Who Should be Doing What During a Business Change?

Posted by Don Harrison on Tue, Nov 26, 2019 @ 11:36 AM

In the implementation of an organizational change, everyone has a role. In fact, many people have more than one role. In the AIM Change Management Methodology, I’ve deemed the Who’s Who of organizational change a “CAST of Characters.” Each of the four roles, Champions, Agents, Sponsors and Targets has a specific job to do:


  • Champions believe in the change and attempt to obtain commitment and resources for it but may not have the line authority to make it happen. AIM's CAST of Characters
  • Agents are assigned responsibility to implement change and are evaluated on their ability to get the project implemented.
  • Sponsors authorize, legitimize and demonstrate ownership for the change (Authorizing Sponsors). Or they must reinforce their personal commitment through their own visible, active behavior (Reinforcing Sponsors).
  • Targets change behavior, emotions, knowledge, perceptions, etc.

AIM’s CAST of Characters

Below we’ll take an in depth look at each CAST member’s responsibility and what they can do to help ensure implementation success.


Champions are anyone within the organization who believe in and want the change. These individuals are committed to help drive the change and often attempt to obtain additional commitment as well as resources.

However, Champions may be limited in what they can get done as they may not have authority over the performance of the Targets. So, while it is great to build a critical mass of change Champions, in the end these individuals don't have direct accountability for the implementation.


Change Agents, on the other hand, are the individuals who have been assigned the responsibility of implementing the change. They are primarily responsible for the tactical activity including strategy, design, deployment and evaluation of the change.

Because implementation takes place at the local level, it is essential to build a network of local Change Agents distributed across the impacted areas of the organization. These may be people working on a corporate project team or in a field location or business unit.

Given the importance of the Change Agent role, picking the right Change Agents is a critical step that should not be overlooked. A common mistake is when Agents are selected based on who is available or who is the most technically knowledgeable, rather than on who has the right skills to influence others.


Sponsors authorize, legitimize and demonstrate ownership for change. In order to be a Sponsor, an individual must have sufficient organizational power and/or influence to either initiate the resource commitment (aka an Authorizing Sponsor) or reinforce the change at the local level (aka a Reinforcing Sponsor).

Sponsorship is not a voluntary position. A Sponsor is anyone who has people reporting to them who will be impacted by the change. Sponsors are responsible for three very important actions. They must:

  • Express commitment to the change
  • Model commitment to the new behaviors and
  • Reinforce the new behaviors through application of positive rewards and negative consequences

Generating a cascade of committed Sponsors throughout the organization is the most critical success factor in ensuring a fast and successful implementation of any type of business change.


Simply put, Targets are those individuals most impacted by the change. Anyone whose behavior, expectations, skills, perceptions and/or work processes will change is a Target. In fact, everyone should be treated as a Target first! This includes Sponsors, who may not perform the Sponsor role if they are focused on their individual situations instead of on the organizational needs.

In order to build Target readiness, every Target of the change needs to be provided with:

  • Information regarding "What does this change mean to me?" and “What is in it for me personally?”
  • Motivation to make the change. what reinforcements are going to be put in place?
  • Skills and Knowledge to do things in the new way.
  • Confidence by having a lot of practice opportunities, immediately followed by feedback on their performance.

Overlapping Roles

During a major change, there is always an overlap of roles. For example, imagine you have a stroke of brilliance and begin to champion it within your organization. In order to get the idea implemented, you’ll need a Sponsor who has the requisite power and authority to provide you with the resources. This Authorizing Sponsor may say, “Wow! That is a great idea, go make it happen!” Now you are not only a Champion, but you are also an Agent. If you have people who report to you who must change as a result of your wonderful improvement, you are now a Reinforcing Sponsor as well. Don't forget, you will need to change your behavior, too. So, on top of it all you are also a Target!

Gaining clarity around the roles and responsibilities during a business change is a basic, but critical step towards implementation success. And as you can see, while there are four roles with distinct responsibilities they obviously intersect and overlap quite often. So now I ask, do you know who should be doing what in your change project? And maybe more importantly, do they know what they need to be doing?

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Topics: Sponsorship, Change Management Methodology, Change Agents, Accelerating Implementation Methodology (AIM)