What Every Manager Should Know About Managing Change

Posted by Paula Alsher on Thu, Jun 11, 2015 @ 01:31 PM

Managers play a major role in ensuring change happens. The more they know about best practices of change management, the easier this will be. However, in reality...they don’t really need to know it all. What Every Manager Should Know About Change

When we apply our proprietary change management methodology Accelerating Implementation Methodology (AIM) on our clients' transformational and other types of change, we build a readiness plan that segments education by role and by what the audience needs to know and do in order to carry out that role.  In other words, people are prepared and informed on a need to know basis only!

For example, we might breakdown the key audiences as follows:

  • Executives
  • Senior Leadership Team
  • Directors
  • Managers
  • Agents, PMO, IT
  • Associates

Each of these audiences will differ in terms of how they will use and interact with the AIM change management methodology. While Senior Leadership Team members might need to be knowledgeable about the implementation strategy and their role as Sponsors of a transformational change, Associates need to know how the change is going to affect their daily tasks.

So what about Managers? What do they need to know? Besides understanding how they will deploy the change and the rationale for the change, we’ve identified 6 key elements of the AIM roadmap that every manager should know.

AIM Road Map

Define the Change

In our 30+ years of working with global clients, we have found that the lack of a clear, compelling definition of the change is perhaps the most sub-optimized step in the change process. In order to properly define the change, there are four questions that need to be asked.

  1. What are we changing?
  2. Why are we changing?
  3. What are the consequences of not changing?
  4. And how will success be measured?

These 4 answers create a basis for a business case for action that must then be clearly communicated to all those impacted by the change. While Managers will be handed a corporate version of the business case, this must be translated into language and context that is meaningful for each Manager’s direct reports.


Determine Required Sponsorship

Sponsorship is the single most important factor in ensuring a fast and successful implementation. Effective leaders understand that real change is accelerated when what they Express, Model, and Reinforce are all aligned and demonstrate commitment to the change. Managers must focus on creating this level of commitment at the beginning, middle, and end of major changes in order to get to full implementation. Managers not only have accountability for “cascading messages,” they must also cascade their personal commitment through their demonstrated daily actions!


Identify Change Agent Requirements

Implementation takes place at the local level. This means that successful implementation requires an identified group of Change Agents who have accountability for the implementation. Most importantly, projects must have Change Agents with the required competencies, and there must be a sufficient number of Change Agents distributed across the impacted areas of the organization.

IMA’s Change Agent Assessment Tool can be used to select Change Agents with the right skills and personal characteristics, assess the competence of current Change Agents, and pinpoint needs for additional training and motivation.


Manage Resistance for Change Acceptance

Resistance is part of the natural change process. Resistance isn’t logical, and it can’t be overcome, combatted, or eliminated. Managers need to understand that the question shouldn’t be how to eliminate resistance, but rather, what to do about it so it doesn’t slow down adoption. Potential strategies include:

  1. Creating rapport with the Targets of the change
  2. Establishing clear expectations
  3. Asking open-ended questions
  4. Listening more than talking
  5. Creating win-win situations  

Build Reinforcement Strategy

There is no behavior change unless Managers change the reinforcements for performance. A best practice Implementation Plan must include a Reinforcement Strategy that aligns reinforcement mechanisms with the new performance expectations. Managers who are Reinforcing Sponsors must apply immediate rewards and negative consequences based on observable behavior of their direct reports.


Build Communication Plan

Too many organizations invest in top-down, one-way communications that won’t really drive behavior change. Remember, a communication plan is not the same thing as an implementation plan. The AIM methodology centers communication efforts on communicating the right message, to the right audience, using the right vehicles, and always includes a feedback loop to gather reactions to both content and process—how the change is being implemented.


Managers play a key role in any change implementation. While it would be great if they were well versed in the change management methodology you are using, in reality they don’t need to know every little detail. Instead, by focusing on preparing them for their accountabilities for the above 6 elements, managers will be able to do their part in implementing your change successfully.

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Topics: Accelerating Implementation Methodology (AIM), Leadership