Since 2007, the top change management trend identified by participants in the Prosci Best Practices in Change Management report has been greater awareness or recognition of the need for change management.

Below are several quotes from participants in the latest study:

  • "Awareness that change management is an important success factor for project management."
  • "Growing recognition of importance [of change management] to successful ROI."
  • "Acknowledgment that the investment in change management at the front end of a project will pay off in the end."

For some practitioners, change management is now being "pulled" in to projects rather than pushed on to initiatives. However, many change management professionals are still in a position where they must justify the value that change management provides. They are still in discussions where change management is a "nice to have" rather than a "must have" on major initiatives. This tutorial presents a logic flow to help you position change management more effectively on the project and initiatives you support. With the logic flow presented here, you can hopefully reframe the discussion from "what is the value of change management" to "what outcomes (or value) of the project depends on people doing things differently, and can thus be enabled by change management".

The "Positioning Change Management" logic flow goes something like this:

  • Organizations introduce change
  • These changes impact how individuals do their work
  • The success of the organizational change (the project objectives or outcomes) is tied to individuals doing their work differently
  • Change management provides the structure, intent and tools for encouraging and supporting individuals through their own personal changes

Organizations introduce change

Each and every day, organizations are introducing change. Today's marketplace is one where change has truly become the norm. These changes can take on a variety of shapes and sizes:

  • Some are formalized projects; others may be called initiatives; still others are called transformational efforts. Each result in change
  • Some impact processes; some impact tools and technologies; some impact organization structure; some impact job roles; some impact all of these factors
  • Some have no budgets; some have minimal budgets; some have very large budgets
  • Some are top-down efforts introduced by senior leaders; some are grass roots efforts initiated by engaged and empowered employees
  • Some are incremental, making small adjustments to how work is done; some are dramatic, fundamentally shifting how the organization operates
  • Some stem from strategic plans; some result from competitive threats; some result from customer demands; some come from supplier or vendor situations; some are in reaction to the economy; some are in reaction to regulatory change


Organizational states of changeRegardless of the nature, shape and size of the change - they all are an attempt to move the organization from a current state, through a transition state, to a future state. And, each change is an attempt to improve performance - whether through lower costs, increases revenues, improved service delivery, etc. In the end, the organization is taking on an effort where the future state is "better" than the current state or that enables the organization to achieve their vision and enhance performance.

These changes impact how individuals do their work

While it is seemingly easier to think about changes from an organizational perspective - such as, we are introducing Business Process Management techniques, or we are implementing an Enterprise Resource Planning application, or we are reducing waste in the manufacturing process - in the end change comes to life through individual behaviors, processes and workflows. The technical side of change can be installed, but changes ultimately impact how individual employees do their work.

  • Some impact a single employee; some impact small workgroups; some impact departments or divisions; some impact the entire organization
  • Depending on the change, the impact on individuals work and behavior is different
  • The most important and strategic changes often involve a high degree of "individual change"


Individual states of changeRegardless of the source of change, the type of change, or how formalized the project or initiative is - in the end people will have to do work differently. Organizational change is not a homogenous blob, although it is sometimes treated that way. It involves specific adjustments in behaviors, processes and workflows by individual employees. Each employee impacted by the change must make their own transition, from their own current state to their own future state.

The success of the organizational change is tied to individuals doing their work differently

Multiple Individual states of changeThe goal of the organizational change is to reach a future state where performance is better than it had been in the current state. However, the organization only reaches its future state when individuals have reached their own personal future states. The success of the organizational effort is tied directly to how successfully each impacted employee makes their own transition. Did Andy adopt the change to his work? Did Becky adopt the change to her work? Did Charlie and Debbie and Eddie and Frannie make the changes to their work?

For a project or initiative to truly deliver value to the organization, people must embrace and adopt the change to their own work. Prosci's ROI of Change Management Model provides three factors of the human side of change that directly contribute to or constrain the ROI or value that a project delivers:

  • Speed of adoption - how quickly did they make the change?
  • Ultimate utilization - how many of them made the change?
  • Proficiency - how effective were they in their own future state?

These three factors are tied to the human side of change - the individual - but are determinants of the organizational value that is achieved. If speed of adoption is slower than expected (delays associated with people not adopting), then the ROI or outcomes will be less than expected or desired. If ultimate utilization is less than expected (people opt out or find work arounds), then the ROI or outcomes will be less than expected. If proficiency is lower than expected (an employee in their future state does not deliver the intended improvement), then the ROI or outcomes will be less than expected.

There is a growing body of data that shows a direct correlation between change management effectiveness and the likelihood that a project or initiative delivers the intended outcomes. That correlation rests on this fact: that organizational results are delivered when individuals make their own changes successfully. A perfectly designed process that no one follows does not deliver value to the organization. A perfectly designed technology solution that no one uses does not deliver outcomes or objectives to the organization. The people side of change is what drives benefits for the organization when it takes on a change effort.

Change management provides structure, intent and tools for encouraging and supporting individuals through their own personal changes

So, the story thus far is: organizations introduce change, those changes impact how individuals do their work, and the degree to which individuals adopt the changes to their work determines the success of the organizational effort. Now we are at a place where we can introduce change management as the processes and tools for encouraging individuals to make successful personal changes. Prosci's formal definition of change management is:

  • The application of a set of tools, processes, skills and principles for managing the people side of change to achieve the desired outcomes of a change project or initiative

Important elements of the definition: first, there is a change to the organization that needs to be managed (we just do not assume that everything will work out). Second, change management focuses on the people side - the human element - of bringing that change to life within the organization. Change management is not applied on projects to keep change management professionals busy. It is applied to projects because the reality is that changes impact how people do work, and success comes from people making those necessary changes.


The logic flow presented in this tutorial helps you shift the conversation. Rather than starting from a position of "here is what change management can do" - the conversation starts with several important realities - that changes are occurring and those changes impact how people do their jobs. It is no longer a far reach between change management and realizing outcomes or objectives on projects, because we have made a stark and direct connection between the people side of change and achieving results.

Below are several additional tutorials that provide some more materials about the definition and scope of change management that can help you better position change management relative to delivering project results:


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.