How to achieve business results through individual change The five levers of change management

You may have heard them called change management activities, tasks, tools or processes, but essentially these five “levers” of change management – communications, sponsorship, coaching, training and resistance management – refer to those things that we do as change managers to leverage our change management efforts to maximize the benefits and to realize the outcomes or results of our projects.


Prosci is delivering a webinar titled “Five levers of change management” as part of the February/March 2012 series. Sign up now to attend this free session and see how you can drive project success by scaling and customizing these five levers:

  • Wednesday, February 29, 11:00 AM EST (New York time) – Register
  • Thursday, March 1, 4:00 PM EST (New York time) – Register

Visit the main webinars page to see the full schedule of upcoming sessions.


Consider for a moment how a lever is constructed; it includes an effort arm, a resistance arm and a fulcrum. Let’s consider the load at the end of the arm to be the desired business results, which are often times hindered by – yes, you guessed it – resistance. But often what appears to be resistance, or lack of desire to participate and support the change, may in fact be a lack of awareness, knowledge, or ability to realize the change at an individual level.

Prosci has developed the five “levers” of change management to help strengthen or make more efficient our efforts to help individuals attain the awareness of the need for change; the desire to participate, support and engage in the change; the knowledge on how to change; the ability to implement the required skills and behaviors; and the reinforcement to sustain the change. These elements comprise the Prosci® ADKAR® Model. Each of the primary change management activities, or levers, impact each element of ADKAR® as shown in the figure below.


Resistance management


*Note: While all five levers can influence all five ADKAR® elements, the discussions below outline the elements of individual change that each lever is uniquely designed to address. For example, while communications can impact any of the ADKAR® elements, it has the greatest impact on Awareness and Reinforcement.


Communications lever

The communications lever is targeted specifically at raising awareness of the need for change, and reinforcing the change once it has taken hold. According to Prosci’s 2012 Best Practices in Change Management report, “frequent and open communication about the change” was the second greatest contributor to change management success.

And who should be doing the communicating? You? How about the change manager or project manager? On the contrary, the 2012 report indicated that the CEO or president of your organization is the preferred sender for messages pertaining to the business reasons for the change, and the employee’s direct supervisor is the preferred sender for how the change will impact the employee personally.


Sponsorship lever

Effective sponsors perform three primary roles to build awareness of the business need for change, desire to engage and participate in the change, and to ultimately reinforce the change:

1.) Participate actively and visibly, 2.) Communicate directly with employees 3.) Build coalitions of sponsorship in support of the change

Just as change management is more than a thorough communications plan, sponsorship includes more than just communications from our leaders. Employees and managers will take their cue from the primary sponsor on a project. If sponsors are not seen actively participating and adopting the change, their employees and managers will not participate or adopt the change, either. Effective sponsorship also helps to reinforce the change. As seen in the graph below, the primary sponsor was cited in the 2012 report as the best provider of reinforcement and recognition on the group level.


Coaching lever

As the person closest to employees, direct supervisors or managers are instrumental in helping their employees attain every element of ADKAR® by acting as:

  • Communicators—Managers and supervisors are the preferred senders of personal messages pertaining to the change. These messages should include information such as: “Why is the change happening?” “What’s in it for me?” How does this impact my job?” As seen in results of the graph above, managers and supervisors are also the best providers of reinforcement and recognition. (Awareness, Reinforcement)
  • Advocates—When managers demonstrate support for the change themselves, they act as role models for their employees and help encourage employees to engage in the change as well. (Desire)
  • Coaches—An employee’s manager is the person who is most immediately involved in training employees and building the necessary skills and competencies to successfully adopt the change. As coaches, managers and supervisors must ensure their employees have the necessary resources to be able to adopt the change. Finally, managers must support their employees throughout the change. As discussed with the communications lever, managers are the best providers of reinforcement and recognition. (Knowledge, Ability, Reinforcement)
  • Resistance managers—As the person closest to employees, managers are often the most effective resistance managers when it comes to identifying and managing individual resistance and removing barriers. (Desire)


Training lever

Training includes not only training on the new skills or processes required for the change, but also training on change management. The knowledge of how to do the change is just as important as the knowledge of how to manage the change, both individually and with employees. Likewise, having the ability to do the change and the ability to manage the change must both be in place to reach to ultimate outcome—the desired business results.


Resistance management lever

There are three aspects of resistance management that specifically target building desire to engage and participate in a change.

  • Resistance prevention is applying tools and processes to manage the people side of change upfront which can limit resistance. In other words, using effective change management can help prevent resistance.
  • Proactive resistance management is the identification and anticipation of resistance early in the change process. This early planning for resistance allows for the design of pre-emptive measures against that resistance.
  • Reactive resistance management includes a set of steps that can be followed when resistance is persistent and enduring, specifically on an individual level.


Developing the five levers

These five change management activities or levers are tailored to individual projects by conducting assessments that measure the magnitude of the change, readiness of the organization and the change management competency of involved sponsors. The first phase of the Prosci® 3-Phase Change Management Process includes these assessments as part of the strategy formulation that will ultimately direct the development of the five levers. As such, the resulting plans or levers will be customized, scaled and targeted to the project and to the organization. These levers can then be integrated into the overall project plan to help collectively move individuals through change, and ultimately, to achieve the desired outcomes of the project.


For Appreciative Inquiry Team Building & Change Management call Tony Dovale Keynote Speaker, Facilitator, Coach and