Change is part of the scenery now.
Once we could sit back and pretend that change didn’t really just happen. That we could manage change. That we could choose when and what we would change. In many ways, we now know better.
Now, we know that the only thing we can manage about change is our reactions to it.
Of course, we can implement change. After all, that’s what a project manager does. But when it comes down to it, all we can do is help our people to accept change and learn to react in a positive manner rather than to resist it.
At one time, we believed that people could be forced to accept change. That it was their fault that they wouldn’t change or that they actively fought the changes we imposed.
Now, we’ve learned that people are the key to change and that resistance is not a bad thing at all. Instead, we need to manage our people’s reactions to change and to the situation.
At one time, we believed that success could be laid on the shoulders of the project manager. Now we know that success is shared between the project manager and a new role — the Change Leader.
What is a Change Leader and what is the role of a Change Leader?
A Change Leader is that person within the project team who is most responsible for the reactions of the stakeholders who must accept the changes. Effectively they are the main spokesperson for the change. They must combine the roles of salesman, spokesman, and cheerleader.
Sometimes it is the project manager. Traditionally it was always the project manager. Which sort of made sense since they were responsible for the project to implement the change initiative.
But the best person for the job is in fact, the sponsor. Sometimes it can be another senior manager. While the project manager should be a change leader, THE Change Leader should be the sponsor or a senior manager. Unfortunately, the role of the project managers is sometimes incompatible with that of the Change Leader. However, if the change is small enough, anyone with the right level of respect can fulfill the role.
Okay, so now we know what a Change Leader is, what are we expecting them to do?
There are four main tasks within the role of a change leader:
1. To provide a vision of the future.
2. To communicate the reasons behind the change and the selected reactions.
3. To communicate what the effects will be.
4. To listen to everyone, especially those who are opposed to the change.
5. To motivate the stakeholders to actively support the change initiative.