Talk Project Management  /  change management Series , Topic Series  /  Roles of management team actively engaged in managing change

Role Descriptions:

The table below illustrates what we would like to hear each of these groups say if they are actively engaged in managing change. Conversely, it also identifies what you may listen to from each role if their responsibility is not clearly defined or understood.

Role: How they should describe their purpose: How they could misunderstand their role:
Change management resource/team "I develop the change management strategy and plans. I am an integral part of enabling project success." "I feel like I'm on an island here. People expect me to do everything and have all the answers."
Executives and senior managers "I launch (authorize and fund) changes, and I actively sponsor change with our people." "I gave you funding and signed the charter, now go make it happen!"
People managers "I coach my direct reports through the changes that impact their day-to-day work." "I feel like I'm the direct target for some of these changes, and I wish I knew what was going on."
Project team "I manage the technical side of the change. I integrate change management into my project plans." "My focus is on getting to go-live. Once I flip the switch, I'm moving on to the next project."
Project support functions "I use my expertise to enhance activities that drive change in collaboration with the change team." "I get called in on projects and given one little task, but I'm not sure how I fit into the overall picture."
The Change Management Office  "We own the change management methodology and support its implementation in the organization." "I don't even

Why Each Role Matters

Change Management Resource/Team


A growing body of data shows a strong correlation between the success of a change initiative and how well the people's side managed. Change projects with excellent change management are six times more likely to meet objectives and outcomes.

Dedicated change management resources provide focus and keep track of change management activities.  They act as a point of responsibility and accountability. When budgets and schedules squeezed, change management activities are quickly pushed to the bottom of the priority list if there are no dedicated resources.


Apply a structured change management methodology – Instead of operating in an ad hoc manner, the dedicated change management resources approach change management with purpose and intent 

Formulate strategy – They evaluate how significant a change is and who will impact on developing a customized and scaled plan for managing the people side of the initiative.

Develop plans – Based on the strategy work, and the team creates a tailored set of plans for moving people forward, including a communication plan, a sponsor roadmap, a coaching plan, a training plan, and a resistance management plan

Support other roles – The change management resource is the coach and the go-to person responsible for enabling success with the different functions vital to change management.

Executives and Senior Managers


In the Best Practices in Change Management - 2018 Edition, the active and visible participation of the senior leader was cited as the first contributor to change management success. The role of the top leader has been the primary contributor to success since Prosci began researching change management in 1998.

Employees want to see and hear the executive's commitment to the change. The authority they provide carries over to other change management roles.

Active sponsorship is a predictor of success or failure on the project.


Participate actively and visibly throughout the project – There are three keywords here: active, visible, and throughout. Sponsors must be present and seen by employees from start to finish.

Build a coalition of sponsorship and manage resistance – The sponsor coalition describes the group of leaders and influencers who will give the change credibility and priority back to their departments, divisions, and workgroups. The primary sponsor must build and maintain a healthy sponsorship coalition.

Communicate directly with employees – Employees want to hear the business reasons for the change from someone at the top.

Managers and Supervisors


Managers and supervisors are close to the action. It is their teams who must change how they do their jobs for the change to be successful. Managers are the preferred sender of change messages about the personal impact of a difference on their team members.

In any organization, there are two types of change always happening: top-down initiatives launched by senior leaders (macro-changes), and responses to daily demands from customers and suppliers (micro-changes). Managers and supervisors support their employees through both types of changes.

The attitude and actions of a manager will show up in his or her people, whether the position is one of support or one of opposition.


The five roles of managers and supervisors during change are:

Communicator – Employees prefer to hear messages about how the change directly impacts them and their team from the person they report.

Advocate – If the manager opposes the change, the chances are that his or her people will as well. In many cases, the opposite is also exact. Making sure a manager or supervisor is on board with a change, and advocating for it is the first step the change management team must take before expecting managers and supervisors to fulfill their role in change management.

Coach – Helping employees through their transitions is the essence of change coaching by middle managers and supervisors.

Liaison – The role of the relationship involves interacting with the project team, taking direction, and providing feedback.

Resistance manager – Research shows that the best intervention to mitigate resistance comes from the employee's immediate supervisor.

Project Team


The project team tasked with managing the technical side of the change. In the end, they are the people who design how things will have done differently than they are today.

Without direction and management, the technical side of the project will not move forward.

The project team also plays a role in ensuring that change management is part of the project by providing the appropriate resources (budget and personnel) and time.

Change management will be most effective when it pulled in at the launch of the project.


Design the actual Change – The project team creates a solution that ultimately impacts how people do their jobs.

Manage the 'technical side' – With tools like the charter, business case, schedule, resources, work breakdown structure, budget, etc. the project team moves the technical side of the change forward.

Engage with the Change management team/resource – By working with the change management resource or organization, the project team ensures that the technical side and the people side of the change progress in unison.

Integrate change management plans into the project plan – By beginning change management at the start of the project and weaving the change management strategy and plans into the technical-side plans, the project team creates one seamless project plan.

Project Support Functions


Project support functions bring expertise in a particular area. These groups include:

  • Internal Communication specialists
  • Human Resources Business Partners
  • Organization Development staff
  • Training specialists
  • Business analysts
  • Subject matter experts

These complementary functions enhance the execution of change management activities with interdisciplinary best practices and help maintain strategic alignment into the broader organizational context.

In some cases, staff from these project support functions might serve as the change management resource role.


Incorporate their experience and expertise – Project support functions bring experience on past changes that can apply to the current revision.

Contribute knowledge – Each of these groups has the specialized experience that can help the project team and the change management resource or organization.

Offer tools – Each of the areas bring specific tools that support change management activities. Support roles need to ensure their devices apply in alignment with change management best practices.

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