How to become a change manager
Ever wondered how you can become a change manager? In this article, we describe what you need to do to become one and how to apply change management at your organisation.
Definition of change management
Change management is basically the act of transitioning an organisation from a situation yielding little benefits, to a situation providing plenty of benefits. It requires teamwork using tools and processes to achieve the desired results.
Applying change in organisations requires optimism, determination and dedication. Therefore, a person must oversee the change strategy and be able to drive it to its proper destination. That person is the change manager.
Why organisations use change managers and perform change management
Change managers play a significant role in the success of change initiatives as they direct the desired outcomes down the right path. They do this using best practices and customising such practices to the organisation’s culture. Better performance from staff, improved ways of working and higher sales targets are some of the outcomes we can tangibly see.
Here are some findings after change management was implemented in companies lead by a change manager:
- According to IBM, the success rate of change projects using a dedicated change manager rose by 19% compared to those that did not.
- ChangeFirst Limited say that six to nine months after project launch, projects with change management input were delivering significant performance improvements, financial results and behavioural change. Most of the respondents attributed over 20% of the success directly to effective change management.
- Ferris stated that effective change management delivers improved adoption speed, utilization rate and employee proficiency, stressing the importance of effective preparation for change, disciplined management, and clear reinforcement.
- Prosci mentioned that change management programmes rated ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ had an above-80% success rate. Those rated ‘poor’ or ‘fair’ achieve less than 50%. 
What a change manager does
A change manager manages the change portfolio. Some of their responsibilities are:
- Identifying, analysing and preparing risk mitigation tactics
- Identifying and managing anticipated resistance
- Integrating change management activities into a project plan
- Evaluating and ensuring user readiness
They perform change management by:
- Completing change management assessments
- Defining and measuring success metrics and monitoring change progress
- Supporting organisational design and definition of roles and responsibilities
- Creating communications plan, sponsor roadmap, coaching plan, training plan, resistance management plan
And other people involved are:
- Senior leaders, managers and supervisors
- HR Personnel
- Project leaders and teams
- Other specialists related with the change plans 
How to start a change manager career from scratch
Firstly, you probably need to have at least on-the-job experience as middle management in a corporate environment. The reason for this is because it helps you understand the complexity of individuals, teams, and senior leaders’ issues. You will need to know how to mediate between these different people and their departments’ needs to achieve the change you are assigned to.
If you are in an entry level or junior position, you can check if your organisation offers change agent roles. These roles will help you comprehend and take part of the change process and eventually gain experience in the change cycle.
In addition to that, knowledge of the industry your organisation is working in is important. You are expected to at least know the products and services your company sells and reflect that in your change plan. A fashion house will be different from a car selling company, for example. The internal and external structure of both are completely different and should be taken into consideration.
This applies also to profession. If your background/study area is Human Resources Management, and you are assigned to initiate change in the Information Technology department, you must familiarise yourself in IT before making any further steps.
If you haven’t studied management before, accredited certifications like APMG’s Change Management courses can help boost your credentials and learn the frameworks and models to implement change management. Courses like these will teach you:
- Different professional approaches to implement change smoothly
- How to motivate people into adjusting to organisational change
- How to minimise the risks of unsuccessful methods
A range of skills is required to facilitate the wanted change and function effectively as a change manager. Such skills include:
Strong communication skills
It is essential for a change manager to be able to communicate clearly and effectively in all writing, speaking, listening and reading activities. They must be able to deliver their change message to all stakeholders involved.
A big part of change is the ability to influence others, as resistance plays a big factor in the change curve. When you know the team members of your change project well, it will help you negotiate and convince them with the original reason for change and thus gain their trust.
You can’t assume that everybody in the company will understand your change mission. Hence, meetings like awareness sessions, in-house training and one-to-one mentoring will be needed to deliver your message.
Strategic thinking and judgment
It is not recommended to jump into conclusions and rush into decisions while you are a change manager. You must be able to think ahead and weigh the consequences of your actions.
Putting on a project manager’s hat while working on your change initiative will help strengthen your case and identify the problem while proposing a solution.
Along with your ability to manage your team, you will have to manage yourself as well. What we mean by this is being able to take initiative, organise your time/workload and take accountability for your actions. In addition to these, you must also be able to control your emotions and be tolerant and confident.
How can I move into a change manager role from another position?
If you manage to tick all the boxes of the change manager check list, you might get the job!
As we mentioned before, change isn’t easy. It takes a lot of momentum, resilience and persistence. Being a change manager means you will need to sell the change to the individuals around you, your stakeholders, your team members, the project and the whole organisation, and eventually yourself.
Once you enter the change zone, you will have to commit to it to the very end. Thus, preparation is key to your success!
To be fully ready and equipped for your journey as a change manager, why don’t you enrol for the 3-day Change Management Foundation classroom course, or the 5-day Change Management Foundation & Practitioner classroom course in London provided by Knowledge Train®! They are accredited by APMG in partnership with the Change Management Institute (CMI).
Contact Knowledge Train® today to book your seat!
 The Change Management Institute (CMI) (2014). The Effective Change Manager’s Handbook. Australia: Vivid Publishing. 4-5
 Prosci. (Unknown). Change Management Job Description. Available: https://www.prosci.com/resources/articles/change-management-job-description. Last accessed 22 Oct 2018.
Simon Buehring is the Founder and Managing Director of Knowledge Train.