Be a Change Master

Updated: Sep 14

“Our ability to adapt is amazing. Our ability to change isn't quite as spectacular. “ —Lisa Lutz

A Google search of the term “Change Management” returns over 6 billion results in less than a second (about 4 billion of those are for digital tools), and more than 20,000 books on Change Management are available on Amazon.ca.


If there is so much information about change management available, why is it still so hard to do?


According to this article, the most challenging part of managing change is managing the people side. There are as many opportunities to fail at making any change happen as people involved – and an equal number of opportunities to succeed. The key to managing the process is how you handle the people side of change.


Any change requires a strong vision and a well thought out plan. Making any change stick starts with a strong vision for the change and a solid plan of action. Too many times, the change plan ends here. It doesn’t take into consideration the people side of the change, how different individuals will experience the process, and how the change will impact all of the stakeholders involved. I recommend a stakeholder map (try this template)


Stakeholder maps can be as straightforward or as complicated as you want to make them. The purpose is to write down who is involved or affected by the change (individuals or groups), how the change will impact them, and how you will help them deal with the transition.


For each stakeholder/stakeholder group, consider:

  • How will the change impact that stakeholder?

  • To what degree will the change have an impact on the stakeholder (high, medium, low)?

  • To what degree do you need a commitment from this stakeholder (high, medium, low)?

  • What do you anticipate will be their main concerns?

  • What will be the benefits to this stakeholder; specifically, what’s in it for them?

  • Decide your best method of approach for each stakeholder to get them on board with the transition.

In any change, you will have champions, fence-sitters and resisters. The key will be to identify who they are and determine how you will engage with them to smooth the process and get the change to stick.


“If you want to make enemies, try to change something.” —Woodrow Wilson

Champions – these are the people who will actively help you with your change. Be sure to engage your champions early in the change process as they will also be pushing for the change to happen with their connections as well. Keep up communication with them, particularly seeking their experiences with actual or potential resisters.


Fence-sitters – these are the people who are interested to see what will happen. They are equally likely to resist the change as they are to support it. They are the most likely to see this new process as the “change du jour” and may wait to see if it will stick before they put any effort into it. The direction they go depends on how well you and your champions communicate the benefits to them. Keep them informed and help them come around.


Resisters – There are two kinds of resisters: the active resisters will be vocal about why they are resisting and will tell you what their issues are. Many managers view these people as troublemakers who exist to drive them crazy. People who are willing to tell you why they don’t like the change are providing you with the perfect opportunity to open a conversation and identify potential pitfalls in advance. If you can deal with the root cause of the resistance, you can change active resisters into your greatest champions. The key is to be open to listening to their concerns and be willing to adapt your change if needed.


Silent or passive resisters are the most dangerous. On the surface, they may appear to be supportive of the change, but they will not follow through on their part of the change actions for a variety of “reasons.” Keep an eye on people who might be dragging their heels while outwardly being supportive. Engage them in a conversation about potential pitfalls and ask their opinions. They might be afraid to bring their concerns forward.


To become a Change Master, a process established by Rosabeth Moss Kanter, focus on these people-focused abilities:

  1. Tune into the Environment. Understand what opportunities are on the horizon. Listen to what is challenging for people in your organization.

  2. Indulge in blue-sky thinking and encourage others to do so as well.

  3. Communicate a clear vision. Communicate frequently and passionately. Encourage others to be passionate about how they see their part of the change happening.

  4. Build coalitions. Engage your champions early and identify potential resisters. Listen to their thoughts on the vision and the plans. Incorporate what you learn.

  5. Work through teams. Get real commitment from your everyone who is part of making the change happen. Use your champions to lead teams and collaborate with others.

  6. Persist and persevere and help others get through the challenging times. Everything can look like a failure in the middle, so be sure to concentrate on motivation and reinforcing the driving vision and benefits of the change.

  7. Make everyone a hero. Without every member of the change team, the change would not happen; be sure to celebrate and acknowledge all contributions.

“When in doubt, choose change.” —Lily Leung

Change is a fact of life, and the fast pace of changing technologies has supercharged this. How we manage the process for ourselves and others can significantly reduce the stress that too often comes with it.


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©2020 by Northern Leadership Program, managed by Science North on behalf of the partnership.