Change management
Change Manager Definition & Tips: How to lead change successfully!

Table of contents

Change Manager:

Definition, background, tips

How to lead change successfully


How to manage change

Change manager – but how? Do you have the task of supporting a change in your company – as a change manager, project manager or employee? Wondering what you should look out for? How do you take your colleagues with you? How do you ensure that the change process runs as smoothly and easily as possible? Well, then you’ve come to the right place: In this article, we will give you tips on how to successfully manage your transformation or change process as a change manager.


Change is everywhere – our VUCA world

Change management is needed in one way or another in all areas of life. Because life is change! There is simply no escape. Even if we often try desperately to keep things stable, we won’t succeed in the long run. Whether we like it or not, change is everywhere: our children are growing up, our city is changing, our environment is changing over time. We can’t prevent that; we have to be able to deal with it.
This is particularly true in a business context: how quickly circumstances such as technology, market requirements or the competitive situation change today. Companies must be able to react to this – and quickly! Because if you can’t keep up, you may end up like the former market leaders Nokia and Kodak. They had ignored decisive change and are now out of the picture…


Permanent change

However, you will not just be faced with one or two changes; you can expect to have to deal with change on a permanent basis. Because the world is constantly changing and it is doing so at an ever faster pace. There is even a term for this phenomenon: VUCA . The acronym VUCA means: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous. In summary, VUCA means that everything is constantly changing and it is impossible to predict what will happen next.
This means that you and your company are facing more and more changes.
The ability to act as a change manager, i.e. to lead and accompany change, is therefore one of the fundamental requirements for a manager.


Planning Change


Definition of Change Manager – What are the tasks of a Change Manager?

A change manager is first and foremost the person who actively deals with the upcoming change in the company: they have the task of planning, accompanying, monitoring and permanently optimizing the transformation processes. She advises executives and top management on change and organizational development.
The change manager has an overview of the entire change process, can also assess complex situations and knows how to reach people in the company, from top management to employees. He designs the communication in the change process so that important information is communicated at the right time and in the best possible way. It is important that he succeeds in encouraging all those involved to change.
He has various change management methods at his disposal, such as Kurt Lewin’s 3-phase model or John P. Kotter’s 8-phase model.
In the event of conflicts or crises during a change, the change manager intervenes and is able to communicate and act in an emphatic, clear and solution-oriented manner. It can also withstand strong pressure and emotionally charged situations.
Change management can be carried out by an internal or external consultant, and managers are often also entrusted with change management.
The term change manager is not protected, so when choosing a change manager it is worth checking their professional experience.


Change Manager in Communication

Why do we need change management?

We know: Change is existentially important for companies. But companies are made up of people. And unfortunately, people don’t usually like change very much.
The tried and tested, the familiar is very popular. Who can know what the new will bring? And what’s more, you would have to get moving for something new… The cobbler prefers to stick to his last.
So what good is a well-thought-out change if the people who ultimately have to implement it don’t go along with it?
What is needed here is change management – in other words, management that does not simply create new circumstances that its employees then have to deal with for better or worse, but that also supports its employees mentally and psychologically. If employees are left alone by management, there is a high probability that lasting resistance will arise and the change will not take place as intended.


What do we mean by change?

Changes in companies have many faces: A change of the smaller kind could be the introduction of a new program or the decision to outsource certain activities in the future. The introduction of a new process or an agile method such as Scrum will change your employees’ everyday lives considerably more.
A major change in the company is particularly challenging – this can be a restructuring of the entire organization or even a takeover by another company in which everything changes fundamentally: the logo, the name, the teams, the managers.
And the more things change, the more things can go wrong…
So what can you do to accompany a change in your company and make it easier for your employees?


Video Change Management: How do I get employees excited about change?

In 4 minutes, Susanne Grätsch from berliner team explains how you can inspire your team and take them on a journey towards change.

The 8 practical tips for change managers

Here we provide you with tips to make change easier.
These tips are a combination of background knowledge, various theoretical models that you will find in textbooks – and, above all, experience from our many years as change managers, during which we have observed what works well and what works faster and easier.

Change manager tip 1: Communicate the change crystal clear – and as early as possible!

Do not withhold information!

