Internalizing the change management function: Where, what and how?

Throughout 2012, I had the opportunity to interact with change management professionals in Europe and the United States. I was both surprised and pleased to see that change management attracts as much the attention of our colleagues abroad as ours. Here as elsewhere, the positioning of the change management function within an organization is of great concern.

I therefore wanted to further reflect on this and share my thoughts with you.

The first question that comes to mind when envisioning a permanent change management function within an organization is obviously “where?” In which administrative unit should it be positioned? We’re currently aware of various situations, but a trend has yet to emerge.

Among the most common scenarios observed, the function is most often positioned in the following departments:

  • Human resources;
  • Information technology;
  • Corporate project office;
  • Strategic planning directorate;
  • or dispersed among several departments, including those mentioned above (many units may share this responsibility).

Each of these scenarios has its share of pros and cons, which may differ from one company to the next depending on their organizational context and history of changes.

The second question that must be asked is “why?” What will be the role of this function? What will be its scope of intervention? Other decisions also need to be made. The function may play one or several roles, for example:

  • Responsibility for the change management approach and toolbox, and for development of relevant training material;
  • Skills development and guidance of project managers and interveners in change management;
  • Involvement in various transformation projects or programs (e.g. a project combining IT, organizational and commercial aspects or a IT-focused project);
  • Development of change management strategies and guidance of managers for the implementation of the strategy;
  • Carrying out the activities required to implement the change;
  • Providing support to gain the benefits derived from the change or transformation.

The answers to these questions require some thought and discussion. However, everything begins with a first step. I suggest that you start by assessing the maturity level of your organization in change management. This assessment will help you decide on the best possible positioning and role of this function within your organization.

You will then need to answer the following question: “how do you go about it?” Creating a change management function is a strategic choice and a change in itself and must be managed accordingly. If you decide on internalizing a change management function within your organization, be sure to make an informed decision and manage the process as a change project. Your project will be all the more successful.