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We Are the (Change) Champions

Queen sang …

We are the champions, my friends, and we’ll keep on fighting ’til the end. We are the champions, we are the champions, no time for losers, ’cause…

A fitting anthem for Change Champions I think which is what this article is about… Change Champions as a network of individuals who are appointed to help with the execution and delivery of a change initiative.

I believe the use of Change Champions to help support and implement change in organisations is a critical success factor because they will help to manage the inevitable ambiguity, uncertainty and resistance associated with implementing change.

A network of Change Champions should ideally be launched in the early stages of any change initiative to ensure that they get up to speed and start to support the project team as quickly as possible.

Identifying Change Champions in each area affected by the change is an approach that can prove highly successful for embedding and sustaining change within an organisation.

I have split this article is into two parts:

  1. What others say about the use of Change Champions.
  2. Examples of how I have used Change Champions in some previous assignments.

Starting with …

Part 1. “What others say about the use of Change Champions”

Let’s first deal with how do you actually set up a network of Change Champions. The Change Source suggests the following 8-steps:

Seems to make sense to me!

Here are some examples from others related to Steps 1 and 2.

Change First

Change First suggest the following characteristics, skills, abilities:

  • Influencing Others … influencing key people in the organisation to gain their support for the change.
  • Facilitating Change … using facilitation tools & techniques to enable others to plan and execute change.
  • Implementation Planning … collating & integrating people actions into a Project Plan.
  • Sponsorship Building … working with and coaching executives and managers to help them role model the change.
  • Working Strategically … demonstrating a clear commitment to the change vision and connecting change plans to business goals.
  • Working with Users … working with front line staff and their managers to engage with them and support them through the change.
  • Change Coaching … training and upskilling others to be effective in change management.
  • Self Management … managing yourself through periods of ambiguity and uncertainty.
  • Walking the Talk … role modelling and acting out the behaviours required of the change.

And attached to these are the following levels of importance:

Inspired Partners

From our experience of working with change teams, Inspired Partners has found successful Change Champions have the following characteristics and skills:


They must proactively act as agents for the change and promote the project at all appropriate opportunities which means acting and behaving in particular ways:

  • Informing of the benefits.
  • Building understanding.
  • Emphasising “WIIFM”.
  • Addressing concerns.
  • Using suitable language.
  • Leading by example.

HR Zone

HR Zone break things down into three specific areas:

  • Characteristics
  • Key behaviours
  • Skills required


Key behaviours:

Change Champions act as the eyes and ears of the change programme keeping their finger on the pulse and helping to:

  • Get commitment to the change.
  • Bring the change vision to life.
  • Engage and involve the right people.
  • Encourage new desired behaviours.
  • Embed the change to make it enduring.

Skills required:

  • Communication.
  • Facilitation.
  • Interpersonal.
  • Influencing.
  • Problem Solving.
  • Project Management.

But how do you go about identifying people with, what I think, are a very broad range of skills, behaviours and characteristics. I would wager that it is nigh on impossible to find a group of people (depending on how big you want your network to be) that tick all the boxes. Also who determines that people have the right attributes?

This brings me nicely on to …

Part 2. “Examples of how I have used Change Champions in some previous assignments”

Many moons ago when I was engaged as a Change Manager by British Petroleum in London to manage the change associated with a new Trading System implementation, the change team were looking to augment the core team with individuals from the business who could help with the project. I was asked to look at how we might find people who had the necessary competencies to add value to the team … no problem I thought!

I developed a Business Change Competency Framework in Excel which included the core Competencies we were looking for and the Skills associated with those Competencies.

Each Competency had a number of skills attributed to it e.g.:

Stakeholder Management included … Undertake Stakeholder Analysis and Build Relationships

And each skill had a specific definition e.g.:

Undertake Stakeholder Analysis … The ability to identify key project stakeholders and analyse their needs in respect of level, mechanisms and timeliness of communications.

Clicking on the relevant skill took you to a page that included:

  • 5 x Competency Levels:
    • Awareness.
    • Basic Application.
    • Skillful Application.
    • Mastery.
    • Expert.
  • With associated Body of Knowledge and Typical Capabilities for each of the Skill Levels.

Individuals interested in joining the team were asked to assess themselves using the 5 x Competency Levels for each of the Skills.