Over the years, we have come across many people who have held back information for a long time during change processes. This has never had a positive effect on the change process. But why do people do it then?
The reasons are obvious: there is a high probability that the announcement of a change will cause unrest and problems, that those affected will not like what they hear and that conflicts will arise as a result. Conflicts are to be expected in the event of changes, but withholding information does not protect against unrest. On the contrary: concealment and procrastination worsen the situation. At some point, the cat has to come out of the bag anyway.
One example is the customer advisor who withholds from his customer for a long time that his bill is increasing. Of course, enthusiasm on the part of the customer is hardly to be expected – but it would be better for everyone involved to communicate this fact in good time, because the later the customer learns of his good fortune, the more displeased he will probably be… And rightly so.


Don’t communicate in bits and pieces!

It is important that you ensure transparency. If you only release information partially, then this is extremely fertile ground for rumors.
Here is another example: an entrepreneur is considering selling and outsourcing a department. The deals are in the bag so far. However, the entrepreneur fears the reactions of employees and customers. To avoid conflict, he closes his eyes to reality and prefers to communicate in bits and pieces. Employees and customers are left in the dark about the fact that the change is already just around the corner. Although they know that “something is going on”, no one knows exactly what phase it is. The hope that things will stay the same after all persists. Rumors and conjecture are booming. People are unsettled.


Change manager no rumors clear communication


Communicate clearly where the change stands at the moment!

We already mentioned it at the beginning: people don’t like change.
They tend to simply ignore change. The moment there is even the slightest hint of a chance that things might stay the same, people tend to stick with them – and believe that there will be no change. Typical statements are then: “Oh, that won’t happen” or “That won’t affect me” or “I can’t believe it; it can’t be.”
Of course, this attitude is not what drives a change process. Rather, it is an excellent basis for a phase of creeping uncertainty. Once such a situation has arisen, those affected are hungry for information. What information is missing is creatively added and rumors spread. This delays the work; nobody is motivated to work anymore. Employees spend a lot of energy on rumors and conjecture. In a phase of uncertainty, people usually work together much less efficiently. Tensions arise, conflicts emerge.
Therefore: Communicate clearly where the change stands at the moment!


All or nothing: Don’t communicate things by halves!

Of course, there are also changes that cannot yet be announced for legal reasons. In this case, it is extremely important that nothing gets out and that you shield the information as well as possible.
And what if it does?
However, if rumors do get out, clarify them with your employees. If you try to cover up what everyone knows anyway, you will only trigger even more negative feelings among your employees and make yourself untrustworthy.
It is perfectly legitimate to say that nothing can be said at the moment. If you can give employees a date when information can be communicated, then do so, this will help people get through the uncertain waiting time.


Change management meeting


Change Manager Tip 2: Change consistently!

That’s the way we humans are: when we have the opportunity to choose between the familiar and the new, we choose the more comfortable way: our routines. We just love our comfort zone. When we have the opportunity to move out of our comfort zone, we do so. In other words, we prefer to use the computer program and communication channels we are familiar with, we prefer to stick to the old rules and let the old things live on. But the new has no chance this way!
It also took us in the berlin team a long time to accept our new Sharepoint. We held on to the old filing system until the last minute. It was only when the old repository was deleted and switched off that we started to get to grips with the new Sharepoint. And with gritted teeth. We’ve all been there, most of us would probably feel the same way. Only after a while did the advantages become apparent to us and we were able to accept the tool.

That’s why it’s important that when you make a change, you consistently ensure that you make the old impossible!

  • If you need a transition phase for operational reasons, keep it short and sweet.
  • Create facts and cut off the old braid as quickly as possible!
  • As soon as you have communicated the change, it’s all about making the old impossible as quickly as possible!


Meeting Change Manager


Change Manager Tip 3: Plan your communication actively!

Do not underestimate the communication effort! If you communicate too little in phases of change, you will initiate the phase of uncertainty mentioned above. Remember: rumors and uncertainty always go hand in hand with negative emotions. And these in turn paralyze the productivity of your company, because they make people dissatisfied to inefficient – and can even lead to a change of direction.
Therefore: plan exactly what kind of communication is needed in your company.
How can you address all the issues at hand, dispel uncertainties and accompany the change well?


