Want to know how to engage your sponsors and increase their change management awareness? This overview of change management for executives provides the what, why and how of change management. Use this information to help sponsors understand their role in change and become invested in making change management succeed.

What Is Change Management?

The technical definition of change management is, "the application of processes and tools to manage the people side of change from a current state to a new future state so that the desired results of the change are achieved." But a more compelling way to define change management is:

  • Preparing, equipping and supporting individuals through the change journeys they experience as part of our organization so that results are achieved
  • Capturing people-dependent return on investment
  • Mobilizing people to deliver results

Why Is Change Management Necessary?

Various studies have shown that the likelihood that projects meet or achieve their objectives is directly related to change management effectiveness. Data from Prosci’s Best Practices in Change Management report shows that initiatives with excellent change management are six times more likely to meet objectives than those with poor change management. Simply moving from “poor” to “fair” change management increases the likelihood of meeting objectives by nearly 30%.The impact of change management

Participants from this study also identified lack of executive support and active sponsorship as the number one obstacle to success. Lack of engagement and advocacy from senior leaders, failure to remain active and visible throughout a project, and senior leaders opting out of change as barriers to engaging the organization grew are a few of the reasons participants cited.

Conversely, active and visible sponsorship was identified as the number one contributor to successful change management since Prosci began researching change management in 1998. Helping your executives understand and support change management is critical to the overall success of your initiatives.

Effect on adoption and usage

Applying change management can directly impact adoption and usage. Specifically, it can affect:

  • Speed of adoption: how quickly the change is adopted into the organization and how well the project stays on schedule
  • Utilization rate: the overall level of participation and ultimate utilization of the new processes, tools and job changes
  • Proficiency: how well employees perform in the new environment and if they are achieving the expected performance levels

Effect on project objectives and ROI

When change management delivers targeted levels of adoption and usage, the probability that business objectives are achieved, on time and on budget, increases. When the people side of change is poorly managed, projects fall behind schedule, fewer employees engage in the change, and proficiency levels are lower; projects deliver a lower ROI or in some cases fail completely.Project_ROI_Formula

Key Roles for Succeeding in Change Management

The key roles in change management include:

Primary sponsor

The primary sponsor is the individual who authorizes and funds the project and is usually in control of the resources, systems and people that are affected by the change. The primary sponsor usually has the authority to determine the scope of the change and its timing. Employees want to see and hear the executive's commitment to the change. The authority they provide carries over to other change management roles.

Managers and supervisors

Managers and supervisors who have employees affected by the change play a key role in helping their employees through the transition process. These managers and supervisors are the preferred sender of change messages related to how a change personally impacts employees.

Project team

The project team is tasked with managing the technical side of the change. In the end, they are the people who design how things will be done differently than they are today. The project team also plays a role in ensuring that change management is part of the project by providing the appropriate resources (budget and personnel) and time.

Change management resource/team

Dedicated change management resources provide focus and keep track of change management activities. They act as a point of responsibility and accountability. When budgets and schedules are squeezed, change management activities (communications, sponsorship, coaching, training and resistance management) are easily pushed to the bottom of the priority list if there are no dedicated resources.

Project support functions

Project support functions bring expertise in a particular area and enhance the execution of change management activities by bringing the broader organizational context to the table. HR business partners, training specialists and subject matter experts are just a few examples of project support functions.

Stakeholders

All sponsors, managers, supervisors and employees affected by the change are stakeholders. In many changes, external partners, vendors and even customers may be considered stakeholders. They all have a stake in the outcome of the change.

Understanding the Change Management Process

A holistic approach to change management on a project addresses both the organizational and individual change management processes:

Organizational change management

Organizational change management is a process for designing and implementing change management activities that affect broad groups of employees in order to enable adoption and proficient usage. This process is built in three phases that a project or change manager can work through for the changes and initiatives they are supporting. These phases include:

Phase 1: Preparing for changePhase_1_-_New_Branding

  • Readiness assessments, risk assessments and strategy development

  • Identifying and preparing change management resources

  • Creating the necessary sponsorship model and preparing sponsors to effectively lead the change

Phase 2: Managing the changePhase_2_-_New_Branding

  • Preparing a communications plan for the project
  • Creating a roadmap for all key sponsors of the change
  • Developing a plan to help managers and supervisors coach employees through the transition
  • Creating a training plan
  • Developing a resistance management strategy
  • Integrating change management with project management
  • Executing the plans to drive adoption and usage

Phase 3: Reinforcing the changephase3

  • Collecting and analyzing feedback, auditing compliance and measuring performance
  • Identifying root causes to resistance and addressing those points of resistance
  • Celebrating successes and transitioning the project over to day-to-day operations

Individual change management

Individual change management manages change at an individual level, with each employee.
Successful individual change involves five elements that serve as the sequential building blocks of individual change. When all five elements are present, the individual has successfully transitioned through the change. This change model is referred to as the Prosci ADKAR Model and consists of:

  • Awareness of the need for change
  • Desire to engage and participate in the change
  • Knowledge on how to change
  • Ability to implement the change
  • Reinforcement to sustain the change

Organizational change management is used to enable successful individual change management. And when individuals successfully transition through the change, the organization is then able to achieve its objectives.ADKAR-measurement-subscript

Enterprise change management

Enterprise change management is the structured and intentional deployment of change management across and throughout an organization. Beyond change management effectively applied on individual projects, organizations with mature change capabilities create an infrastructure to make the management of change an organizational capability and a strategic, competitive advantage. Institutionalizing change management practices, processes, capabilities and competencies makes effectively managing the people side of change a core competency and cultural value of the organization. Building an intentional and repeatable strategy for change deployment enables an agile and change-ready organization.

Summary

Change management is about enabling employees to successfully transition through the change in order to:

  • Increase the likelihood that the change will occur successfully and that the objectives of the change will be realized
  • Capture the people-dependent ROI of the change
  • Manage employee resistance to change
  • Build change competency into the organization

Need more ideas for building buy-in and getting your senior leaders to commit to change management? Click the image below to watch our on-demand webinar, "How to Enlist, Engage and Empower Your Sponsors." 

Watch the on-demand webinar, How to Enlist, Engage and Empower your Sponsors

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.