These were then totalled and averaged to provide an average score for each Competency e.g.:

The higher the average score provided an indication of how suited, in their own opinion of course, an individual would be. Based on their Self Assessment scores individuals were then interviewed to question and probe them regarding their Self Assessment to provide another dimension in the decision making process. A selection was made based on both the Self Assessment and the Interview.

Simple but effective … well I think so anyway!

So that’s Steps 1 and 2 of Change Source’s 8-Steps done with and probably 3 and 4 as well. I will make reference to Steps 5 to 8 in the following examples of a couple of projects during which I used Change Champions.

Example 1

This was a Global SAP Harmonisation “Symphony” Project for Corporation of Japan inc. Molton Brown (UK) & KPSS (Germany) focusing on Engagement, Communication & Adoption/Business Readiness activities.

The roles & responsibilities of the Change Champions for this project were segmented into three areas:

  • Communications:
    • Communicate the need for change.
    • Create consistent, timely and focused communication.
    • Create feedback mechanisms for stakeholders.
  • Training:
    • Identify stakeholder groups.
    • Help identify the training needs for the stakeholder group.
    • Prepare work instructions and process documentation.
    • Deliver training to stakeholder groups.
  • Adoption:
    • Help stakeholders with adoption.
    • Identify, analyse and manage resistance.
    • Develop and deliver reinforcement activities.
    • Keep change momentum and sustain change after implementation.

The Change Champions were organised as follows:

Referring to The Change Source’s Step 8 we recognised distinguished performance and significant contributions by Change Champions including:

  • Exceeding expectations on a given task or assignment.
  • Behaviours that fostered communication, collaboration, and team building.
  • Meeting or exceeding milestones with high quality deliverables.
  • Driving for results.
  • Efficient and effective issue resolution.

The awards were called “The Beethoven Awards” (Project Symphony > Beethoven … get it?) and were in the form of a Beethoven “bust” and a Certificate:

Example 2

This was a SAP Implementation for the Manitowoc Crane Group for their Asia Less China & India Region with a focus on Communications, Training, Business Readiness and Test Co-ordination.

The roles & responsibilities of the Change Champions for this project were to:

  • Attend regular monthly progress/update meetings.
  • Feedback concerns about the change to the project team.
  • Provide input to and support the testing process.
  • Provide input to and support the training schedule.
  • Input to the business readiness measurement process.
  • Be the communication conduit to the impacted business.

The Change Champions were organised as follows:

Referring to Change Source’s 8-Steps in both examples we:

  •  Conducted training session for the Change Champions (Step 5) e.g. in Communication, Stakeholder Analysis/Management etc.
  • Agreed on the collaboration methods (Step 6) e.g. working with design and process teams.
  • Communicated the launch of the Change Champions network (Step 7) e.g. through internal communication channels such as the Intranet, Newsletters etc.

You may be thinking that all of this seems to be a lot of effort and is it really worth it! Well, IMHO, yes it is because there are many benefits associated with setting up a network and using Change Champions … Change Designs suggest there are eight key benefits:

All of the above, to an extent, have been evident in all of the projects in which I have been involved in where I have used Change Champions.

So, there we have it, my case for using Change Champions for your Change Management initiative.   A slide deck related to this subject can be purchased from Flevy here.

About Ron Leeman

Ron Leeman has been involved in “change and process” work for more years than he cares to remember. He has worked extensively across the UK, Europe, and globally--and has an enviable track-record of delivering organisational change and process initiatives across a wide cross section of industry sectors. In 2012, Ron was bestowed with a “Change Leader of Tomorrow” award by the World HRD Congress “in recognition of my remarkable progress in initiating changes enough for others in the same industry to follow my example”. Ron is firm believer in knowledge transfer and now wants to share his vast knowledge with those who are considering getting into or at various stages of “change” and/or “process” work or those working on specific Projects wanting to gain practical insights into “how to” type situations. You can connect with Ron Leeman on LinkedIn here, where you can view his 85+ Recommendations and in excess of 800 Endorsements from clients and co-workers alike to give you an indication of the quality of service that he has provided and can offer. Ron is also a document author on Flevy. Browse his frameworks on Change Management, Process Analysis, and Program Management here: http://flevy.com/seller/highwayofchange.

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