Top down communication

Inform your employees about the progress that the change is making. Both the successes and topics where there are still open questions should be placed in this top-down communication. The manner of this communication is very important:
Your manner of address should be positive and affirming and at the same time clear, unambiguous and above all honest, authentic and credible.
Neither should you leave room for imaginative interpretations, nor should employees get the idea that you are being dishonest with them and hiding the negative sides of the change. Your employees will only feel taken seriously if you communicate transparently!
If it didn’t work as well as you had originally intended in some places – don’t be afraid to admit it!
It is much better to say: “We need to make employees redundant at this point” than to try to gloss it over or sweep it under the carpet. Your employees will talk about it anyway. It is better for communication to remain open than for employees to have to talk in secret and for resentment to fester invisibly but noticeably within the company.
And what methods should be used for communication? For positive messages, it is also okay to communicate electronically. The more sensitive the messages are, the more important it is to choose a personal approach, as the tone of voice and body language make it easier to interpret the statements correctly. Some of our customers communicate with the entire company via video conference or even record a video message. The Town Hall Meeting is also the medium of choice for many when it comes to announcing important changes.


Communication Change Management



The second type of communication, dialog, is at least as important.
Engage in dialog with your employees!
This gives them the opportunity to express their concerns, wishes and issues. Such dialogs can take place in the context of workshops and meetings, for example. The intranet is also a suitable platform. However, something like a complaint box – whether analog or digital – is not enough! They need the opportunity for dialog, i.e. questions and answers. The more personal the communication, the better.
Every change and every company needs its own forms of dialog. To name a few possible forms:
For example, there is a dialog between all managers and their employees. This can be supported with the help of a moderation guide for managers to ensure that communication is coordinated. Or you can use workshop formats, for example, in which people can initially express their concerns, issues and questions in small “marble groups” so that the head of the company can respond to them.
The choice of the optimal form of communication always depends on the size of the company and the size of the department affected by the change.


The special role of managers

It is very important that the managers concerned take ownership of the change and clearly signal that they are always open and approachable for the concerns of the employees, so that the employees can also initiate a dialog. That is why we always develop change concepts together with a company’s managers.


Resistance in change management


Change manager tip 4: Accept resistance and learn to deal with it constructively!

Resistance is a normal part of the change process

We say it very clearly: there will be resistance. Definitely.
You simply won’t be able to avoid it. Change is always accompanied by resistance because people simply don’t like change.
When change is imminent, people like to glorify the old situation: “Gosh, everything was so much better before”. That is completely normal.
Say goodbye to the idea that you can somehow circumvent or outsmart your employees’ resistance to change! You also don’t need to hope that your change management simply has to be incredibly good and that no resistance will arise as a result. No matter how you go about it, there will be resistance.


Listen to your employees!

We have experienced many managers who became angry as soon as resistance arose. They denied their employees all intellectual abilities and worse.
However, as you can already guess, this is not a constructive and therefore not a really smart attitude during a change process.
Accept that there is resistance!
Listen to your employees! Only when they feel that they are being taken seriously can they let go of their resistance and develop curiosity about what is to come.
The ball is in your court: approach your employees and listen seriously to their concerns!


Make platforms available!

Although you should find the platform for each change process that is the most suitable in the context of the company and for the employees, a kind of “vomit workshop” is generally recommended here. Resistance must be allowed in such a system. There is room for resistance here.
And not only that. The resistance of your employees may well contain valuable information for you!
Of course, there are also many concerns in a change process that are simply due to an unwillingness to change, to resistance. However, it would be foolish to dismiss your employees’ concerns across the board, as employees often have valuable information that should be incorporated into a change. So seriously check what the concerns are about. Arguments may emerge that you should definitely pay attention to in your change process.
Therefore, take resistance seriously: listen to your employees’ ideas and suggestions!


  Change managers reward those who participate


Change Manager Tip 5: Reward the employees who participate!

When a change process is imminent, the workforce quickly divides into three different camps:
  1. The enthusiasts

10% of employees and managers are immediately on fire. They take a positive view of change and see the opportunities it offers.
They are curious about change and are also able to embrace something new and implement it.
  1. The blockers

Diametrically opposed to the enthusiasts are 10% of employees and managers who are currently vehemently resisting and generally rejecting change. No matter what you come up with, these incorrigible obstructionists will see problems in everything and disagree, garnishing the whole thing with a grumpy atmosphere.
  1. The wait-and-see

The remaining 80% are waiting to see how things go. They are called fence sitters. These are people who sit on the fence between two parties, so to speak, and observe what happens, what behavior is worthwhile, how one party and the other will fare, just like in a tennis match. The motto: first take a look, weigh up what is worthwhile – and then join in.
Therefore: show that it is worth getting involved in the change by rewarding those who participate.
Because if you focus your efforts exclusively on the resisters and constantly invite them to workshops and discussion rounds in fancy hotels, then the 80 % fence sitters will get the impression that it is worthwhile being in the resistance and may be more likely to tilt in the negative direction.
But if the opposite is the case and the enthusiasts get attention, successes become visible and it seems to be fun, then the 80 % will tend to orient themselves towards change.


