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What is a change manager?

Elissa Farrow
March 5, 2014

I often get asked in my role as the Queensland Chapter Lead of the Change Management Institute what makes a good change manager. I usually give the questioner a description of the diversity in the field and also refer people to the Change Management Competencies, which lists the set of agreed competencies.

The competencies include:

  • Specialist expertise in change management techniques
  • Project management
  • Strategic thinking and judgement
  • Influencing
  • Leadership
  • Facilitation
  • Communication
  • Self management
  • Coaching
  • Ongoing professional development

Essentially, according to the Change Management Institute, a Change Management Practitioner “has mastery of the change principles, processes, behaviours and skills necessary to effectively identify, manage, initiate and influence change, and manage and support others through it” (CMI, 2012).

What this looks like is that they have practical experience in either psychology, communications, education, behaviour science, social science or project management. They also have education and/or training in change management theory, practice and process. But more importantly the right set of personal competencies to work with people, understand how people change behaviourally and a set of planning processes to enable this to happen.

A change manager also needs to know about project management. Many change managers I know work in a project context. They may be reporting to a project manager or in some rare cases the project manager might be reporting to them. So balancing the psychological and behavioural aspects, with good practice, good planning, good analysis and diagnosis and excellent communication skills.

A change manager prides him or herself on staying relevant in terms of best practice theory and practice. They network with other change professionals to sharpen up their practice and above all share change management practices with their colleagues to grow the change agility of those who they work with.

Joining a professional association like the Change Management Institute also is a good way to grow as a professional. The CMI is working hard through a volunteer network to grow industry understanding of what change managers competency looks like. They offer formal accreditation but also discounts to a range of partner organisations who offer more formalised learning around particular models or particular formal academic qualifications.

The CMI has also recently launched the world’s first CMBOK, a great summary of change processes and links to the broader knowledge base change managers typically work with. If you’re interested in reading more, go to and check it out.

Elissa Farrow
Elissa is a founder and lead consultant for About Your Transition and has extensive experience in strategic organisational adaptation design, facilitation and delivery. Elissa has supported organisations to define positive futures and then successfully transform to bring lasting benefits. She has proven adaptative capacity and can successfully transfer her skills to different contexts. In 2018, Elissa commenced her doctoral studies through the University of the Sunshine Coast. Her published research is exploring organisational adaptation to the evolving field of artificial intelligence using qualitative and participatory research methodologies. Elissa is an experienced board director and considered a thought leader in her field having won a number of national and local awards for contributing to Women in Project Management and for Change Management Research.
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