Who’s in Charge of Change?
This is an interesting question to ask in your changing organization. Try it yourself. Ask a handful of people representing a cross-section of roles and responsibilities over the next few days who they think is in charge of change. What answers do you get?
I’ve asked that same question – who is in charge of change here? – in dozens of organizations over the years. The responses vary, but they are always interesting. A few of the most common answers are:
- “We are all in charge of change.” Unfortunately, this usually means no one is really in charge. We just assume we are all in charge.
- “Project teams are in charge of change.” This is a good answer to a point. Project teams are temporary task forces. When they disband after their project management work is completed, who is in charge of change then? Even while they are around they rarely, if ever, have any real authority to implement change.
- “Executives are in charge of change.” Again, this is true to a point. The problem is Executives are not the best source of change related answers at the local work area. Employees are unlikely to ask the Executives questions they have about changes they are asked to implement.
So, who should be in charge of change?
Over the years I’ve come to realize the best answer to that question is a shared ownership between three key groups. Two additional groups must fully support these three ownership groups. Let’s look at each of these groups separately.
3 Key Groups
1. Senior Executives
The most important group who must see themselves and be seen throughout the organization as the true owners of change are the senior executives. They represent the highest level of power and authority.
Their role is to ensure they are all aligned and fully support the changes at the senior level. They must initiate and support the project teams. They are the only ones who can engage all levels of management and supervisors.
Senior executives must determine and communicate the essential strategy, change and transition messages that are so vital to ensuring the whole organization is fully engaged.
They must also ensure the formal and informal reward system fully supports the successful implementation of the changes.
2. Middle Managers & Supervisors
Middle managers are responsible for all functional and geographic alignment and implementation of the changes in their respective areas of the organization. They must also continually support their supervisors.
Supervisors are the experts in work being done in their local work area. Their role is to fully engage all their employees in ensuring the changes are implemented correctly.
Supervisors are the most important source of change related information in the eyes of the employees. If they don’t have the necessary change information to share, the changes will never fully succeed.
3. Project / Change Teams
Project teams are temporary task forces that should represent all major parts of the organization their specific projects will impact and be implemented. They quickly become the change experts as long as they are in place.
Not only are they responsible for developing the detailed plan for change, they also must help increase the willingness and ability of everyone to implement the changes successfully. This requires an ongoing relationship with the middle managers and supervisors during the planning and initial implementation.
2 Support Groups
The employee’s responsibility is to adapt their behaviors to align with the desired outcomes of the changes. Ultimately, they do the heavy lifting to implement the changes successfully.
At the end of the day, if the employees don’t own the changes, the changes won’t be successful. You would think this would make them the ultimate owners. To a point, they are.
However, it is up to the Senior Executives, Project Teams and Middle Managers / Supervisors to create conditions that set the employees up for success.
2. Supporting Cast
There are several important roles that support the 3 Key Groups and Employees. They include:
- Communication professionals to help craft simple change messages
- Subject matter experts with in-depth knowledge about the changes who are often a part of the project teams.
- Process experts who can guide the project teams, senior executives, and supervisors in their important roles in leading change.
- Learning & Development professionals who provide the necessary educational resources for everyone to learn what is required to ensure the changes are successful.
- Human Resource professionals and Organizational Development professionals who provide the necessary support and training required.
The vast majority of people in all these groups should be internal to the organization. Use of external professionals should be used sparingly, only when some specific skills are not available inside the organization.
The only people who can ensure the organization changes effectively over the long haul are the people who work there and have a vested interest in the successful outcomes of the changes.
Think about your own organization. Are the right groups doing the right things to ensure change is successful?
If it is the groups outlined above, you are likely in very good shape. If one or more of those groups are not fulfilling the role, you have some work to do.
Copyright 2018, Chris Edgelow