Change Management is the New Black

by Michelle Reid-Powell

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Working for CARA has its perks. Among them are the incredible people I get to meet. As CARA grows our Change Management services capabilities, I have had the good fortune to meet with many Change Leaders from across Midwest companies. As we talked, I realized that many of them had a lot in common. Several were working to establish Change Management functions within Fortune 500 organizations. Many were struggling with how to set up an operating model for their department, and right-sizing the number and type of resources to meet the organization’s needs. Still others were working on sharing the value of Change Management with their internal organizations (including measuring the success of change initiatives), and developing change as a leadership competency.

My colleague, Martha Watt, and I were talking about this with Laura Cinat, VP of Organization Change Management at CNA. Wouldn’t it be nice, we thought, if we could get all of the corporate leaders accountable for change in their organizations—people we know who care a LOT about this topic—together for networking and idea-sharing?

On Friday, November 1st we held the first Change Management Leadership Roundtable, graciously hosted by Laura at the CNA offices. The session was attended by 22 strategic leaders representing large corporations in industries including pharma, insurance, retail, banking and manufacturing.  They all shared one thing in common – accountability for leading Change.

To warm us up, Martha shared some of the current trends in Change Management that she discovered by combing through research done by organizations such as PROSCI, ACMP and Kennedy. In short, there is a greater awareness of change, more resources devoted to it, and increased leadership support for employing Change Management methods. No longer pushed into the corner as the “fluffy stuff,” profit-focused companies realize that the only way to ensure success is by focusing on the people who will – or will not – make it happen.  Change Management is, apparently, “the new black” (or at least recognized as a way to keep projects IN the black).

 “No longer relegated to end of project, ‘nice to have’ status, Change Management is not only getting its due diligence, it’s becoming a worldwide movement.”

 – Kennedy Research, 2012

After Martha presented the research, Laura gave us a case study of Change Management at CNA. She included the rationale for Change (the enterprise strategy includes replacing older processes and systems with new capabilities and infrastructure), the charter of her OCM organization, the operating model she has put in place, and the way she has organized Change Management to deliver against expectations of the business. Laura also shared some lessons learned about how to find support in the organization, as well as the resources to staff her team.

After Laura presented her approach, we turned to the experts to share their experiences. Below I’ve captured some “themes” that emerged from that dialog.

Connect Change Management with Business Strategy

In essence, we heard this from everyone. Change Management does not exist in a vacuum. It exists to support key initiatives. The more tightly connected Change Management is to business strategy, the more impact it will have, and the more organizational support for success.

Build Change Leadership as a Leadership Competency

Having a Change Management team does not an agile organization make. Many of the leaders expressed the need to develop an appreciation for Change Management with all of the leaders in the organization. Tammy Seibert of Allstate explained that even when members of her Change Management team were not available to provide consulting for a change, they at least partnered with the business leader to provide coaching to help them succeed.

Lead with the Relationship and Share Successes

Most of those with internal Change Management teams were fairly new – within the past few years. They have been working to establish credibility with business unit leadership. Several participants mentioned “understanding the business needs” and “meeting the business leaders where they were” as best practices to establishing a strong change function. Two key points emphasized were:

  1. Lead with the relationship (versus the Change Management toolkit).
  2. Establish a positive brand by sharing the successes achieved by adding Change Management to projects.

Connect with the Other Roles that Lead Change

In large organizations, many people can have responsibilities for change. For instance, HR generalists, Project Management Offices, etc. A best practice is to connect with those change leaders and establish clarity around roles and responsibilities. There is a lot of work to be done, and deciding how to best leverage each person’s role in change is a great way to start.

All in all, I think Martha, Laura and I succeeded in our goal of creating a forum that great Change Company leaders in the Midwest can use to network and share with one another. I’m already looking forward to our next event (thank you, Allstate, in advance, for hosting)!

As always, we enjoy your thoughts. Please feel free to share your comments or questions to continue the dialog.

If you’d like more information on the Change Management Round Table, please connect with Martha Watt at 630.869.1951, or