What you can do

  • Give those who go ahead exciting projects and tasks!
  • Praise and recognize their achievements publicly, show their success!
Of course, as already described, you should certainly listen to resistance, but do not focus your attention primarily on the resistance, but on those who contribute constructively to change. Show that this behavior is worthwhile!


Exchange during the change process


Change manager tip 6: Give people time to digest the change!

We supported the change management of a company that wanted to outsource an IT department from a large corporation. The manager had already been aware of the change for nine months before the employees found out about it. As expected, the employees had concerns, worries, separation pains. The manager had also gone through these phases, nine months earlier, and at that time she had already accepted the new situation and wanted to get started. She became impatient with the employees and communicated in a derogatory manner towards those who had reservations. This did not contribute positively to the change process.
We often observe that managers approaching a change have forgotten that they themselves have been dealing with the upcoming change for a long time. This gave them time to digest resistance, get used to the new, come to terms with it and accept it. This process takes time. And your employees will need them too.
You should also give your employees this time. It takes time for them to digest the message, accept the unpleasant aspects of change and realize that change is inevitable.
Therefore: Be patient with your employees!
However, being patient does not mean retreating; deal with your employees’ emotions consistently and clearly!


Team meeting change process


Change Manager Tip 7: Live a constructive error culture!

Sooner or later in the change process, the time comes when your employees start to make their first attempts with the new. For example, you try out the new program, find new communication channels, live the new processes or get involved in the new organization.


Learning means making mistakes

Of course, when you start something new, you first have to experiment – and naturally make mistakes. As the saying goes: no master has ever fallen from the sky. It takes time and, above all, many failed attempts before you find a good way of dealing with the new.
This will also be the case in a change process: there will be mistakes and setbacks, new difficulties will arise, your employees will take detours. This is normal and takes time. It is important for you as a manager to remain constructive even in the face of such setbacks and difficulties!
So never react critically or even with resentment to mistakes, don’t look for someone to blame! If you nag and bully your employees because they are trying out new things and are not yet able to handle them perfectly, they will very soon lose interest in the new. That cannot be in your interest.
Therefore: Talk calmly and constructively about the mistakes that have been made, how the situation can be improved and what steps can be taken in the future.


Welcome trial and error!

Establish a process in which constructive reflection takes place on a regular basis!
One example is the introduction of Scrum.
Switching to the agile process and project management Scrum is a major change for a department or organization.
You can safely assume that such a process will not run smoothly straight away. The Scrum method considers it a given that errors and obstacles will occur; reflection and improvement of the process is planned as an integral part of the process. In a Scrum process, reflection meetings are held after each work stage (sprint) to evaluate progress. On the one hand, the team takes a look at the results, i.e. what the team has achieved (sprint review); on the other hand, there is a sprint retrospective meeting in which the process and the collaboration are evaluated.
This is where the questions are asked:
  • How did we experience the process?
  • What worked well?
  • What didn’t work?
At this point, employees can talk openly and constructively about the process or the change.
They then look together at what they can improve in the next stage of their work.
Don’t demonize mistakes, but analyse them and find better solutions together!


Celebrating success in transformation


Change manager tip 8: Celebrate successes!

Brain researcher Dr. Christian Hoppe puts it in a nutshell:
“Motivation is a well-founded expectation of success.”
It is therefore important to give successes time and attention.

Take note of successes, make them visible – and celebrate them!

If something has worked well, communicate this! Appreciate those who have been successful and don’t be afraid to publicize their success! Everyone should know that. Also communicate what exactly led to the success. This encourages your employees and shows that you are committed to change. After all, we want everyone to see that the change was worth it!


External change managers

A change process therefore needs to be well planned if it is to be successful. The most important thing is to take people with you. If you have little time to devote the necessary attention to this process, or if you are unsure, seek professional support. We at berliner team are happy to help you take the right steps to make your change process a success.


Reading on the subject of change management:

From our blog

From our press review

The authors

Oliver Grätsch
Michelle 550
Michelle Templin
Christian Grätsch
Matthias Beikert
Susanne Grätsch
Monika Bt 550x550
Monika Steininger
Kai Hübner
Philipp Andresen 500x550
Philipp Andresen
Anna Isabell Arendt
Dr. Claudia Schmidt
Inga Kühn
Kassandra Knebel
Claudia Lehmann
Komplettes Team

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