Explore the Levels of Change Management

5 Tips for Building Organizational Change Management Competency

Tim Creasey

4 Mins


Building change management competency requires a shift in focus. Instead of deploying change projects through change management practitioners alone, building organizational competency requires developing and deploying change management across your organization to advance your organization's success with ongoing change. Also known as enterprise change management, this systematic deployment of change management skills, tools and processes eventually makes effectively managing change part of your organizational DNA. 

Deploying Change Management as an Organizational Competency

The five tips below can help you start building organizational change management competency with focus and intent. 

1. Treat competency-building as a project

Building organizational change competency does not occur as a single announcement or leadership decree. And it doesn't occur by simply training people on how to manage change. When you build this competency, you're fundamentally changing how your organization handles change.

To be successful, it's critical to view and manage the work as a project. The project needs structure and someone to manage it, and a team to evaluate, design and deploy the approach. 

The enterprise change management (ECM) deployment process takes place in three stages: vision, strategy and implementation. During the vision stage, the team charged with building change management competency defines the future state—or what the organization will look will it look like when it becomes competent at managing change. That team also assesses the current state by evaluating the levers and risks involved in the deployment effort. Next, the team leverages the strategy and implementation phases to evaluate options and make decisions about how to structure and sequence the deployment effort. This work culminates in a project plan.

When organizations don't treat change management deployment as a project, progress toward building competency can slow, even when you have a great deal of activity. It is critical to guide deployment efforts and keep them aligned with your future state of change competency.

Are you treating change management deployment as a project?

2. Treat competency-building as a change

Building change management competency should also be viewed as a change to how people work. When you ask senior leaders to begin taking on the role of sponsor, they must change how they do their jobs. When you ask project teams to apply change management processes and integrate people- side activities into their project plans, they must change how they do their jobs. When you ask front-line managers and supervisors to become effective coaches of their direct reports during times of change, they must change how they do their jobs. 

Said another way, it takes change management to deploy change management. Consider "applying change management" as a change you are trying to bring about. This effort will require both organizational change management and its structured approach and set of tools (Communications Plan, Sponsor Roadmap, Coaching Plan, Training Plan, and Resistance Management Plan), as well as individual change management.

The Prosci ADKAR Model describes five key building blocks of any successful change: awareness, desire, knowledge, ability and reinforcement. In the context of building organizational change competency, this translates as:

  • Awareness of the need for change management
  • Desire to participate and support change management
  • Knowledge of how to apply change management
  • Ability to implement required change management skills and behaviors
  • Reinforcement to sustain change management application

Many practitioners make the mistake of ignoring change management when they work to deploy change management. When you work to build change competency across the organization, you must utilize change management to improve speed of adoption, utilization, and proficiency of applying change management.

Are you managing the people side of change management deployment?

3. Utilize a holistic strategy

Building your organizational competency to manage change does not occur by simply training some people. It doesn't happen by weaving change management activities into a project lifecycle. To be successful, you need a holistic and structured approach. Prosci research identifies five strategic areas to leverage when building organizational change competency: leadership, project, skill, structure and process.  


ECM Strategy Map


Each of the five areas represents specific tactics your organization must develop. Effective leadership must drive the change management deployment efforts. Teams must determine which projects need change management and how to integrate it. People need to build new skills because managing change is a new competency to them. You must help people in the organization build that competency. Change management needs an organizational footprint or structure upon which people will apply change management throughout the organization. And you must adapt existing organizational business processes to incorporate change management, including performance management and project launch processes.

While this framework seems simple, there should be a well considered, sequenced set of tactics under each of the five areas. To avoid expending all your energy getting started and leaving the rest to chance, a holistic, structured approach ensures long-lasting, sustained application.

Is your approach to deploy change management holistic and structured?

4. Dedicate a competency-building team

Someone has to do the work described above. You must put a team in place to manage the project of deploying change management. This team builds out the change management plans necessary to manage the people side of this change and develop specific tactics that ultimately bring change management to life in the organization.

Effective teams reflect the organization and how changes occur there. It's not enough to have a small team of specialists in one functional area. Prosci research shows that change management needs a presence in HR, the project management office, and in business functions or units that initiate change, such as IT or a process improvement group. Lines of business should also be represented because change impacts managers and supervisors throughout the organization. The team that decides how to roll out change management should represent all of these groups, so they can align tactics that apply to all of them. 

Do you have a representative team leading change management deployment?

5. Secure effective sponsorship

Although sponsorship is the last our five tips, research consistently shows it's number one in terms of impact on success. Building organizational change competency—becoming change-ready and change-agile as an organization—requires considerable work and causes considerable change. It impacts how you conceive and launch projects. It impacts how project teams move forward in their work. It impacts how senior leaders, middle managers, front-line supervisors and employees see themselves in relation to change and how they behave. With this size and scope of enterprise-wide effort impacting much of the employee base, sponsorship must be effective, active, engaged and well-positioned.

Sponsors have three primary roles during times of change:

  • Participate actively and visibly throughout the project
  • Build a coalition with key leaders and managers
  • Communicate directly with employees.

Prosci research shows that the more effective sponsors are at fulfilling these three roles, the more successful the change effort will be. Why would your project to deploy change management competency be different? 

Do you have the sponsorship necessary to deploy an organization-wide change?

Success in an Ever-changing World

When you begin to build change competency, your organization can start realize many benefits. Reducing employee resistance, mitigating change saturation, improving adoption and outcomes, lowering costs over time—they all become part of the way you do business. And in our world of faster, more complex and ongoing change, being equipped to react quickly and competently positions your organization for success, no matter the changes ahead.        

Download the eBook, "6 Tatics for Growing Enterprise Change Capability."

Tim Creasey

Tim Creasey

Tim Creasey is Prosci’s Chief Innovation Officer and a globally recognized leader in Change Management. Their work forms the basis of the world's largest body of knowledge on managing the people side of change to deliver organizational results.

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