How to Leverage the Five Levers of Change Management
Written by Tim Creasey
The Prosci 3-Phase Change Management Process provides step-by-step instruction and research-based tools for creating effective and holistic change management strategies and plans for projects and initiatives. Based on years of research, there are five change management levers practitioners use to engage employees impacted by change: communications lever, sponsor roadmap lever, coaching lever, training lever and resistance management lever.
This tutorial presents data from over 400 change management practitioners who participated in Prosci Change Management Webinars in June 2011 and March 2012. Participants provided informative data on how they are using the five levers of change management through polls conducted during the webinars. The results may surprise you. At a minimum they should make you think about which tools you are using and which you are neglecting.
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Where the Five Levers Fit In
The Prosci 3-Phase Change Management Process is an approach built on benchmarking research for creating effective change management strategies and plans for a specific project or initiative. The process-oriented approach provides a level of customization and scalability that makes the methodology applicable to many types of operational and organizational change occurring in organizations every day. The Phases of the Prosci Methodology are:
Phase 1 - Preparing for change: This phase is about building the situational awareness for change management to be successful, including impact analysis and risk profiling. This phase also includes identifying and preparing the change management team and sponsor coalition.
Phase 2 - Managing change: This phase is about creating the concrete deliverables for engaging impacted employees, such as the communications plan, sponsor roadmap, training plan, coaching plan and resistance management plan. These tools are what are typically considered "change management," but they are only effective if they are used inside of a holistic process.
Phase 3 - Reinforcing change: Often overlooked, this phase includes the specific actions and activities for understanding if the change is being adopted and where gaps exist. It also includes any steps or mechanisms for ensuring that the change is sustained like recognitions, celebrations of successes, alignment of performance measurement and incentives.
The five levers of change management make up Phase 2 - Managing change.
Which levers do practitioners typically use?
During the webinars, attendees answered the following question: Which of the five levers do you typically create in a change management engagement? Attendees could check any or all of the five levers.
Not surprisingly, most attendees typically create a communications plan (85% of attendees) and a training plan (79%). What is surprising is the rapid drop-off between these two levers and the other three levers. Just over one quarter of attendees (29%) created a sponsor roadmap, and less than one in five created a resistance management plan (18%) or a coaching plan (14%).
The primary concern here is that those in the organization who are the face and voice of change - namely senior leaders, managers and supervisors - are not being effectively supported with sponsor roadmaps and coaching plans. These groups are routinely identified as critical success factors, preferred senders of change messages and in the best position to reinforce change. But their involvement seems to be expected or assumed rather than architected.
Takeaway: Change management practitioners can be more successful by building a holistic approach that uses all five levers. Plans aimed at creating more active and visible involvement by senior leaders (the sponsor roadmap), managers and supervisors (the coaching plan) ensure that employees are hearing and seeing what they need to from leaders in the organization. The Prosci 3-Phase Change Management Process provides structure, tools and templates for creating all five change management levers and can be particularly valuable for creating the levers that change management practitioners tend to neglect or overlook.
How Many Levers Are Used?
In addition to the raw data on tool usage, another informative conclusion can be drawn by analyzing how many levers each webinar attendee marked as being typically used.
Very few webinar attendees reported using all five levers (4%) and only slightly more reported using four of the levers (6%). Over one quarter of attendees used only a single lever (26%). Most attendees reported using two of the five levers available in the change management toolbox (38%). The dark portion of the "2 levers" bar represents those who reported specifically using only the communications plan and the training plan (33%).
Change management practitioners are rarely utilizing the complete set of levers available in the Prosci 3-Phase Change Management Process. Whether it is time, budget or support considerations, practitioners are not being as complete as they could in their approach to help employees embrace and adopt change.
Takeaway: Use all of the levers you have at your disposal. Each lever uniquely contributes to successful change. Not utilizing all of the levers leaves certain aspects of change to chance and puts at risk the project outcomes and results.