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Change Management Roles

Depending on the successes observed, there are several key players or roles to maximize the progress of any initiative: the sponsor, the project manager, the business process owners, the subject matter experts, the managers and employees. Regardless of the size and importance of the initiative, these roles are essential, and one person could take on more than one.

Please note that, in this article, the masculine gender is used as a generic, for the sole purpose of not burdening the text

The biggest challenge when a change is on the horizon is to define the roles and responsibilities of the various stakeholders. The tendency is to want to give external consultants this thankless task. It is impossible for a change to take place if the entire management team is not involved. There are all sorts of approaches, with representatives, champions or team leaders, but it still lacks the leadership needed to make everything go smoothly. Depending on the successes observed, there are several key players or roles to maximize the progress of any initiative: the sponsor, the project manager, the business process owners, the subject matter experts, the managers and employees. Regardless of the size and importance of the initiative, these roles are essential, and one person could take on more than one.

The sponsor initiates and leads the change. He* is actively involved in creating the movement and supports the transition, being present in key activities. From the beginning, he must define clear, realistic and achievable goals. He must then ensure that he has the support of senior management and that he and his colleagues share a common vision to manage this change successfully. He will then have to recruit the person who will manage the initiative, the project manager. The sponsor is responsible for providing all the financial, material and human resources required to complete the project. It is fundamental that he has the capacity and the will to be an active promoter and visible during this change. He must also be accessible and available throughout the process and be fully dedicated to managing this change. The sponsor leads and mobilizes; he is the voice of change.

To lead, his commitment is necessary at several stages. His presence is required when announcing the project, special events and project meetings. His diligence demonstrates the importance and priority of his initiative. If he often has something else on his agenda and does not show up, it will be difficult to convince the organization to invest in the execution of his change. He is responsible for training his team of competent members, having the budget and all the resources necessary to achieve his goal. Of course, he is involved in all critical decisions and in the management of various obstacles (“road block”). Finally, he must be available for its project team and ensure that other executives will also be available.

The role of the project manager is well known. He is the conductor of the group and must prepare the project, monitor and control activities, schedules and budgets to achieve the goals set. He does not carry change at arm’s length; it is the sponsor who inherits this task. It is common for the project manager to be on his own because the sponsor does not assume his role. He must overcome the many pitfalls to get things done. It is normal for him to solve the internal problems of the project team, because that is part of the responsibilities of managing a team, but not those which belong to the other organizational units.

He sees the management of the technical and the human aspect of change. The project manager may hire a change management specialist to support him, but most of the time he does it. It integrates change activities into the project plan and ensures effective collaboration and coordination of work between all change actors. He is not responsible for communications about change; it’s the sponsor’s responsibility. However, he must ensure that these activities take place in a timely manner. He is also responsible for disseminating information within the project team because the centralization of the communication ensures a single version of the message and consistency within the group.

The business process owner has a critical role in the project. He must make every effort to adjust and evolve his process to support the change. He informs the various stakeholders and consults them to obtain the optimal solution. When the new process is revised, he must ensure that all tools are adjusted, and all business documentation is up-to-date and available for training and deployment.

Subject matter experts bring knowledge of the company’s operations. Their participation is at the heart of the activities of analysis, implementation, preparation of deployment and support. When problems or important decisions occur, they inform and involve process owners. Because they have the expertise, they are the ones who create or update the documentation and help design the training materials. If an external trainer is hired to develop the training material, he will not be able to meet the needs without the contribution of the content experts, because he cannot know the particularities of the organization. If the training is also distributed by an external trainer, the expert is present to answer questions related to operations. The tendency is for training to be rather disseminated by field experts rather than trainers.

Managers see the technical adaptation of change for their team. They also manage the human dimension of transformations to effectively implement change by generating all the activities to facilitate the transition. They support and accompany their subordinates to ensure their progress towards the future situation. In fact, their support and availability foster acceptance and buy-in and influence employees to take charge of change.

Change management responsibilities are numerous for the manager. He supports the project and promotes it in his team. He mobilizes members of his team to participate in the project and embrace change. He also assigns his resources as needed. If required, he participates in the pilot project and training. He advocates two-way communication and participates, both with his employees and with the project team. He is responsible for keeping abreast of changes, regularly inquiring about his role, and ensuring that his team has access to all the necessary information.

He answers questions from team members and manages their concerns. If he faced resistance, he would be helped by the sponsor and the project team to manage them. He informs his subordinates about changes to the organizational structure. If required, he reviews with them the roles and responsibilities. He ensures that each person receives all the information necessary to understand the context before attending a workshop or training on processes, procedures or tools. He encourages the participation of its employees in planning change management activities, among other things, by releasing the necessary time and asking for feedback on activities. During and after the transition, he will coach both behaviors and tasks to reinforce the adoption of change and ensure its long-term success.

He transmits to the project team the successes, the problems and his needs in terms of equipment and support. By informing himself, he follows the operational issues and if necessary, participates in their resolution. He participates in the operationalization of the new performance indicators and also ensures the updating of the procedures. He adjusts objectives and measures as required in performance evaluations. When required, he sees to the adjustment of working conditions. Finally, he establishes controls to monitor the quality and continuity of change.

The role of the manager during transitions is decisive. It makes all the difference between success and failure. The project team must make every effort to inform and equip the managers so that they can do their work.

The employee also has a role to play in the success of the change. In life, nothing is static. The major stages of the project, the unexpected and the workplace create a perpetual movement that requires adaptations. He must be open to the proposed change and engage in his adoption process conscientiously. His goal is to return to his comfort zone.

At the beginning of the process, the employee expresses concerns. He will do it more easily if the relationship is healthy between his manager and him. Then, he tries to understand the future situation. He must express his needs without hesitation to his manager and participate in the proposed transition activities. His active participation in the definition of change will accelerate the automation of new ways of doing things. To succeed, each person needs to be accompanied and supported by their superior and, as mentioned before, that the number of changes is limited. In business, people feel rushed and overwhelmed by all the projects.

In summary, the sponsor is the one who oversees the initiative. He is responsible for ensuring that he has all the necessary financial, human and material resources and that the project runs smoothly. The project team is responsible for executing the activities that will make the change happen. Finally, managers form the foundation upon which the project team relies to support change, as they are responsible for managing the transition of all employees to the future.

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