“So, what do you do for a living?” Certain professions (like those of change practitioners) are harder to summarize than others. That elevator-speech inquiry may fill some of us with dread. The topic of ACMP Vancouver’s most recent Happy Hour Change Chats (May 23) was meant to help us all better explain what change managers actually do, and how it can benefit projects and organizations.

Facilitators Daniel Watt, Erin Creak, and Leslie Fast led the group in a lively discussion and shared insights about how others perceive our work and how we can provide value to businesses and organizations. Conversations generally centred around three themes:

  • how do we “sell” the value of our work to leaders;
  • what is the role of measurement and return-on-investment in our work; and
  • what are some common misconceptions and how do we address them?

Critical measurements 
Most participants felt that measurement was an essential element when discussing change management benefits. Some pointed to the need to show behavior changes and how they benefit the organization; others suggested that demonstrating a business outcome and return-on-investment was likely to capture the attention of senior leaders. “If you can trace the change to the bottom line, people tend to really listen to that,” said one participant.

The reality behind the rumors
Many participants said they sometimes have to dispel rumours and myths about change management. “People think I’m a psychic,” quipped one participant, leading others to joke that they are sometimes misunderstood as writers or marketers. But one participant said that misunderstandings can often trigger deeper discussions about what kind of change is really needed. “If people begin to see us as partners, helping them discover the root cause of what is really happening, they often become very enthusiastic.”

The “sell”
In terms of the “sell” of change management, some participants said it’s often helpful to describe failed projects, and explain how change management can give projects a better chance of success. One participant—an IT project manager who described herself as a “consumer of change management” —said that she’s seen many projects fail because no one considered how to get users to adopt the systems of the project.

Cutting out the fancy
One of the most salient comments came from facilitator Daniel Watt. “Change management is about performance. I don’t use any fancy words” when explaining change management. When discussing change management, Daniel asks about the business case, and why organizations are investing money in a particular project. He then asks what part of the project depends on people doing their jobs differently. “Usually, people say that a great deal depends on that,” he said.

“And that’s where the value of change management lies,” he said.