Leading People Through Change

By Barb McAllister, M.S., MCC

When I worked for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Seattle, I had the opportunity to be the Project Managers for a large-scale transformational change process for our office of 600.  Our Regional Administrator was the Change Leader, and I was the Change Manager.  Both of us played critical roles in the year long journey.  It was through that process that I learned the difference between, and the value of, both the Change Leader and the Change Manager.  The two of us had distinct roles and both were needed to pull off such a big change.

As the Change Manager, I was the full-time Project Manager for the change process for one year.  I was responsible for developing the timeline to get from A to B; for identifying and tracking the major milestones; and for ensuring that all the employees working on the change got the support they needed.   I was in almost daily communication with my boss, the Change Leader, and I had support from an outside consultant much more experienced in leading and managing change than I was.

I was the “right hand person” to the Regional Administrator, the head of our office and the Change Leader.  He had the vision for where we were going and was effective at communicating the “why” of what we were doing and the sense of urgency.  He also inspired and mobilized the employees.  I provided the perspiration and he provided the inspiration.

Research has shown that up to two thirds of organizational change efforts fail.   There are lots of reasons for this, one that I think is a major cause is that the Change Manager and Leader fail to grasp the impact of change on the people.   I think both of us did a pretty good learning why people resist change and then helping them to move through it to acceptance.   Also, some projects fail because either the Change Manager or Leader is missing in action.   On this front we nailed it: both of us were aware of the company needs and our individual roles to get there, and we showed up to implement it all!




For more on navigating the roles of change management for your own organization, contact Barb to help you create clarity.