Roles in Change Management (Updated 2021)

Two groups central to change management are the people affected by change and their leaders.


The roles in change management  continue to evolve to match the reality of what is needed for a change to be successful.

These roles have become more nuanced and segmented, reflecting the range of responsibilities now expected to be fulfilled in a change initiative. But as the roles and definitions expand, it is necessary to take a step back and focus on what is important.

The roles in change management can be abridged into the groups of individuals that matter most in a change: the people affected by a change and the leaders of those people.


Revisiting the roles in change management

The rapid growth and formality of change management over the past 50 years reflects the opportunities for organizations that better prepare for and manage change – and the risks if they are not ready.

Change management methodologies – like LaMarsh Global’s Managed Change – provides clarity on the approaches that have the best potential to achieve the desired outcomes of a change. Academic and applied research into change management continues to uncover or confirm the strategies that have a higher chance of success.

Clear roles and responsibilities are critical for a project’s success. Various roles in change management emerged and have become common nomenclature, including change sponsor, change agent and change manager. Project managers and people managers are often closely associated with a change team.

These roles have a place, and individuals thrive on clear expectations and responsibilities. However, let’s take a step back and affirm the fundamental roles in change management.

People affected by change

Change can be challenging because it can have an impact on people. Whether professionally, personally, emotionally or physically – there is the potential for a change to affect an individual or groups of people.

These impacts can be a burden or an opportunity. While one person may see the change as awful, the next may see it akin to winning the lottery.

The people affected by change can be employees, customers, stakeholders,  vendors, people leaders and even the leaders responsible for the initiating the change.

The focus of change management is to identify everyone that might be affected by a change and consider the degree or types of impacts – and how their reactions to the change  might hinder or enable the goals of the change.

Leaders of the people affected

The scenarios where organizations rely on change management tend to be change initiatives where the change has unwanted impacts on the people affected (or the impacts are perceived to be undesirable). For the change to be successful, the people affected are expected to change their behavior and accept or adopt the change.

Regardless of the impacts of a change, leaders of the people affected are responsible for leading, communicating with and influencing their employees.


Replacing “change sponsor”

The definition of an effective change sponsor is synonymous with leadership.  

The role of a change sponsor originated from the recognition that leaders need to be involved with a change. It is insufficient for leaders to simply sign the mandate and commit to providing the resources.

Change projects will always rely on active sponsorship from leaders responsible for the people affected by the initiative. Effective change leader are individuals that:

  • Change the conversation and translate the case for change in ways that are relevant to their employees.
  • Influence their employees to align their behaviors with the goals of the project or organization.
  • Prioritize work so employees know what to focus on at this time.

There isn’t change sponsorship or change leadership – it is just leadership.


Role of the change practitioner

The intricacy and speed of change today demands appropriate resourcing and support.

The role of the change practitioner is to provide leaders with the information and assistance to fulfill their essential role. Leaders are incredibly busy and pulled in many directions, but that is not an excuse for performing their responsibilities.

Change practitioners deliver perspective and strategies to:

  • Identify the people affected by the change
  • Identify the potential risks if the people affected don’t accept or adopt the change
  • Identify risks related to leadership, including if a leader may be hesitant to support a change project
  • Provide strategies or plans to manage those risks
  • Provide leaders with the data to make better decisions
  • Support leaders as they lead their employees through the change

In their day-to-day work, change practitioners may be involved in research, assessments, reporting, coaching, crafting communications, training and more.


Training for Change Practitioners

An indicator of a successful change is alignment and understanding between the people affected and their leaders. Change practitioners offer perspective and data to identify the factors that may contribute to alignment or produce rifts. As more organizations face the ongoing need to change or recognize the value of change, monitoring and evaluating this alignment becomes increasingly involved.

LaMarsh Global’s training for change practitioners delivers the strategies and tools to assess a change initiative at a high level and also collect the data necessary to recognize the on-the-ground risks.

See our change management training for emerging and experience change practitioners.


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