational Efficiency focuses on increasing the OUTPUTS yielded by given INPUTS in a business operation or process.

How can you talk about change management from their point of view?
When changes are introduced, the individual-level outputs are employees reaching their own future state (doing their jobs a new way) based on the input requirements of the project or initiative. Change management increases the likelihood of achieving these individual-level OUTPUTS by enabling EFFICIENT transitions.


Senior leaders

What do they care about? What is their language and context?
Finance, finance, finance. Strategic direction. Creating an environment for success.

How can you talk about change management from their point of view?
To improve financial and strategic performance, senior leaders fund and authorize projects and initiatives. One critical success factor for these efforts is individual employees adopting the change. Change management directly contributes to the FINANCIAL and STRATEGIC outcomes of projects and initiatives by enabling the future state.


Anyone you run into on the street

What do they care about? What is their language and context?
What is a change that they have had to deal with in their job? While you may not know the change exactly, you can likely come up with a change they have experienced recently. If you are having dinner with a school principal, the introduction of a new curriculum could be the example. If you are chatting with the agent at the rental car desk, then a new order system could be the example. Just pick a change they experienced personally.

How can you talk about change management from their point of view?
"Remember when [your organization] recently tried to [make some sort of change that impacted you]. It was probably pretty hard on you. Change management helps make it easier on you, by helping the team leading the project to engage employees throughout the change process."







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Offerings for applying Prosci's change management methodologies:


  • Prosci's site licenses are a great solution for building change management capabilities and competencies throughout your organization. With a site license, you can customize and integrate Prosci's world-leading research and methodologies to fit your organization and begin building the individual competencies necessary for true change capability. Contact a Prosci Account Manager at +1-970-203-9332 or to discuss your change management needs and how Prosci's research-based, holistic, easy-to-use solutions can work for you.


  • Change management certification ($2800)- attend Prosci's 3-day certification program where you bring your own current change project to the session and learn to use Prosci's tools through practical application - taught by former fortune 500 executives at locations across the US - includes over $1000 in products, including the Best Practices in Change Management benchmarking report, the Change Management Toolkit and the Change Management Pilot Pro 2012
  • Train-the-trainer ($3500) - learn how to teach Prosci change management training programs in your organization
  • Onsite training - bring Prosci to your location for 3-day certification programs, 4-6 hour executive briefings, 1-day manager programs or 1-day employee programs - call +1-970-203-9332 for more information

Methodology tools:

  • Change Management Toolkit ($389) - hardcopy 3-ring binder presenting the Prosci Change Management Methodology, includes templates, checklists and assessments for managing the people side of change (includes USB)
  • Change Management Pilot Pro 2012 ($489) - online tool including the Prosci Change Management Methodology, eLearning modules and downloadable templates, assessments, presentations and checklists
  • Change Management Guide for Managers and Supervisors ($209) - tools to help supervisors engage and coach their direct reports through change
  • PCT Analyzer ($149/$349) - web-based tool for collecting PCT Assessment data, analyzing results, identifying risks and developing action steps

References and books:

  • Best Practices in Change Management benchmarking report ($289 / quantity discounts available) - 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: the people side of change ($18.95 / quantity discounts available) - a primer for anyone involved in organizational change that addresses why manage change, individual change management and organizational change management
  • ADKAR: a model for change ($18.95 / quantity discounts available) - the definitive work on the Prosci ADKAR® Model
  • Employee's Survival Guide to Change ($14.95 / quantity discounts available) - 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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