Today, many organizations are working to build organizational change management capabilities and competencies, expanding the benefits of effective change management from single projects to a broader level. One move in this direction is the creation of a functional group or department to support change management - a Change Management Office. This tutorial from Prosci provides research and perspectives on the establishment of a Change Management Office, including:

  • Latest data on the creation of a change management functional group
  • Where it does live and where it should live
  • What it does

Benchmarking data

Since 2011, Prosci has asked participants in the Change Management Best Practices Benchmarking study if their organization has a CMO or similar functional group. The past three studies have show that just over one-third of participants said their organization do. 


This group can have many different names. Some of the most frequent names in the study included: Change Management, Change Management Office, Change Management Team, Change Management Practice, Organizational Change Management, Change Leadership and Business Change.

Regardless of the name, there are some key decisions that must be made as this functional group is introduced in an organization: where it should reside and what it should do.

Where a CMO should reside

Data from Prosci's benchmarking studies show both where this functional group currently lives and where participants suggested that it should live. The table below includes the top responses for where it does reside and where it should reside.

Where does it reside?

  • Human Resources (HR) 24%
  • Information Technology (IT) 13%
  • Project Management Office (PMO) 12%
  • Independent office or group 10%
  • Organization Development 7%
  • Group dedicated to Strategy or Transformation 7%

Where should it reside?

  • Project Management Office (PMO) 21%
  • Human Resources (HR) 18%
  • Independent office 14%
  • Reporting to highest level in organization 11%
  • Within the business 10%
  • Cross functional, multiple owners 6%
  • Strategy or planning group

While this is the most comprehensive data available on the change management functional group, there is still much divergence around the location of the Change Management Office. The reason for this is that there is no singular "right" answer for where the group can be most effective. We have seen the Change Management Office be very effective in Human Resources (HR), and we have seen it fail in HR. We have seen the Change Management Office be very effective in the Project Management Office (PMO), and we have seen it fail in the PMO.

While there is not a universal right answer, there is a right answer for your organization. Prosci has created some key decision variables you should evaluate in light of your organization, how changes occur, its history and its values to decide on the best location for your change management functional group.


Deciding where the CMO should reside

  • Access to and visibility into change efforts - Since change management is ultimately applied to support the individual transitions resulting from projects and initiatives, the Change Management Office needs to have access to and visibility into the many change efforts occurring in your organization. How do potential locations rank in terms of access to and visibility into change efforts in your organization?
  • Credibility in the organization - In some organizations, HR is viewed as an essential strategic partner and in others it is viewed as more of a bureaucratic function. The same can be said for the PMO, the Strategy and Transformation group, the IT group, and virtually all of the potential homes for the Change Management Office. How does the credibility of potential locations impact your decision on where the Change Management Office should reside?
  • Historical or cultural implications - This is similar to the factor above and likely impacts the perception and credibility of certain potential locations. Evaluating historical and cultural implications is about finding the right fit for the change management group and looking at how similar efforts have played out in the past. What are the cultural or historical implications of potential locations?
  • Adequate sponsorship for enterprise-wide impact - Prosci's benchmarking data from the last 20 years has shown repeatedly that effective and active involvement by senior leadership is the greatest contributor to success. Why would it be any different for the establishment of a CMO? Each potential location should be evaluated based on the sponsorship that would be provided. How does sponsorship stack up in the different potential locations?
  • Ability to liaise with others supporting change - The members of the Change Management Office do not work in a vacuum. In applying and supporting change management, team members must forge partnerships with: project managers and project teams, solution developers, training specialists, communication specialists, leadership development and other groups involved with defining and building individual competencies. How do potential locations enhance or inhibit the ability to liaise with others in the organization who are supporting change?

As you create a Change Management Office - or whatever you end up calling it - it is important to find the right home by evaluating the potential locations and by determining which provides the best opportunity for success. In some cases the functional group may have several different homes as the change management capability evolves in your organization. For example, some organizations first create a CMO within IT to support those specific projects, later moving the CMO to a corporate home to support a wider scope of initiatives.

