In the coming years, no other competency will be more important to your organization than the ability to manage change. Flexible and adaptable organizations will be the benchmark for long-term growth and sustainability. With an ever increasing velocity of change - more changes happening more frequently than ever before - organizations need to be able to effectively identify and manage the "people side" of their organizational efforts to ensure that solutions deliver meaningful results. Building the competency to manage change is not like installing a new system or technology. It is a transformation in how the organization operates and leads people. It requires individuals to learn new skills and take on new roles. It requires a new approach to change projects and initiatives.

Prosci's research in the building of an organizational change management competency - what we call Enterprise Change Management (ECM) - has yielded a number of lessons over the last decade including the ECM Deployment Process and ECM Strategy Map. This tutorial examines different approaches for initiating the effort to build organizational change management capability and competency.

Evolution vs Revolution

There are two main paths an organization can take toward change management competency.

The first is evolution. In this scenario, the organization builds a track record for applying change management processes and tools on a number of initiatives. It may start with one major effort. The evolution may begin in a particular part of the organization. For example, in many organizations managing the people side of change emerges from the IT (Information Technology) department. Technology changes typically involve a significant impact to how people do their jobs, and in forward thinking IT departments change management has become a key component of delivering value. Over time, the IT department begins to build competency, perhaps even creating a subgroup of employees focused on change management. Eventually, this competency and capability begins to spill over into other types of organizational changes.

Conversely, change management deployment can also take place as a revolution. Change management might be a very new concept in the organization and may have only been applied on a handful of changes. However, leadership in the organization recognizes the need for being better at change and starts a program to deploy change management throughout the organization. This is an effort driven from the top of the organization to create a competitive advantage and improve the financial performance of change initiatives.

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Both of these scenarios are occurring in organizations. An evolutionary approach is more common. As change management is applied and proven to be effective over time, it gains momentum and ultimately hits a point where a shift occurs - away from simply applying change management toward building the competency. A revolutionary approach is less common and typically is associated with new leadership who has seen a change management capability program underway in a previous organization.

Project vs Skill

The approach to building change management capability can originate from a project and skill perspective.

The project perspective is associated with the application of structured change management approaches on various initiatives in the organization. A project-centric approach is often taken when the originator of the effort wears more of a "project hat" in the organization - such as an experienced project manager, a member of the PMO or a leader overseeing several projects in their own department or organization. The focus of this approach is to attach change management to a handful of specific projects, typically involving some sequencing and planning related to which projects are the first to apply change management.

The skill perspective is associated with building the personal competencies required by those involved in managing change. A skill-centric approach is often used when the originator of the effort has a human resources or training background (for example, the Director of Learning and Development) and has influence and control over training and professional development in the organization. The focus in this approach is helping individuals throughout the organization to build their own skills and competencies for managing change. While projects may be marginally addressed, the initial focus is training. Competency building takes place with a number of groups including change management practitioners (applying the process and tools), project team members (who must integrate the people side of change into their efforts), senior leaders (who must fulfill the role of "sponsor of change"), and managers and supervisors (who must coach their employees through the change process).

While the project-centric and skill-centric approaches each have pros and cons, Prosci's research and experience suggests that a holistic approach which incorporates both elements along with leadership and other sustaining factors is the most effective. This model is presented in Prosci's ECM Strategy Map. Regardless of the approach, it is important to remember that deploying change management takes change management. People in the organization who are being asked to apply change management will need Awareness of why change management is important and Desire to participate and support change management - drawing on the Prosci ADKAR® Model.

Where is your organization

Think about the dimensions described above and place your organization in the matrix below. There is not a "right" place to be - but it is important to understand where you are coming from when you arrive at the point of deploying change management more broadly across the organization.

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The Decision

The point in time when the organization makes the decision to build change management competency and capability is important. This marks an important shift from simply managing change effectively to deploying change management more broadly. In some organizations, there can be progress in change management but the capability-building decision is never made. These organizations tend to chip away at managing change more effectively, but never create the momentum or push needed to truly build organizational competency and capability.

Once the decision has been made - "we are going to build organizational change management competency and capability" - the work has just begun. Keep in mind:

  • Who is sponsoring the effort? Each of Prosci's nine benchmarking studies in change management have identified active and visible executive sponsorship as the top contributor to success. The same will hold true for the effort to deploy change management. Without effective sponsorship of change management, the effort will not have the authority and credibility necessary to make broad and lasting impacts on how change is managed.
  • Who will design the approach? Most organizations designate an individual or team to take on the change management deployment effort. This group - what we call the ECM design team - will have the task of collecting data, crafting a strategy and developing deployment plans. If there is not an individual or team taking on change management deployment, the effort will languish.
  • Enterprise Change Management is a change and a project. The effort to build change management competency and capability will require a structured approach - including decisions and plans for both the technical side and the people side of deploying change management. The effort should be approached with the structure and formality of any other project impacting the organization.

In future articles, we will examine the key failure modes for change management deployment efforts, making a compelling case for why the organization should build this competency and capability, and tips for developing a holistic approach to change management deployment.


Enterprise Change Management Boot Camp

Written by
Tim Creasey
Tim Creasey

Tim Creasey is Prosci’s Chief Innovation Officer and a globally recognized leader in change management. His work forms the foundation of the largest body of knowledge in the world on managing the people side of change to deliver organizational results.