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What is a “Change Manager”?


Last week I met the PA of an emminent professor at Cranfield University, I met her on several occasions before and knew her to be a bright chatty woman who always enjoyed passing the time of day.

On this occasion when I asked her how her week was going she looked at me and I could see that she wanted to smile but the uscles in her face would not work and after a few twitches she gave up trying and looked back at the ground.

I asked her what was the matter and she told me that her department was undergoing change.

I asked her what that actually meant.

She told me that a "Change Manager" had appeared in the department and everybody was waiting to see who got the sack.

This was a woman, who is normally a capable and confident administrator.

She had been reduced to a nervous wreck because she perceived that an anonymous arbiter had been brought in to decide her future.

This was her reaction to the presence of a "Change Manager" based on her perception that change meant people being sacked.

How close is this perception to anybody elses reality?

Peter Hunter

4 Responses

  1. Cultural perception of change
    I think this is more of a cultural perception of change more than anything else.

    People always seem to be frightened of change even though change can be an extremely positive thing.

    I always thought a change manager was responsible for managing the process of change. i.e. tracking, approving etc. It never occurred to me that it might involve sacking folks as part of the role.

  2. Change management euphemism
    There is no such thing as a Change Manager. I have made nore people redundant than hot dinners but would never use that title. The title means nothing and tends to range from management of redundancy to pink and cuddly culture change facilitation. It seems that the process of change is already going badly if this ‘change manager’ is creating fear and confusion because of poor communication.

  3. ‘Change Agent’ – a more positive approach?
    A little disappointing that an organisation such as Cranfield, which itself trains many managers in leading change, may not quite have got this right?

    Surely ‘change agent’ is a much more positive term – and has positive connotations around the individual who champions change, helps to provide an exciting vision of the future, is a good influencer and experienced in helping people to find a positive way through otherwise daunting changes.

    I’m not entirely sure that appointing someone in the role of ‘Change Manager’ is the best approach? Often this role is taken by someone brought in for the purpose – eg an external consultant, who can play hatchet man and then move out of the organisation afterwards, with little concern about being able to continue to work in the organisation.

    A ‘change agent’ however, would often be a well-established insider, someone in a recognised specialist or technical role, who stands out as having a positive approach, and who would be able to help people sustain a positive vision of the future, influence and build a consensus for change, encourage continued effort for change, and continue to work in the new organisation afterwards. This is much more challenging and rewarding than the hatchet man.

    It depends on how the organisation sees it, I suppose. Could Cranfield truly be taking the ‘hatchet man’ approach rather than ‘change agent’?

  4. Changing the Change Focus
    I agree that Cranfield appear to have got it wrong by simply appointing this “Change Manager” and not positioning this role or appointment, through clear and effective communications. Theoretical and practical change management relies on several key fundamentals:
    -)knowing what you want to change (at a high level) and communicating that through painting the picture
    -)involving stakeholders in producing the optimum solution, as involvement is key in obtaining buy-in from change subjects and others on the periphery
    -) communicating the change on a regular basis and selling the successes; even when there is no new information, it is worthwhile reinforcing previously disseminated materials
    -) implementing the change, giving it time to bed in, reviewing it and fine tuning it where required.

    Clearly little of this has been done. I know Cranfield will have its share of “thought leaders”, especially in HR and Business Strategy and it is disappointing to see that they are not being involved in this change.

    Pashori Lal
    Chartered FCIPD, Prince 2 Practitioner.

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