Strategy, Innovation & Leadership

Change Manager’s Toolbox

By Ron Meyer | June 7, 2022 | 3 min read
Which tools can I use to achieve change in my organization? Ron Meyer presents an insightful tool to kickstart your thinking: Change Manager’s Toolbox.

Key Definitions

Organizational changes can range from small-scale incremental adjustments all the way to large-scale radical transformations. Whatever the magnitude, managers inside the organization, sometimes supported by consultants from outside, need to stimulate and guide change. In this sense, every manager is also regularly a change manager.To realize change, managers need insight into change processes (see no. 25, Everest Model of Change), but also require tangible change management tools. These are ways of influencing what people do (intervention methods) in order to steer changes in the right direction.

Conceptual Model

The Change Manager’s Toolbox framework suggests that there are four change manager roles, each with four categories of tools. These roles differ along two dimensions. The first dimension is whether the role is focused on changing things (content-oriented) or changing behaviors (people-oriented). The second dimension is whether the role is focused on changing in a planned way (control-oriented) or in a more evolving way (responsive-oriented). All change manager roles need to be played by someone, but not necessarily by the same person. Which categories of tools are used will depend on the situation and the change manager involved. 
change managers toolbox

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Key Elements

The four change manager roles and their associated tools are the following: 
1. Project Manager. Every change can be seen as implementation project of getting from A to B, whereby the change manager needs to go through the classic plan-do-check-act cycle to ensure the effective and efficient execution of change. To run this cycle, the project manager will typically use tools from each of the following in four categories:
a. Activity planning. Tools for determining which tasks need to be carried out and when.
b. People planning. Tools for finding the right people and assigning tasks to them.
c. Resource planning. Tools for providing these people with all the necessary means.
d. Performance management. Tools for checking and incentivizing realization.

2. Team Coach. Every change can also be seen as a team challenge of getting from A to B, whereby the change manager needs to coach the squad to work together in unison to be successful. To achieve this concerted effort, the team coach will typically tap into all four categories of potential tools:
a. Direction setting. Tools to ensure all team members are striving towards the same goals.
b. Expectation alignment. Tools to help mutual understanding and agree on shared rules.
c. Team building. Tools to foster team spirit and commitment to each other.
d. Conflict resolution. Tools to clear up interpersonal irritations and clashes.

3. Learning Facilitator. Every change can also be seen as a learning journey of starting at A and finding out whether B is the right destination, whereby the change manager needs to facilitate the unfolding insight and to trigger the required adaptation. To achieve this ongoing learning, the learning facilitator can draw on tools from four categories:
a. Learning from practice. Tools for gaining understanding from implementation feedback.
b. Learning from experiment. Tools for discovering from controlled testing of assumptions.
c. Learning from mistakes. Tools for drawing conclusions based on errors made.
d. Learning from others. Tools for capturing and transferring best practices from elsewhere.

4. Engagement Officer. Every change can also be seen as an uncomfortable move of going from A, inside people’s comfort zone, to B, somewhere outside. The change manager needs to win people’s hearts and minds to embrace this discomfort and then keep them engaged when the going gets tough. Four categories of tools are typically employed:   
    a. Process participation. Tools to facilitate involvement and influencing of the change.
b. Personal connection. Tools to help relationship-building and mutual bonding.
c. Confidence building. Tools to stimulate people’s conviction that success is attainable.
d. Inspiring leadership. Tools to encourage people to follow the change leader.

Key Insights

• Change has four different faces. Change can be seen as an implementation project, as a team challenge, as a learning journey and as uncomfortable move. All four sides of change pose different questions and require their own response. 
• Change managers can play four roles. To tackle each of the four change issues, change managers need to play a different role – project manager, team coach, learning facilitator and engagement officer. All roles need to be filled, but not necessarily by the same person.
• Change managers can be content- and people-oriented. The roles of project manager and learning facilitator focus more on the ‘what of change’ – things and activities. The team coach and engagement officer focus more on the ‘who’ – the people.
• Change managers can be control- and responsive-oriented. The roles of project manager and team coach focus more on the planned side of change, while the learning facilitator and engagement office focus more on the evolving side.
• The change manager’s toolbox has 16 compartments. Each of the four roles has four categories of tools, giving a toolbox with 16 compartments, each with room for a whole range of specific tools. A change manager’s toolbox is big and needs time to be filled.

Inspired by this kickstart?

During the six-day Masterclass Organizational Leadership you will work on solutions for a problem of your own definition, such as transforming with your organization and getting employees moving. You will also reflect on the performance of your Management Team and your organization. This will help you realize effective growth for your organization.
Read more about the Masterclass Organizational Leadership »

Change Manager’s Toolbox is part 36 of a series of management models by prof. dr. Ron Meyer. Ron is managing director of the Center for Strategy & Leadership and publishes regularly on Center for Strategy & Leadership.

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