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Where Should Change Management Sit in Your Organization?

It’s an interesting question. Where should Change Management sit within an organization? The short answer is: where it can be most effective.

At my former company, we asked that question a lot and contemplated different organizational models. While I’m glad that the value my team has provided in supporting the implementation of key business initiatives resulted in a “play” for our services, it’s not easy to determine the best place for change management to reside, organizationally, to serve a company optimally. Because we work with many cross-functional partners and support a range of change initiatives, there are a number of adjacencies that make sense and could work. Below is a quick list of pros and cons for each.

ORGANIZATION PROS CONS
Human Resources (HR) HR is charged with taking care of people, which is what Change Management also does (specifically, in the wake of process, systems and organizational change). It is also often the place where Training is located.

See my LinkedIn post on the interdependency between Change Management and Training. Close collaboration between these functions is critical.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/trifecta-effective-change-management-greg-matsunami?trk=mp-reader-card

That said, depending on how HR is positioned within a company, it often lacks a connection to day-to-day operations. Without that, Change Managers may have a more difficult time embedding themselves in “the business,” seeing/sensing what’s actually happening within impacted teams and building strong, trusted relationships with key stakeholders.

Change Management can be done from this position in the organization but measures need to be taken to ensure integration with the business.

     
Information Technology (IT)

IT is at the center of all major systems upgrades and replacements. Because these changes are often complex and capital intensive, they also often house a project management office.

See my LinkedIn post on the necessity of having well-coordinated executive sponsorship, project management and change management to deliver initiatives successfully.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/change-management-cant-go-alone-greg-matsunami?trk=prof-post

What I just said about HR can also be said of IT… that they’re often quite “corporate” and lack a strong connection with the business.

Additionally, from a work group management perspective, IT departments are not traditionally known for empathy and supporting the “human impact” of change – which is the primary reason for a Change Management function to exist. Again, it’s possible to manage both functions within one department but the overall leader needs to bring both skill sets to the party.

     
Corporate Strategy

Some people that I’ve spoken to in companies other than my own have suggested that Corporate Strategy is the best location for Change Management to sit within an organization. It is closest to the long-term strategic direction of the company, generally has open access to the c-suite executives and is often aware of large systemic and organizational shifts ahead of others in the company.

Also, if Change Management is regarded as a competitive advantage for the company, it’s best that they sit at the table with Corporate Strategy.

Once again, a “corporate” function is not always the best place for an effective and pragmatic Change Management function to sit.

In my former company, the 3-10 year time horizon that the Corporate Strategy team works on was simply too far off to be actionable.

     
Operations Placing Change Management resources in an organization’s operations team keeps their work closest to the business.  Such groups are often responsible for monitoring day-to-day business performance and implementing process and systems enhancements.  In so doing, they are the closest to the impacted employees that Change Managers are there to support.

This solution has the opposite risks of the “corporate” functions above. Instead of being too “blue sky,” they may be consumed by such a low level of detail and every day firefighting that bigger picture strategies are obscured.

Also, depending on where Training sits, special provisions may be necessary to ensure close collaboration with that function to deliver change initiatives successfully.



As you can see, Change Management can sit in a variety of places in an organization. Wherever it is located, it’s critical that the key connections to content creation, training, project management and sponsors are established and maintained. During the time that I managed the Change Management function for my former company, we housed it within Operations. The reason for that is because we’ve made a clear declaration that we want to provide practical solutions to our business partners – to apply change management principles to day-to-day work issues and not practice theory in an ivory tower. Given the value our senior leaders have seen in my team’s work during its first two years of existence, I am certain that we placed it correctly for what the company needed at the time.

Leading in the Moment – “What’s Needed Now?”
The Importance of Sponsorship in Change Management

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