Who should be involved in change management? This article explores the critical change management roles and how each contributes to successful organisational change. By understanding these roles and ensuring they are effectively filled, organisations can better navigate the complexities of change and achieve their desired outcomes.

What is change management?

Change management goes hand in hand with project management and is essential for the organisation to get value from doing projects. One common failure point for change management is that it falls by the wayside. After the project is completed, no one is there to pick up the baton to carry the change through to completion. Change management is what we use to bring about change to an organisation (it can be a small team or an entire company). It can be a changing process, tool or behaviour. Typically, after a project has created an output, we need to use change management to ensure the organisation (Business as Usual) adopts the output and uses it as intended.

Sometimes, change management is part of the project, and the project team continues until the change has been embedded. Sometimes, the project closes after the output is completed, and a new team takes over.

Regardless of your specific circumstances, you’ll want to ensure the following responsibilities are carried out in some capacity (i.e., someone is carrying out the responsibility without having the explicit formal job title listed below).

An organisation breakdown of change management roles

A change structure may look like the organisational breakdown below. Note that this does not necessarily mean these are formal job titles or line management/ reporting lines but rather temporary structures for delivering the change and achieving its benefits.

Change Sponsor

The change sponsor is accountable for the change, meaning it falls to them to ensure the change is suitable and appropriate for the organisation and that there are clear benefits. The Change Sponsor can be the same person as the Project Sponsor. That is often desirable because it means that person oversees the entire chain from project to change to benefits realisation.

The Sponsor should be active in the change, promoting it with stakeholders and using their authority, credibility, and connections to drive the change forward. Different changes require different levels of sponsorship involvement—some changes might require full-time involvement from the Sponsor!

Change Sponsor responsibilities include:

  • Define the benefits of doing the change and ensure the change effort is justified in proportion to the benefits
  • Create and own the vision of the future state
  • Provide clarification to the project manager about how/to prioritise requirements and constraints
  • Champion the change and being the active “face of the change” to the organisation and other stakeholders (particularly senior stakeholders)
  • Act as the final/ultimate decision maker on the project

The Sponsor must have suitable seniority and authority for the change. When discussing strategic change, the sponsor typically has to be at least at the director level. If the Sponsor doesn’t have sufficient seniority, they cannot enforce decisions and will also lack the credibility to represent the change effort meaningfully.

The Sponsor also has to understand what their role entails and be able to be as active as the change requires. They also need to have the guts to make the tough decisions!

Change Lead/Manager (the person responsible for delivering the change)

This role can have many names, but ultimately, this person implements or delivers the change in the same way a project manager would deliver a project. This can be the project manager responsible for providing the project output and the necessary associated change.

The change lead is responsible for planning all change activities and coordinating the work to ensure the change happens.

Change Lead/Manager responsibilities include:

  • Assessing change readiness at an organisational and people level
  • Identifying, planning and coordinating activities to build/increase change readiness
  • Assessing stakeholders and planning engagement
  • Creating and implementing communication plans
  • Building a network of change champions
  • Monitor and control all change management activities

To be effective in this role, the Change Lead needs some skills and capabilities that a project manager needs, including estimating, planning, risk management and leadership. In addition to this, they also need to understand the psychology of change and how people experience and go through change.

The Change Lead should also have good coaching abilities because they will likely need to support and upskill the people in the change team (below). From time to time, individuals in the change team will find people’s reactions to change frustrating and illogical, and the Change Lead may need to lead them through this.

Change management team

The change management team is to the Change Lead, and the project management team is to the Project Manager. They are the people who help ensure the change tasks are carried out as planned.

The change team members:

  • Use their expertise and experience to carry out change management tasks
  • Helps the change lead identify necessary tasks, activities and risks

The Change Lead must consider what expertise and experience they need in their team, just like a project manager would when leading a project. It is worth ensuring that the team members have at least a basic understanding of the human processes of change, i.e. how individuals react to change and why they are likely to resist change. Change management training might be appropriate, but the Change Lead can also consider if they can coach their team members.

Change Champion

Champions are a necessary but often misunderstood group. They should represent the people who are impacted by change because they are supposed to be able to demonstrate the change and its benefits with credibility to their peers. If change management as a discipline were invented today, Champions would probably be called Influencers because that is what they are.

Often, organisations hire new, fairly senior individuals to act as official change champions. This is a mistake for a few reasons:

  1. You do not need to be senior in an organisation to be a Champion. The opposite is often true! If a senior person is a change champion, it can sometimes feel like the change is being made to people. “the leadership team is telling us to use this new tool… well, what do they know about the job – they’re probably just trying to save money” or similar. A peer would have more credibility: “Alex says we should use this new tool, well they have done this job for a while and know how it works, so I trust them”.
  2. If you bring in a new hire to be a champion, you immediately rob them of the most essential qualities a Champion should have: Credibility and Trust! A champion should be someone who is already established in the community or group.
  3. A new hire doesn’t know the organisation or team. Sure, they can study org charts and process maps, but that tells the official version of how things get done. A Champion needs to know how things are actually done, i.e., they need to understand the organisation’s culture.

The Change Lead must build a network of Champions to help them bring about change. They need to look for people who can act as influencers of the change:

  • Socially established, well-connected people
  • People with credibility and trust
  • Someone that other people look to for guidance or inspiration
  • Ambitious people who get a kick out of being ahead of the curve or who like to be the one to spot something new

Business Change Manager/Owner/Benefits Owner

This is another role that can have many names, and it does not have to be someone’s formal job title. Here, we will use the term BCM (Business Change Manager) to align with how the role is described in the Managing Successful Programmes (MSP) framework.

The BCM should be a senior person who can make decisions and take actions to ensure the change is implemented and sticks (a common expression is “lands”) in their part of the organisation. They are sometimes called Benefits Owners because they should be the people who take ownership of ensuring their part of the organisation achieves the desired benefits from the change. If the change is large, splitting the responsibilities and having separate BCMs and Benefits Owners might be appropriate. It is also possible that a very large change requires multiple BCMs – one or even two per business function or region, for example.

The BCM role is often misunderstood, and many organisations hire people into this type of role, which often backfires. For the BCM to be effective, it must already be established in the organisation. They need to be “movers and shakers,” this is only possible if they have credibility and relationships. The BCM must also be of sufficient seniority to make and enforce decisions. They may not need to be of the same seniority as the sponsor – but this is not a junior or entry-level role.

Subject Matter Experts

To help them, the Business Change Manager may need several resources, including subject matter experts who can help them measure benefits realisation (this could be accountants for financial benefits or customer service representatives for customer satisfaction-related benefits). They may also need access to HR experts for guidance on people change and other resources as applicable.


In conclusion, successful change management hinges on a well-structured and collaborative approach involving key change management roles, each contributing to the seamless transition and adoption of new processes, tools, or behaviours within an organisation.

Understanding and clearly defining these change management roles within your organisation can significantly enhance your ability to navigate the complexities of change. It ensures that each aspect of the change process is meticulously managed, from initial planning to benefits realisation. Doing so can minimise resistance, build a culture of adaptability, and ultimately, achieve your desired outcomes more efficiently and effectively.

Remember, change is not a one-time event but a continuous journey. Investing in strong change management and empowering the right people can lead your organization to long-term success and innovation.

APM Accredited Change Management Practitioner Training Course

This two-day Change Management training course is for project, programme, and PMO practitioners alike, those keen to understand change management in the delivery context, and those delivering initiatives that impact people. It is the only APM-accredited change Management course worldwide and comprehensively investigates best practice change management.

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By: Karin Maule

Karin Maule
Categories: Consulting, Training

Published: 29 May 2024

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