Do You Have What It Takes?

From the Shifting Change: Insider Tips from Project Leaders Blog
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Today's world is influenced by change. Project managers and their organizations need to embrace and sometimes drive changes to keep up with the pace in highly competitive environments. In this blog, experienced professionals share their experiences, tips and tools to manage and exploit changes and take advantage of them. The blog is complimentary to the webinar series of the Change Management Community Team and is managed by the same individuals.

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Luisa Cristini
Nic Jain
Ruth Pearce
Abílio Neto
Vitaly Geyman
Walter Vandervelde
Steve Salisbury
John ORourke
Ronald Sharpe
Angela Montgomery
Tony Saldanha
Ryan Gottfredson
Joseph Pusz
Kavitha Gunasekaran
Ross Wirth
Carole Osterweil

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You have been invited to participate in an exciting new corporate initiative but are unable to attend the initial planning meeting where project roles will be discussed and assigned. The next day an email is delivered to your inbox with the meeting minutes. You eagerly scan the email looking for your name and role. To your horror you were assigned to the role of change manager. “Oh no”, you say to yourself, “I am a project manager. I am not a change manager. I don’t know anything about being a change manager.”

You contact the project sponsor and she responds that, from her perspective, there is no difference between a project manager and a change manager and you just need to deal with it.

What do you do now? Is it time to update your resume and change the status on your LinkedIn profile to “Open to New Job Opportunities”?

Fear not, being a change manager is not that bad and in the end you may actually enjoy it. But, first you need to understand what it takes to be a change manager and how it differs from project management.

The purpose of this article is to determine if you have what it takes to be a successful change manager.

Difference between Project and Change Managers

There is a significant difference between project and change managers. Project management is all about structure and delivering a solution. It focuses on following a methodology that includes phases, budgets, assignable tasks and deliverables. A project manager identifies risks/issues, tracks due dates, schedules meetings, generates reports and communicates with the stakeholders.

Change management is about adoption. It focuses on the people impacted by the change initiative and their willingness to accept and execute the necessary behaviors for the changeA change manager focuses on creating a sustainable change in behavior and integrating the new business processes into the organization.

Analytical Versus Creative

Change managers are primarily responsible for preparing and supporting individuals, teams, and organizations when they are impacted by a change. Change can be defined as anything that is introduced into an organization (realignment, emerging technologies, new processes, products or services) which affects the status quo or routine activities of the workforce.

Change managers lead the change initiative. Like project managers, they guide the work effort, develop and execute the communication activities, schedule and lead meetings, document everything and execute strategies to manage the change.

Two of the more important skills required to be an effective change manager is the ability to analyze information and be creative in the execution of a solution. Change managers need to combine the change process (analysis) with design (creativity) to ensure that the initiative is driven forward in a structured manner. This is also necessary to ensure that the perspective and concerns of the impacted parties (stakeholders) are incorporated into the solution that accomplishes the ultimate organizational goals.

The following table highlights the analytical and creative skills of a change manager.



  • Focus on the details, adhere to the schedule and document all of the tasks.
  • Review all issues and data points to confirm that the real organizational problem is being addressed.
  • Monitor timelines, deliverables and due dates.
  • Review the issues from each stakeholder’s perspective.
  • Ensure that the change management plan tasks are being completed on-time and within budget.
  • Understand how the change is incorporated into the organization’s overall strategic initiatives.
  • Keep the team focused on the details and the task deadlines.
  • Encourage honesty in the stakeholder interview process.
  • Clearly define the roles and responsibilities of all participants.
  • Build trust relationships with all stakeholders.
  • Schedule communications and status review meetings on a regular basis.
  • Confirm that the needs and concerns of stakeholders are being addressed.

Change Management Skills Profile

To be a successful change manager, a person needs to be both analytical and creative. Normally, these are two diametrically opposed skills. People are either detailed-oriented (ex: Accountants) or artistic (ex: Marketers). Change managers are required to have both skill-sets because they need to ensure that the initiative is driven forward in a structured manner (using a change management methodology), but they also need to understand that the solution has to be accepted and supported by the organization, especially by the impacted employees.

Use the following chart to see if you have what it takes to be a change manager. Give yourself one (1) point for every “yes” answer.



  1. Do you focus on the details of an initiative; thrive on creating and adhering to a schedule; and documenting the status of tasks?


  1. Do you like to monitor timelines, deliverables and due dates?


  1. Do you keep the team focused on the details and task deadlines; confirm dates and costs?


  1. Do you clearly define the roles and responsibilities of all participants?


  1. Do you schedule communications and status review meetings on a regular basis?


  1. Do you review all issues and data points to confirm that the real organizational problem is the one being addressed?


  1. Do you understand how the change is being incorporated into the organization’s overall strategic initiatives?


  1. Do you review the issues and receive feedback from as many different perspectives as possible?


  1. Do you encourage honesty during the interview process?


  1. Do you build relationships; confirm that the employee’s needs and concerns are being heard and understood?





  • If you scored <5; you may want to ask for another role.
  • If you scored 5 – 8; you have potential but focus your efforts so that you are successful.
  • If you scored >8; you have the basis for being a successful change manager.

Success as a Change Manager

So relax, you do not need to look for a new job because you were assigned the role of change manager.  If you understand your skill profile, as well as your strengths and weaknesses, you can be a successful change manager.

Posted by John ORourke on: October 07, 2019 12:00 AM | Permalink

Comments (4)

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Excellent article John. In my business we are undergoing a major Change process and your advice is timely. Thanks

Interesting reflection on the topic.
Thanks for sharing.
Can we consider an organizational change as a project?
If so, why do we need a new figure, the change manager?
Organizational change can happen simultaneously with, for example, the introduction of a new technology.
In that case we would be talking about a program.
The profile and skills of project managers change

In a technology implementation, the project manager's success criteria is based on execution while the change manager's is based on ensuring that the benefits of the change initiative is achieved and accepted by individuals, teams, and the overall organization. .

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