As we kick off 2019, I’m taking a moment to look at what lies ahead. I spend most of my time interacting with, studying alongside, teaching and learning about change practitioners. In looking at the coming year, I wanted to share what I’m seeing on the horizon of the change field. We’ll explore two distinct and seemingly polar developments: 1) pushing boundaries, and 2) revisiting foundations. Both are interesting in their own right, and Prosci is thrilled to provide new opportunities to support clients on these journeys in the new year.


Pushing Boundaries

Pushing-boundariesThe pace and velocity of change is like nothing we’ve experienced. Around every corner lie issues or opportunities for our organization to tackle. Change management emerged to address one particular aspect of the change challenge – to drive effective adoption and proficient usage of solutions by impacted employees so people-dependent ROI is realized. Over the past several decades, a number of other change disciplines have emerged to address particular change challenges.

Change Management and Agile

Agile emerged as an inclusive, iterative solution development approach to improve alignment between employee needs and what is ultimately delivered by a change effort. Lean Six Sigma grew and evolved as an approach to reduce waste and improve efficiencies in operations to create cost advantages. Design thinking is emerging to increase the attunement of solution development with the real needs of those being served by the solution. On the horizon for change management, I see boundaries being pushed.

At one level, the boundary will be pushed between change management and specific change approaches. The intersection of change management and Agile iterative development is one of the most pressing issues for today’s change agents. In 2017, Prosci published a targeted research report on the people side of change and Agile, and in 2018 Prosci brought to market a one-day workshop on the intersection of Agile and change management. We began with a European Roadshow that included three workshops for over 180 attendees and a keynote at a conference with over 150. In the fall of 2018, we brought the program directly to clients and to open enrollment sessions around the U.S. – with plans to extend to Australia and Canada in 2019.

The Prosci change management approach effectively adjusts and adapts to match the pace and cadence of an Agile approach. The Prosci ADKAR Model and the five levers in the Prosci 3-Phase Process both split at the initiative and release levels to support employees on their changes. Thoughtful practitioners who leverage the shared values of Agile and change management can make great headway in bringing the disciplines together in practice. Organizations looking to increase agility and deploy Agile approaches will reap the most benefits when they effectively integrate change management on the efforts and push the boundary of adoption and usage of iteratively developed solutions – and Prosci is having fun supporting these innovators!

Change-Enabling Systems

More broadly, I’m seeing the boundaries between many of these change disciplines pushed by the emergence of what Prosci began calling “change-enabling systems” back in 2016. The change-enabling system is a platform of several change capabilities intended to provide a coordinated solution supporting change efforts to increase change outcomes and probability of success. The capabilities being built into these systems vary – but many include disciplines like change management, project management, process excellence, communication, strategy, continuous improvement, learning and development, Agile, Lean Six Sigma, etc. Over the last two years, we’ve taken this cutting-edge work to an ACMP Masterclass, an ACMP NorCal Symposium workshop, a TCB Conference presentation and workshop, and to several specific clients.

These change ecosystems will be critical to spark the innovation necessary to tackle the issues and opportunities we will face in coming years. Most organizations are still early in their effort around mobilizing these change ecosystems. They have collected a number of these capabilities, indeed. But they have come up short on leveraging the combined power of a coordinated approach. Activating a change-enabling system needs: 1) common and shared understanding, 2) anchors for integration, and 3) a platform for collaboration. At Prosci, we are supporting the innovators and early adopters who are taking the step to activate their ecosystem – and I expect this trend to increase significantly in the years to come.

Revisiting Foundations

Revisiting-foundationsSo out in front, I’m seeing boundaries being pushed. The other interesting trend I’ve noticed recently is in the other direction – which I’m calling here, “revisiting foundations.” Overall, I think the discipline is going through a third wave of growth. 2010-2012 was the first, followed by a second in 2014-2015.

I think we’re in the midst of a third, and fairly significant, wave of expansion of the discipline of change management. We are seeing expanded application across industry and change type, and broader penetration within particular organizations.

