Each month, Prosci delivers over 30 Change Management Certification Programs. In order to participate, attendees must bring a change they are currently working on in their organization in order to apply the process and tools they will learn during the class to a real change.

The changes brought to a Prosci certification program come in all shapes and sizes: a technology deployment in an insurance company, a process optimization project in a manufacturing plant, a merger in the pharmaceutical industry, a new HR policy and system in a municipal government. Some of the changes impact a dozen employees while others impact thousands of employees. Some have budgets in the thousands, while others have budgets in the millions.

The size, type and reasons for these projects are quite varied, but the unifier is that each project has a significant people-side element. First, each change impacts how employees do their jobs. Second, the success of the project ultimately depends on if employees adopt those required changes. Below is an overview of the people side of change - the common denominator in nearly any type of organizational change.

People: The Common Denominator in Organizational Change

Changes happen for a number of reasons, each triggered by some sort of internal or external stimuli, and each aimed at delivering some sort of marked improvement in performance. Changes can be incremental or radical; sometimes the gap between the current and future state is small, and other times that gap is large. Changes can impact processes, technologies, systems, tools, structures, job roles or any combination of these factors. Some have little or no structure around them, some derive from policy declarations, and others are formal projects with associated project managers, project codes, project charters and work breakdown structures. Regardless of the reason, type or structure of the change, each ultimately impacts how individual employees do their jobs.

The common denominator of organizational change is the people side of change. Since the common denominator of organizational change is the people side of change and project success depends on impacted employees adopting the change, the tools for helping each impacted employee to adopt the change are critical to the success of the project. Said another way, change management is essential because the people side of change is universal.

What Does Your Change Look Like?

The simple table below is a menu of change characteristics. Think about a change you are working on right now. How would it look if you marked the elements of your change in each column?

Change characteristics chart


Below are two simple examples.

Example #1: A planned program in an insurance company aimed at increasing efficiency and improving customer satisfaction though a radical installation of new technologies and systems.

Change characteristics - Example 1

Example #2: An incremental process change resulting from an established continuous improvement system aimed at reducing errors in a food/beverage organization.

Change characteristics - Example 2

While these two changes are unique in many ways, they share one important factor - their success and ability to deliver intended outcomes depends on individual employees doing their jobs differently (e.g. exhibiting new behaviors, following new processes or using new tools). This is one of the reasons change management has emerged as a discipline over the last few decades; it is universally applicable to any change that impacts how people work.

So what can you do about the people side of change?

  • For any project you are involved with, work to define the individual changes that will be required. This is sometimes challenging, especially as the size and scope of change increases, but it is an important first step for understanding the reality of how changes occur in your organization.
  • Use a model for individual change management. The Prosci ADKAR Model is one of the most widely used individual change management models. The ADKAR Model describes the five building blocks required for an individual to make a successful change as: awareness, desire, knowledge, ability and reinforcement. Whether at home, in the community or at work, an individual will make a change if they can say: "I have the awareness of why the change is happening; I have the desire to participate and support the change; I have the knowledge on how to change; I have the ability to implement the required skills and behaviors; and I have the reinforcement to sustain the change."
  • Use a structured organizational change management approach. In each of Prosci's last six benchmarking studies (2015, 2013, 2011, 2009, 2007 and 2005), the use of a structured approach for change management was identified as a top contributor to success. A structured organizational change management approach provides clarity on the roles, tools and activities required to enable and encourage individual transitions. An intentional approach to change management provides more consistent and repeatable outputs. The Prosci 3-Phase Change Management Process provides step-by-step instructions and tools for Preparing for change, Managing change and Reinforcing change. The process-driven approach enables scaling and customizing change management plans and activities to reflect the unique nature of the change and the groups being impacted.

Introduction to Change Management - Prosci

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.