4 mins

FAA Builds Change Capability to Tackle Complex Change

The FAA’s Flight Standards Service faced ongoing, complex changes related to ensuring safe air transportation across the U.S. The organization partnered with Prosci to help build a change-ready organization.

FAA Builds Change Capability to Tackle Complex Change

Change practitioners certified

Prepped for their roles in change

Service model for change management


With critical responsibilities to the public, the FAA recognized the need to become more effective at leading and managing organizational change. 


  • Certify practitioners to apply change management on projects
  • Support the engagement of sponsorship through Prosci research and content
  • Train internal Change Management Advisors through Prosci training credentials to build change competency with senior leaders, managers and employees
  • Attend the Prosci Enterprise Change Management Boot Camp to help develop the strategy for enterprise change management
  • Plan and implement Project ECM

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Our goal is to transform the way change is done in government. By changing our mindset and enhancing our skillset and toolset, we are effectively leading change. Prosci’s research-based methodology is supporting us in achieving change success.

— Aris Scarla, Manager of the Change Management Group at FAA, Flight Standards Service

Building Enterprise Change Capability

The Flight Standards Service of the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) promotes safe air transportation by setting regulations and standards for certification and oversight of airmen, air operators, air agencies and designees. The service employs over 5,400 people and its work impacts the millions of travelers that fly on commercial or private aircraft throughout the U.S. and the world every day.

The FAA as a whole has had a well-documented legacy of working complex changes. In recent years, many government agencies, including the FAA, have recognized the need to become more effective at leading and managing change. The Flight Standards Service internalized this charge and pledged to embed a new mindset, skillset and toolset for leading change.



Partnership with Prosci

When looking for an external organization to support their change management efforts, the Flight Standards Service wanted a methodology that was research-based and supported in academia, and would help them embed change leadership and not just come in with an army of consultants. Prosci was identified as an industry leader and an organization that would come alongside them and help them learn how to lead change.

The division created a small, newly formed Change Management Group (CMG) comprised of a manager and Change Management Advisors (CMAs). After attending the Prosci Change Management Certification Program, the CMAs immediately began developing a structured change management program and applying change management on projects. The CMAs attended the Prosci Train-the-Trainer Program and began training executive and senior leaders in change management. The group also attended the Prosci ECM Boot Camp in preparation for deploying enterprise change management (ECM).


Since Prosci research emphasizes the importance of sponsors for change management success, the Flight Standards CMG prioritized their efforts on first building sponsorship. They met with the Flight Standards Executive Director and presented data and benchmarking content to highlight a compelling case for what change management is and does. The Executive Director recognized the value change management would bring to their organization and became a critical sponsor for the efforts of the group. When the CMG candidly told him that change management success required all senior leadership to be advocates for and excellent sponsors of change management, he suggested they run a Prosci Change Management Sponsor Briefing for all Flight Standards senior leaders.

In preparation for the Sponsor Briefing, the CMG created awareness using the Prosci ADKAR® Model. They worked with the Executive Director to build awareness of the need for change management with all senior leaders. This, along with building the desire to be good sponsors of change, ensured that the senior leaders were ready to learn about their roles before attending the Sponsor Briefing.

The Sponsor Briefing resulted in senior leaders embedding the language of change into their daily conversations. This is a step forward in the organization’s commitment to change management. In fact, in a year-end video to all Flight Standards staff members, the Executive Director talked at length about change management and the Prosci ADKAR Model in particular, briefly explaining the model and its value to the organization.



Competency-building at all organizational levels

Active sponsorship impacted all levels of the Flight Standards Service. After the Sponsor Briefing, the senior leaders encouraged the CMG to train their Deputy Manager group. Again, the change management team postponed the training until these leaders had built the necessary awareness and desire with the session participants. The Deputy Managers similarly wanted to get the training immediately to their direct reports, and again the CMG postponed training until the Deputy Managers had built the necessary awareness and desire with their teams.

The Flight Standards CMG has delivered the Sponsor Briefing to all senior leaders, trained 530 middle and front-line managers in the Prosci Leading Your Team Through Change program, and scheduled all 4,500 other employees for the Prosci Taking Charge of Change program the following year.

Through planning the roll-out of an ECM capability as a project in its own right (“Project ECM”), the CMG created a clearly defined change management maturity goal and a structured, intentional approach to achieve it. Establishing a tailored CMG structure and governance model for change management support across the service was critical to program success.

Role of Change Management Advisors

Change Management Advisors are full-time resources with three main responsibilities: supporting the people of Flight Standards in building their change competency, advising executive and senior leaders on their role as change sponsors, and acting as internal consultants to those implementing change management on projects. Every CMA must go through the Prosci Change Management Certification Program and Train-the-Trainer Program to hold the position of CMA.

To build competency, these CMAs make sure that the organization is teaching Prosci’s change management courses to the right groups, at the right times, and with the right instructors. They also help the FAA training division effectively integrate change management content into existing training curriculum. The CMAs are assigned to specific executive and senior leaders, working closely with them to continue building their personal competency to lead change.

Role of Change Management Practitioners

The Change Management Practitioner (CMP) role is available for large-scale projects, identified and trained from within the Flight Standards organization. When launching a new project, the project sponsor works with their CMA to select the right candidate as a CMP. Only after they have been selected for a specific project will a CMP go through the Prosci Change Management Certification Program, as this allows them to quickly take the skills they’ve learned and apply it to their project. They will continue to work closely with their CMA as an advisor and coach. By limiting the training of a CMP until they start on a project, the Flight Standards Service is able to keep their costs low while also building a reliable pool of trained and experienced CMPs.

Three-Tier Service Model of change management support

The CMG also created a unique Three-Tier Service Model to streamline how they support change management application throughout the organization. In Tier One, a project is small enough that those outside of the CMG, such as the middle manager, project manager and front-line staff, should have enough capability to successfully apply change management to the change.

In Tier Two, the change is still managed mainly by those outside of the CMG, but a CMA will come alongside the project owner to provide guidance and advice. Tier Three is largely where the CMG gets involved. Here, a project is large enough to require dedicated CMP resourcing.




The Flight Standards Service has now certified around 40 CMPs and is applying change management on all projects. They have completed initial training on over 5,400 people at various levels in the FAA. While they’ve experienced their share of difficulties when internalizing a new competency, more projects have been successful in utilizing change management.

Community of practice in the public sector

In addition to growing change competency and a growing list of successful projects, the CMG at the Flight Standards Service has also invested in maturing the discipline of change management within the public sector. The FAA began working with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Department of Energy, and other government agencies to mutually strengthen their change management practices and skills. This is evolving into a structured community that is working to build a community of practice.


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