By increasing the focus on the individuals impacted by a project or initiative, change management helps us to define change at the right level (the individual) and drive the adoption and usage necessary for project to deliver results and outcomes.

During the 1990s organizations were swept up by "process centering" - rethinking their operations from the perspective of business processes instead of departments, functions or organizational hierarchy. As organizations have grown and evolved, and decision making and ownership has been pushed farther out in the organization, it is time for another shift.

Change is the new norm, and no one expects the rate or amount of change to decrease in coming years. For organizational change to be successful, individual employees impacted by the change must make their own successful transitions. Each must embrace, adopt and use the change to their processes, systems, behaviors and jobs. This tutorial presents the importance of "individual centering" change - a task that change management directly supports.

The individual is the unit of change

Change happens at two levels - the organizational level and the individual level. We often think about change from an organizational perspective - installing an Enterprise Resource Planning application, re-orienting a sales team by vertical industry instead of region, implementing Electronic Medical Records. This is the perspective of projects and initiatives - and it is easier. However, an organizational change ultimately impacts how people do their jobs. Individuals must enter data into the new system, engage clients in a new way or keep patient records in new software. The individual is the unit of change.

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In this way, organizational change is like a mutual fund. While it is easier and more convenient to think at the mutual fund level, a mutual fund doesn't actually perform. The performance of a mutual fund depends on the performance of each of the stocks that make up the mutual fund. Organizational changes alone do not perform - their performance depends on the success of each individual who must follow new processes, use new tools or exhibit new behaviors.

The sections below show how "impacted individuals" - those who have to change how they do their jobs when a project or initiative is implemented - are addressed in Prosci's approach to change management.

Impacted individuals and Prosci's Five Tenets

Prosci's Five Tenets of Change Management were introduced in the second edition of Change Management: The People Side of Change in December of 2012. The Five Tenets give a new framework for introducing, defining and positioning change management within the context of the expectedCM124_image 2.png results of the change.

Tenets 2 and 3 address the impacted individual directly. Tenet 2 says that "Organizational change requires individual change" - meaning that when a project or initiative is implemented, particular employees will have to do their jobs differently. Sometimes it is a few employees, sometimes it is many employees. Sometimes the change is not that dramatic, other times it is very dramatic. In any case, organizational change requires individual change.

Tenet 3 says that "Organizational outcomes are the collective result of individual change" - meaning that we only realize benefits and achieve results when employees embrace, adopt and use the change. If employees do not make their own personal transitions successfully, or make them slower than we expected, then project outcomes are compromised.

These two tenets help to set the stage for change management as the solution to support the individual transitions caused by an organizational change.

Impacted individuals and ADKAR

The Prosci® ADKAR® Model describes the five building blocks of successful change as:

  • Awareness of the need for change
  • Desire to participate and support the change
  • Knowledge on how to change
  • Ability to implement required skills and behaviors
  • Reinforcement® to sustain the change

When a person experiences a change - whether at home or at work - they begin the change process with an answer to "why change" (Awareness), followed by the personal decision to make the change (Desire). Next, the person needs to know how (Knowledge) and demonstrate the capability to make the change (Ability). At this point, the change has happened, but without intentional actions to make the change stick (Reinforcement), a person can slip back to the old way.

ADKAR describes the building blocks of successful change. Within the context of "individual centering" - ADKAR gives us direction for supporting each of the individuals impacted by the change.

Impacted individuals and the 3-Phase Process

While change ultimately happens at the individual level, there are actions that a project team or change management team can take to support those changes. Prosci calls this organizational change management and has a research-based process for developing the strategies and plans for applying change management to a project.

Prosci's 3-Phase Change Management Process provides the guidance and tools for applying change management at the project or initiative level. The notion of "impacted individuals" comes through in each of the three phases of the Prosci process.



Phase 1: Preparing for Change

  • Groups in the Impact Index
  • Anticipated resistance and special tactics
  • Sponsor Assessment Diagram is baed on "who has to do their jobs differently"


Phase 2: Managing Change

  • Segmented audiences in communications plan
  • Segmented audiences in training plan
  • Manager and supervisors addressed in the coaching plan


Phase 3: Reinforcing Change

  • Who we gather feedback from
  • Whose compliance we audit
  • Where we measure adoption and usage

Organizational change management gives us the actions, steps and activities we take as a practitioner of change management, but each can only be effective if the individual employees impacted by the change guide our work.

Impacted individuals - centerpiece of Change Management ROI

The final aspect of impacted individuals shows up in measurement. While the Prosci CMROI™ Model does provide tools for calculating a return on investment for change management - it is really more about shifting the conversation about the ROI of change management - from "what is the ROI of change management?" to "how much of a project's benefits depend on employee adoption and usage?" When we position the impacted individuals, and their contribution to overall project benefits and results, as the centerpiece of the conversation, we can begin discussing the impact of change management (and individual change) within the context of project results and outcomes.


It is easy to forget the individual in times of change. We think about our goal as implementing a new system or creating a communication plan. However, for organizational change to be successful, individual employees must make a successful personal transition and adopt a new way of doing their jobs. Change management provides the focus and solution for "individual centering" change - resulting in more successful change and organizational outcomes.


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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.