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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 change. A 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.
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.
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.
How many times have you seen this type of email blast from senior management and said…”Not again”?
"…it is an undertaking which will enhance core values by transforming the organization and disrupting the industry. Initially, teams will be created and will be tasked with leveraging the organization’s core competency, determining the best ways to empower our employees while focusing on the customer experience…”
Now, you have two choices. You can be a pawn in another senior management change initiative or become a change resistor.
Resisting is fun…
As we learned in Change Management 101, in order to have a successful change initiative, there are numerous goals we strive to attain. Here are a few of these key objectives:
While these are noble ideals, they all require one thing: a change to the status quo. When you think about it, is there really anything wrong with the current way we do things? Just because associate satisfaction is low or profitability is decreasing or the competition is poaching our customers, is that really a reason to bring change to the organization?
Human Behavior and Change
There are certain patterns which occur in human behavior during organizational change. These are naturally occurring and, in general, reduce the probability of an initiative actually succeeding.
Change Teams Can Cause Resistance
Interestingly enough, there are certain actions that the change team takes which can cause employees to start resisting the change. In the resistance business, this is what we call “A Gift”. The change team:
Resistance to Change - Employees
Sometimes, employees rise up and resist the change. This is called “Storming the Castle”. For this to be effective, the opposition must come from a relatively large and diverse group of employees. If it does not, then the change team could crush the rebellion by identifying each resistor and proactively addressing individual concerns. Here are some reasons employees resist change:
Types of Resistance
If all of the above mentioned actions fail to derail the initiative and the change effort is still viable, a comprehensive resistance plan will need to be developed. Be creative in developing a strategy. Do not limit yourself to one type of resistance. Be creative and execute a multi-faceted approach. Finally, it is important to understand that each type of resistance can be foiled by a competent change team if they follow the recommended course of action.
Do not despair if you are unsuccessful in your efforts to derail an initiative. You will get another chance. There is always another corporate change initiative ready to be launched.