From Project Manager to Change Agent

By Peter Tarhanidis, PMP

Employees who adapt quickly are an organization’s change agents. Project managers have the potential to be great change agents — and in that role, enact change at the project team level.
But that requires helping an individual accept change in the first place. To do so, I often start by looking at U.S. business consultant Charles Rogel‘s method, the SARA model. It describes how individuals react to change:
  • Shock or denial, particularly if it’s not what they want to hear
  • Anger or anxiety, especially considering the point of view of the news
  • Resistance then sets in, when the realization of inevitable change looms.
  • Acceptance is last, usually turning to support of the change for the better.
I have had to employ the SARA model many times, for major changes — from outsourcing to mergers and acquisitions — that have led to organizational changes and restructuring for my teams and me. As a leader, empathetic to my team’s uncertain future, I have used SARA to help me guide them toward visualizing an end state that they can accept, even if it requires more time and effort than I had originally scoped for it. I have even provided placement assistance to help some individuals find their next role outside of my team.
In the end, you just have to remember: You cannot force people through the process. But learning to guide them through it helps you improve your leadership ability by aligning teams and stakeholders to a common vision.
What model do you use to help guide your project team toward acceptance of change? For more on change management, visit PMI’s change management portal.

The views expressed within the PMI Voices on Project Management blog are contributed from external sources and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of PMI.

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