Change in business is inevitable. To keep up with industry trends, customer expectations, and competition, businesses must be able to navigate unexpected changes. Yet change initiatives fail regularly – over 70% of change projects that businesses attempt fail. Some companies have found the missing piece in change managers.
Having leaders manage projects specifically related to a change in business has proved crucial to more businesses being able to successfully implement changes that help the organization thrive.
What is a Change Manager?
Change managers, sometimes also referred to as business transition analysts, implementation specialists, or business transformation managers, help drive successful changes in organizations. They guide colleagues through changes like new software implementations, complete brand overhauls, and even company-wide mergers. They are often experts in process and also in people; they understand how to plan and how to communicate. Most importantly, business change managers offer a perspective that helps mitigate or avoid setbacks for businesses and enables them to better realize the positive outcomes the change is meant to bring about.
How a Change Manager Helps Successfully Support Change
We know what a business change manager is, but what does he or she do? An effective change manager helps an organization in the following ways:
- Apply structured methodology to lead change management activities
- Conduct impact analyses, assess change readiness, and identify key stakeholders
- Support communication efforts by designing, developing, delivering, and managing related communications
- Support any related and necessary training and coaching efforts by providing input, documenting requirements, and assisting with the design and delivery of training programs
- Guide, communicate, document, and implement strategies to better manage changes so company leadership, employees, and other stakeholders can transition more easily during change
- Assist in helping process adoption and buy-in across the organization, reduce resistance to changes, and work as a liaison and advocate for the business activities
- Maintain the focus on employees and ensure the impact to people at the company is as minimal as possible
- Track and report project or process deadlines and issues
- Define and measure success metrics and monitor change progress, reporting problems and roadblocks to leadership and creating and implementing issue mitigation plans
While there are certainly similarities between a project manager and a change manager, one of the key differences is that the change manager isn’t just tracking the progress and deadlines and keeping assignments moving forward; they’re also an expert in change through managing expectations and anticipating pain points.
What Makes a Good Business Change Manager?
The success of your project might hinge on hiring or finding the right change manager. While much of a change manager’s success is based on their experience – like how many projects they’ve been a part of and for what organizations – many of the most successful change managers have the following things in common:
- Excellent communication skills, including writing, speaking and listening
- Able to build and grow strong relationships across organizations and business functions
- Flexible and adaptable
- Able to anticipate pain points and problems in a process and pivot to redirect effort with minimal downtime
- Ability to influence audiences
- Problem-solving skills, organization, and a strategical and tactical mind
- Collaborative team player
- Understanding of the industry they work in and specific company they work for
- Understanding of project management approaches, tools, and phases of a project’s lifecycle
Change managers are smart, collaborative, driven, organized, and resilient in the face of resistance, change, and any roadblocks.
When You Should Consider Hiring a Change Manager
While businesses are constantly facing and undergoing change, change management isn’t a necessity for most organizations full time. Many change managers are brought in as consultants or on a project-by-project basis to help facilitate a specific business need. Occasionally, larger enterprises may to staff the position fulltime or over longer periods.
So, when do you need to consider change management manager? Here are some common situations where a change manager might be helpful.
When something new is coming, or underway.
Don’t underestimate the impact of change, even on a small scale. Oftentimes businesses seek the support of a change manager for big changes but are less likely to use formal or established change management to announce or introduce something like a change to the sales commission structure or teams moving into a new building. Remember that employees who don’t feel prepared for change or communicated with correctly are more likely to resist change and make it harder for it to take effect in the company culture or be effective for the business.
Part of a change manager’s expertise is in helping to anticipate and reduce resistance. If you don’t have a staff member on hand to facilitate the rollout, it might be helpful to consult with a change manager.
When a wide-scale issue is being addressed.
Businesses don’t work perfectly, which often means processes must be tweaked or completely overhauled to maximize output. When this is the case, creating process maps and communication plans for employees can make the change process smoother for everyone.
When employees come and go.
How much would your department or company change if your VP of marketing left or your CEO was replaced? Staffing changes can have significant impacts on organizations, and employers have been known to bring in change managers to help facilitate a staffing change that will communicate a significant corporate culture shift.
Leaders can vary in working, communication, and leadership styles, so having an established system for how to communicate introductions, expectations, next steps, and everything in between can make transitions much easier.
When the business needs to innovate to compete and stay ahead.
Businesses don’t just have to be prepared to handle change as it comes – they often need to drive it to stay competitive. This means that companies are often trying to analyze the next moves they need to make, including evaluating technology that needs to change.
Still, dealing with change, no matter how beneficial, can create huge waves in a company that affect employee morale, productivity, and more. Change managers help identify potential problems and create the best plan for dealing with them based on the needs of the business and the goals of the project.
When trying to decide if you need to bring in a change manager, ask “Would it be helpful to include a formal change management process or point person into our upcoming plans?”
Embracing change is part of being a successful organization. Having a change manager can help empower your projects, your employees, and your business. Even companies that have started off with a small change have realized the benefits of having an expert in change onboard to help guide the process and make sure that the anticipated ripples of the modification didn’t take it from being a small, minor project being a huge event with negative or unintended consequences.
Companies that stay flexible in the face of obstacles and can address employee and customer concerns along the way have the highest change of successfully navigating the important inevitable changes of business.
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