Want to know how to engage your sponsors and increase their change management awareness? The below 10-minute overview of change management for executives provides the what, why, and how of change management. Use this overview to help sponsors understand their role in change and become invested in making change management succeed.

What Is Change Management?

Change management is the application of a structured process and set of tools for leading the people side of change to achieve a desired outcome. Change management is:

  • A process used by project teams to manage system, process and organizational changes
  • A leadership competency for enabling change within an organization
  • A strategic capability designed to increase change capacity and responsiveness

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. One study with 327 project leaders (the Business Process Reengineering Benchmarking report) indicated that failure to manage the people side of change, and the associated employee resistance, was the top obstacle to project success. Employee resistance to change was cited five times more frequently than any other project obstacle.

Prosci’s correlation data from over 2,000 data points and nine years shows that initiatives with excellent change management are six times more likely to meet objectives than those with poor change management. By simply moving from “poor” to “fair,” change management increases the likelihood of meeting objectives by three fold.

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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.

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. This person 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.


Sponsor refers to any senior or mid-level manager with responsibility for employees or systems impacted by the change. In this context, a sponsor is defined to be any business leader whose support and active engagement is necessary for the change to be successful. Sometimes the term "key stakeholder" is also used to refer to this role.


Sponsorship refers to the activities expected by employees, and therefore required, of a good sponsor. These behaviors include active and visible participation throughout the project, building a coalition of sponsorship with peers and subordinates, and communicating directly to employees.

Sponsor coalition

The sponsor coalition is the collection of sponsors within the organization. The affected employees report to sponsors within the sponsor coalition. A strong sponsor coalition is a good indicator of project success, whereas a weak sponsor coalition is a good indicator that projects will fall behind schedule, miss objectives or fail completely.

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 impacts employees personally.


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.

Project leader

This role is assigned to the individual who has overall responsibility to implement the project. This individual would have direct day-to-day control over the project team, project management activities and all resources associated with the project.

Change management leader

This role is assigned to the individual who creates and implements change management plans for a project. Change management plans include communications, sponsorship, coaching, training and resistance management.

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. These activities include:

Phase 1: Preparing for change

  • 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 change

  • 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 change

  • 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, then the organization is able to achieve its objectives.

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.


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

Gain the tools to successfully apply change management to a project and communicate the role of change management to others in your organization at the Prosci Change Management Certification Program.

Prosci Change Management Certification Program - CTA


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.