Some of the best sports teams have mascots— people who inspire fans to cheer louder and root more passionately for their teams. The common purpose behind these costumed heroes is simple: funnel organizational support into a collective energy to rally their teams to success.

While most businesses do not have people dressed up like animals parading around their workplace with a microphone, there does exist a role within business that closely mirrors that of a mascot. This role is called a Change Champion.

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What is a Change Champion?

Change Champions support the company’s mission and vision by actively participating in change management initiatives. What is change management? This refers to the actions required to manage the “people side” of change. Change Champions help your workforce embrace new technology and business processes. Like the mascots of sports teams, Change Champions come in many shapes and sizes—there is no one size fits all mold. They can be your most senior employee or they can be a junior employee, and they can come from any department.

Change Champions are used whenever there is a need to communicate with employees about large-scale change. However, Change Champions should not be seen as a replacement for your change leader or the existing communication mechanisms that your company uses to disseminate information. Nor should they act as a replacement for the organizational hierarchy that exists within your management structure. Rather, they should be utilized to tailor change management communication to an individual employee level.

When seeking out Change Champions for an organization, a company should look for someone who . . .

  • Is respected and well-liked by peers
  • Has solid interpersonal skills
  • Is committed to the success of the project
  • Is courageous enough to stand up for what they believe

Change Champions should not be forced into the role. Employees who volunteer their time to act as an agent of change for your company are much more likely to be effective than those who are forced to advocate for the company.

Why Use Change Champions?

You can manage change on your own, right? Well, our 2019 ERP Report revealed that less than a quarter of companies dedicate an intense focus to organizational change management. This is a sobering statistic that highlights the lack of understanding that many company leaders have of how to manage change.

While your company’s leaders might be true visionaries or have stellar interpersonal skills, implementing change is a delicate and complex process that must be handled with precision. That said, incorporating Change Champions into the change management activities at your company will exponentially increase employee buy-in to new business processes and/or technology. 

When do You Involve Change Champions?

It’s important to have a full understanding of when to include these individuals throughout the change management process.

Phase 1 – Initiation

This is the phase where your vision for change is created. During this phase, you will be defining current state metrics, designing the blueprint for change and projecting how the change will affect metrics after implementation. During this phase, Change Champions should be involved in project planning and provide input to and validation of the current and future state assessments.  

Phase 2 – Facilitation

This is the phase where you assess how the change will impact employees. During this phase, Change Champions are the frontline of your project. They utilize their network to facilitate departmental communications and identify impacts the change might have.

Phase 3 – Implementation

This is the phase where you actually begin implementing the change. It is the last and final phase where the rubber meets the road. If you have properly executed Phases 1 and 2, you will see a very high success rate in the implementation phase. During this phase Change Champions continue to advocate for the change and help address change resistance in their departments.

What Roles Should Change Champions Play?

1. Planner

In the initiation stage of the change management process, the senior leaders are developing their vision for change within the company. Once they have established their vision, they should invite Change Champions to their roundtable discussions and ask them how they see the change impacting their workgroups. This ensures that specific departmental considerations are taken into account prior to the follow-on phases. 

2. Validator

Change Champions must be able to articulately respond to the initial plans of the project team and offer their suggestions as to how the change could be more effectively delivered.

Additionally, they must be able to validate if the current state assessment and future state projections are accurate based on their on-the-ground knowledge of the company. As some of the best Change Champions are mid-level employees, they have intimate knowledge of the innerworkings of departments. This insight is valuable to the initiation phase of the change management process.

3. Communicator

This role of a Change Champion is most prevalent in Phase 2 of the change process. Following the initial message from management about the change initiative, they must utilize their extensive network to communicate the change in a way that inspires employee engagement and buy-in. Leveraging their interpersonal skills, Change Champions tailor the change message to their employees or coworkers so these groups have a solid understanding of project objectives.

4. Impact Analyst

While discussing change with employees, the Change Champion must be able to perceive any impacts (positive or negative) that the project will have on employees. It is critical to identify potential impacts prior to implementation because there is still time to modify the project plan.

It is likely that if you are implementing change within your company there will be many different impacts across the company, so the Change Champion must be able to identify which impacts could be potential deal-breakers for the company and report those to the executive team.

5. Resistance Manager

Once the change has been planned and communicated to the team, it’s time for implementation. During the implementation phase, it is critical that the Change Champion acts as an advocate as well as resistance manager.

Being an advocate for the change does not necessarily mean that they need to stand on a chair and announce his support for the change in a theatrical fashion. Rather, they must provide support to his team throughout the change process.

As resistance is a natural reaction to change, the Change Champion must also be skilled in conflict resolution. They must be able to evaluate resistance and address it within their area of responsibility.

An effective way to simultaneously advocate for change and manage resistance can come in the form of reassuring employees that the change is in their best interest and further explaining the “why” behind the change. Support can even come in the form of helping a teammate cope with the impact that the change is having on their daily work.

Change Champions—Your Project Mascots

The Change Champion is one of the most critical components of the change process. They are the mascot of your change initiative and rally support behind the change to remove roadblocks to achieving ROI.

Panorama’s business transformation consultants can help you incorporate Change Champions, or a team of champions, throughout your project. To learn more, request a free consultation below.

About the author

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Panorama Consulting Group is an independent, niche consulting firm specializing in business transformation and ERP system implementations for mid- to large-sized private- and public-sector organizations worldwide. One-hundred percent technology agnostic and independent of vendor affiliation, Panorama offers a phased, top-down strategic alignment approach and a bottom-up tactical approach, enabling each client to achieve its unique business transformation objectives by transforming its people, processes, technology, and data.

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