What a CMO should do

In addition to examining where it should live, the creation of a change management group also requires decisions about the function of the group or department. Again, rather than prescribing a singular charter for a Change Management Office, Prosci has collected data on a number of different roles this group can fill.

The list below captures many of these different alternatives. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of items which should all be included in your Change Management Office charter, but rather some options you should evaluate and decide upon.

  • Own and maintain the methodology - The selection or creation of a common methodology and approach for change management is a key element of building organizational change management capabilities and competencies. The Change Management Office can play a role in owning and maintaining the methodology - similar to a "process owner" in other parts of the organization.
  • Own and maintain the toolset - Having change management tools available and accessible helps build individual and organizational competencies. The Change Management Office may take the lead in owning and maintaining the toolset.
  • Continuous improvement of approach and tools - Capturing lessons learned and incorporating them into the methodology and tools is essential to advance the change management practice in an organization. The Change Management Office is in a great position to conduct this work.
  • Own the curriculum - Organizational change management capabilities require people in your organization to build their own internal competencies at leading change, from wherever they are in the organization. The Change Management Office can play a role in creating and owning the curriculum, and in some cases providing the training. Prosci provides a Train-the-Trainer program so your internal resources can deliver Prosci's acclaimed training programs.
  • Maintain communities - Creating learning and networking opportunities for change agents in the organization is important. Whether the community is formal (as with a Center of Excellence or a Community of Practice) or informal, the opportunity to interact with other practitioners helps increase overall capabilities and competencies. The Change Management Office can help to create and foster communities of change agents in a variety of ways.
  • Coach sponsors - The data is quite clear about the role of senior leaders actively and visibly participating as sponsors of change. In all six of Prosci's benchmarking studies, this role was identified as the greatest contributor to success. The Change Management Office can provide executive coaching in the area of change sponsorship.
  • Coach managers and supervisors - Managers and supervisors are the other employee-facing role in change management (along with sponsors), although leading direct reports through change is often challenging and a new demand on this group. The Change Management Office can provide support, guidance and tools to help these managers become great leaders of change with their direct reports.
  • Provide change management resources (people) to specific projects - This role will depend on the structure and staffing decisions about the Change Management Office. One option is to create a functional group with enough staff that resources can be assigned out from the Change Management Office to project teams. Given resource constraints, this approach may be selectively applied to larger, more significant changes.
  • Provide consultative support to change management resources on teams - The alternative to providing resources to specific projects is providing consultative support to resources already on project teams that are assigned to change management. This approach may make more sense on smaller projects when resources are constrained.
  • Manage the change portfolio - Similar to the emerging role of project portfolio management performed by some PMOs, the Change Management Office is uniquely positioned to provide insight, data and oversight of the change portfolio and the collective and cumulative impact it has on employees in the organization (read more about Prosci's Change Portfolio Toolkit).

As you design your Change Management Office - or whatever you end up calling it - you need to clearly define what it will be doing and what it will not be doing from a functional perspective.

Next steps

It is very unlikely that upon reading this tutorial, you will be able to establish a successful Change Management Office right away. The establishment of a structural element like a Change Management Office should take place within a more holistic effort aimed at building organizational capabilities and competencies that also includes leadership, project, skill and process tactics (as described by Prosci's Enterprise Change Management Strategy Map). The broad deployment of change management across an enterprise is a project and a change, and must be managed as such.

However, if your organization is moving down the path of establishing a functional group to support change management, remember to be deliberate and intentional with your decisions about where it should live and what it should do.


Summary checklist of key considerations

Where it should live

  • Access to and visibility into change efforts
  • Credibility in the organization
  • Historical or cultural implications
  • Adequate sponsorship for enterprise-wide impact
  • Ability to liaise with others supporting change

What it should do

  • Own and maintain the methodology
  • Own and maintain the toolset
  • Continuously improve approach and tools
  • Own the curriculum
  • Maintain communities
  • Coach sponsors
  • Coach managers and supervisors
  • Provide change management resources (people) to specific projects
  • Provide consultative support to change management resources on teams
  • Manage the change portfolio


Change Management Office Primer

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.