Projects risk potential failure when change management is thought of as only the responsibility of the change management team or resource. This tutorial presents some key points and research-based materials that are useful in preparing people involved in change initiatives for their respective roles in managing change.

Who is involved in managing change?

Roles_in_Change_Management.jpgChange management requires each of the circles in the picture to fulfill their specific role. A change manager can facilitate assessments, create a change management strategy and develop change management plans, but they are not the only ones involved in managed change. The other groups involved in managing change include:

  • Executives and senior managers
  • Managers and supervisors
  • Project team
  • Project support functions (front-line employees)


Before you begin, recognize that you are asking each key player to make a change

Before we look at each group, there is one important point to be made. When you are asking a senior leader to fulfill the role of sponsor, you are asking them to do their job differently. Likewise, when you ask a front-line supervisor to fulfill the role of coach and support a change initiative, you are asking them to do their job differently. An important insight here is that when you ask any one of the key players in change management to fulfill their role in change management, you must also manage this as a change.

Put on your ADKAR glasses and think about this change using the Prosci ADKAR Model. Each of the key players needs:

  • Awareness of the role they must play to make change successful.
    Have you shown why change management is critical and why the person is important in making change management successful?
  • Desire to participate in and support their new role in change management.
    Have you created a compelling case for how important managing the people side of change is to making changes successful?
  • Knowledge of how to effectively fulfill their role in managing change.
    Have you educated the person and provided enough training on what the role is and how to fulfill it?
  • Ability to implement the required skills and behaviors to effectively manage change.
    Have you provided the job aides and where to get support? Have you provided the opportunity to practice?
  • Reinforcement to sustain the change management role.
    Have you put mechanisms in place to ensure that the role is fulfilled on each new change, to reward successful application?

Sometimes, individuals working to introduce change management into their organization are surprised that it is not welcomed with open arms. Often times, this is because they have failed to actively manage the change of applying change management. For example, research shows that the number one cause for resistance is not knowing why a change is being made. So ask yourself, have you made a compelling case for why change management is needed?

Managing the change (i.e. "applying change management") requires you to use both individual and organizational change management approaches - the same way you would use both of these disciplines to manage the change associated with other new processes, systems, technologies or job roles.

 Change management

 Change managementChange management team members or practitioners need to understand the change management process and the methodology they are applying. They must also be prepared to engage and coach the others required to make change successful.

Self-paced resources:
To begin, all of Prosci's change management materials come from our research. The Best Practices in Change Management benchmarking report presents lessons learned and best practices from thousands of participants in 85 countries. The methodology developed from the research is available in the Practitioner eToolkit or with the cloud-based Change Management Research Library. Both include ready-to-use templates, assessments and checklists for scaling your change management strategy and building your plans.

Training options:
Prosci's foundational is a three-day certification program that teaches the basics and the application of our research-based change management process. Participants apply the process, tools and templates to a project they are currently working on and they return to the office with a jump-start and a change management strategy presentation.

Senior leaders

Senior leadersWhen senior leaders are asked to fulfill the role of sponsor of change, they often do now know what is required and what it takes to be an active and visible sponsor. Many times, good leaders will do some of the activities naturally. Change management then can be contexted as a way to provide structure and additional research to the task of leading change.

Self-paced resources:
Prosci's experience is that many senior leaders do not have tremendous amounts of time to read materials. For this reason, we typically recommend providing the Executive Summary of the Best Practices in Change Management benchmarking report.

Training options:
Prosci has delivered dozens of executive briefings on the role of the sponsor during change. These 4 - 6 hour sessions cover the principles of managing change and convey the key roles senior leaders can play. The session is highly interactive and requires senior leaders to complete assessments and worksheets to fully understand their role and how the changes they are looking to create really impact their organization.

Managers & supervisors

Managers & supervisorsThere are many 'great managers' who are ineffective during times of change. The biggest cause is that no one has taken the time to show them how to be a great manager during change. During change, supervisors must play the role of communicator, coach and resistance manager. The change agent is responsible for preparing them for these three roles.

Training options:

Prosci offers a one-day coaches program that looks at the process of change, how individuals experience change and the three roles managers and supervisors play during organizational change. The session includes a number of breakouts and worksheets to help apply the concepts that are being taught.


EmployeesEmployees are the ones who have to change their day-to-day operations when an organizational change is introduced. It is their speed of adoption, ultimate utilization and proficiency that drive the ROI of the project.

Self-paced resources:
The Employee's Survival Guide to Change is a paperback designed to help employees succeed during change. It is a quick read and includes answers to frequently asked questions and a section devoted to taking control of change. The book is best used as part of a program facilitated by supervisors.

Training options:
Prosci does not offer training for front-line employees. Our research suggests that the most effective 'gear' for dealing with these employees is their immediate supervisor, so we work to enable these supervisors to engage their direct reports.

Project team

Project teamThe project team is working to create organizational change through processes, systems, technologies, job roles and behaviors. Change management is a key component of making these changes occur effectively, quickly and ensuring they meet their objectives.

Self-paced resources:
Change Management: the people side of change provides an introduction to change management concepts and how it supports project success. It is a quick read and written to build a foundational understanding. The Best Practices in Change Management benchmarking report is another valuable resource, reading like a checklist of what is needed to effectively manage change.

Training options:
Our clients typically see value in putting project leaders through the 3-day Change Management Certification Program so they have a full understanding of what change management means and how it supports their project work. Prosci also offers free, one-hour webinars provide a solid introduction and foundation in change management principles and techniques.

Creating awareness of roles in managing change

As you are working to create an awareness of the different roles in managing change, there are several keys to remember. First, make sure that you are speaking in the language of the person you are talking with. You need to relate change management to what they care about and the job they are tasked with in the organization. Second, utilize examples from past changes that will help them relate to the concepts and points you are trying to make. Third, be sure to recognize the effort they are already putting forward. Many times, good leaders will often already be doing some of the tasks you are asking them to do as part of change management. Be sure to acknowledge that you are talking about adding structure around managing change, and that you realize some of this may already be happening in the course of their own work.

Roles in Change Management download article

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.