The 4 C's of a World-Class Change Manager
Written by Karen Ball
Updated: January 19, 2024
Published: February 2, 2022
You’ve probably heard about the 4 C’s of diamonds: color, clarity, cut and carat weight. Introduced in by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) in the 1940s, the 4 C's represent a global standard of attributes for judging diamonds.
How does this apply to change managers? I believe there's another set of C's we can use when hiring or training change management professionals, or even for preparing ourselves for the role. The 4 C's of a world-class change manager go beyond a job description and define the attributes necessary for success.
Qualities Change Managers Bring to the Role
To be clear, job descriptions are certainly helpful. Prosci provides a sample job description for a Change Management Specialist (with suggested variations in the title) that many organizations have found beneficial. It defines the role, responsibilities, skills and qualifications recommended for a person tasked with ensuring that projects or change initiatives meet objectives and realize benefits by increasing employee adoption and usage.
What I would like you to consider, beyond the recommended skills and qualifications, are the attributes of high-performing change management professionals that we see across organizations and geographies. This requires making the distinction between what someone does (a job description) and what someone brings to this role (their personal and professional attributes). In other words, the qualities regarded as characteristic of or inherent to someone who is successful in this role. I call these the 4 C’s of a world-class change manager.
A world-class change manager is committed to their role and the value they bring to projects and change initiatives, and thinks in terms of the people impacted by them. Commitment to themselves is demonstrated in the desire to develop their capabilities and competencies, always striving to learn and grow in the role, and knowing there is no "end state" for their knowledge and ability. They demonstrate commitment to the people impacted by change by their human-centered appreciation for how people navigate through change, ensuring that they are prepared, equipped and supported in the change process. This builds trust and lays the foundation for the person-by-person transition that must occur to achieve project success and have the desired impact on organizational success.
A world-class change manager thinks of connections in terms of people, projects, processes and outcomes:
- People connections enable them to weave a thread of influence from senior leadership to front-line employees.
- Project connections include understanding how individual projects impact the organization, and the cumulative and collective impact of multiple projects.
- Process connections address both business process and solution delivery. It's the integration of process activities and change capabilities that exist in the organization, as well as their common objectives.
- Outcome connections ensure that results align with organizational vision, strategy, goals and objectives in a measurable, sustainable way.
A world-class change manager communicates in an open, honest and authentic way. They understand the need to meet people where they are, both in terms of the language used and the context of communication. They understand the importance of aligning communication messages with what people care about and the problems they are trying to solve. And they leverage their connections to make change outcomes attainable, communicating lessons learned and celebrating successes.
A world-class change manager is creative, tapping their imagination and the imaginations of others in the organization. They create original ideas to simplify complex concepts, breaking large efforts into small pieces to make the end results more attainable. They think outside the box. They aren’t afraid to try new things and may even be willing to have a little fun in the process.
Hiring a Change Management Professional
The 4 C’s of a world-class change manager—commitment, connections, communication and creativity—may represent innate personality traits, trained capabilities, or most likely a combination of the two. You can decide on the path that works best for your organization to find the right person for this role:
- Diamond in the rough – someone who naturally has the 4 C’s but needs change management knowledge and skills. If you are looking to put someone into this role (or would like to be in this role yourself), getting the right training and coaching is key.
- Polished gem – a change practitioner with a history of success and collection of lessons learned. Search for someone who demonstrates these attributes and has the background and experience to step into the role and immediately shine in your organization.
Change Managers Create a Change-Positive Culture
Regardless of a change practitioner's qualities and job description, a change-positive culture that starts at the top and reaches everyone in your organization is critical to success. To maximize your investment in your 4 C’s change manager, give them the opportunity to shine brightly by creating the right setting. A beautiful diamond without the right environment will not be able to perform to its potential.
Whether you are searching, screening or training a candidate, or working on your own readiness for this role, you can use the 4 C’s as a standard for assessing attributes and selecting a world-class change manager. This person will be valuable and highly sought after in your organization. Kind of like diamonds.