Leading change image


(Download the PDF version of this content)

Change management is a process that a project leader may use to ensure individuals successfully transition with changes brought on by a projectChange management becomes part of the communication or training plan because this will describe who you need to engage with, what message you need to provide, how you are going to communicate, and when you are going to communicate 


Change is the process of moving from the current state to the future state. Managing the change with effective communication results in:  

  • Mitigated resistance  
  • On plan adoption  
  • Accelerated speed of change  
  • Achieved and sustained outcomes  


Changes range from simple improvements to a current way of doing business all the way to very complex transformations in the way of doing business.  

Developmental    Transitional    Transformational 
Least Complex
An improvement to an existing way of operating 
Dismantling current way of operating and systematically putting into place a newly-designed end state 
  Very Complex
Occurs when the old way of operating cannot achieve the strategies required to succeed moving forward 


Individuals react differently to change, based on the ability and desire to change, the benefit or impact of the change, or the difficulty of the change. Each response requires a different reaction and level of communication.  

Response   Addressing Reaction  
Shock  “We will support you through this process.  You can do this.” 
Denial  Explain their role and how they can support the change. 
Frustration  Listen to their concerns. Focus on how they will benefit from the change. 
Depression  Find ways to engage them in optimizing the change.  
Exploration  Encourage them to give constructive feedback. 
Acceptance  Continue to monitor their response as more detail is rolled out. 
Commitment   Ask them to help you champion the change and help others move through the change. 


1. Assess the Scope of the Change

  • How big is this change?
  • Which people are affected and how will they respond?
  • How much change is already going on or has recently taken place?
  • What type of resistance can be expected?
  • What are the benefits of the change?
  • What are the challenges of the change?
  • Who in your chain of command needs to be informed of the change?

2. Develop Key Messages in Plain Language

Use the change assessment to create a solid business case that clearly explains:

  • Changes that will take place
  • Need/reason for the change
  • Benefits to the individual
  • Anticipated obstacles
  • Project timeline

 3. Develop a Communications Plan

Effective communication considers these three components: The audience. What is communicated. When it is communicated.

Use the Project Communications Plan template as a guide to coordinate your engagement. This template helps you schedule the different communication or training you need to do to reach different audiences impacted by the project. This can include reporting to leadership, outreach to those whose assistance you need to implement the change, and communication to those who will be impacted by the change.

Use as much face-to-face communication as possible. This helps you immediately identify and respond to resistance. Make sure you provide clear and open lines of communication throughout the process. 

4. Develop a Training Plan

Develop a training plan if individuals need to learn about how to use a new platform, technology, or business processes. This could include in-person or self-service training. It could include some way of measuring adoption or aptitude in adjusting to the changes. The training should incorporate the skills, knowledge, and behaviors necessary to implement the change.

Incorporate any outreach for training into your Communications Plan.

5. Measure Effectiveness of Communication

During the project, check in with those impacted by the change and those needing to know the state of the project to identify what changes you need to make in the messaging or frequency of outreach to make sure you are achieving the desired acceptance or response.


  1. There is no one perfect way to communicate change
  2. Be very clear on what is changing and why and how you explain it
  3. Share information with others as soon as possible
  4. Keep in mind that quantity is fine, but quality and consistency are crucial
  5. Use a variety of communication channels and touch points
  6. Don’t confuse explaining project process with communicating change
  7. Give people multiple opportunities to share concerns, ask questions, and offer ideas, and make following up with answers and updates a top priority