That aside, I am seeing two specific “foundations” being revisited more than others: 1) sponsorship, and 2) the integration of change management and project management.

1) Sponsorship:

  • Exhibit A: I was engaging a council of change practice leaders from some large organizations. While I usually take fairly sophisticated development to them, when I asked about their biggest challenge, they immediately and nearly unanimously replied “sponsorship!”
  • Exhibit B: ACMP NorCal is a pretty progressive change community. I have presented at their last four fall change symposiums – the previous three taking some really early and advanced thinking (value proposition workshop, change ecosystems, Agile integration). In 2018, the theme they picked based on feedback from their membership was, you guessed it, securing sponsorship!
  • Exhibit C: Take a look at the 2019 Global ACMP conference program and see how many sessions focus on sponsors and sponsorship (it is a lot).

It is no surprise that sponsorship is the top contributor to success – it has been that way in 10 studies over two decades by Prosci, and in each of our own experiences. But it is also no surprise that many, perhaps most, change practitioners still struggle to get their senior leaders to effectively fulfill the role of sponsor.

When addressing ACMP NorCal on Oct 19, 2019, I presented a talk on how to enlist (with context and language), engage (in a symbiotic relationship), and empower (by building competencies) the leaders you need to step up as great sponsors. One of the big shifts I proposed, and I think could empower those practitioners still wrestling with sponsorship, is to shift your thinking from the anonymous verb “to sponsor” (which we all know as the ABCs from Prosci’s research) toward the human being “your sponsor” (who is going through a personal ADKAR change journey called “being a good sponsor of change”).

Manage that individual, personal sponsor change to improve sponsorship on the initiative. I look forward to how Prosci extends our support of clients who are growing their sponsor competencies across the enterprise.

2) Project Management:

  • Exhibit A: In December 2017, I supported two one-day workshops hosted by The Conference Board. The second day, which I pushed for, was on our change-enabling systems work. The first day, which triggered the event at their request because they had been hearing so much demand for it, was information on integrating change management and project management.
  • Exhibit B: Take a look at any of the recent ACMP Conference programs and you’ll find many, many sessions on integrating CM and PM.
  • Exhibit C: In discussing expectations at several recent advanced workshops, the top two responses were integrating CM and PM, and once again, sponsorship.

Prosci began exploring the integration of change management and project management in our research way back in 2009 – a decade ago! We did another deep dive on the topic in the 2013 best practices study. From the research and in the Prosci approach, integration of CM and PM happens across four dimensions: results (why we are changing), people (who is doing the work), process (how we are doing the work), and tools (what we are using to support the change).

In recent conference presentations and development on the Prosci Scorecard, I’ve started to really probe the question, “what is our finish line?” for projects and initiatives. I’m still amazed but no longer surprised how many change initiatives are launched without a clear articulation of what they are trying to achieve. I was told one time, “Tim, at some point in time, somewhere, someone knew why we were doing this change.” This is the unfortunate reality – the “finish line” gets lost along the way.

With a clearly-defined, outcome-oriented “finish line” in place and socialized, the groundwork is laid for effective integration and improved change results and outcomes. I look forward to supporting our clients – both on specific initiatives and more systemically – in integrating change management and project management.

Final Thoughts

So that is what I’m seeing.Final-thoughts

  • Pushing Boundaries:
    1. 1) At the intersection of Agile and change management
    2. 2) As change ecosystems are activated and leveraged
  • Revisiting Foundations:
    • 1) Refocusing and engaging senior leaders as effective sponsors
    • 2) Exploring the episodic and systemic integration of CM and PM

I’m also particularly interested in change management practitioner competency. A few years ago I came across the Dreyfus Skill Acquisition Model, which I felt uniquely offered insight into exploring competencies. Through numerous co-creation sessions over the last 16 months, we have moved forward a complete Prosci Change Practitioner Competency Assessment and framework for improving practitioner capabilities. Though this is still very much in development, I’m excited to bring it to the community in 2019 – keep your eyes peeled!

Have a prosperous New Year!


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