How I learned to speak about changes when 19 out of 20 people would rather I shut the hell up

Nobody wants to hear it from the consultant.

How I learned to speak about changes when 19 out of 20 people would rather I shut the hell up
Photo by Alejandro Ortiz / Unsplash

Imagine this. A big, important change is happening: reorg, strategic shift, start or stoppage of significant work.

How do folks across the organization want to learn about these changes? Here’s the breakdown from the change management boffins at Prosci:

  • 73% of people surveyed want to hear about the scope and importance of big changes from their executive leadership.
  • 67% want to hear about the impact of changes from their direct supervisor.
  • And only 4% want to hear ANYTHING from the change management team (hey, that’s me!).

When I first saw this data, my reaction to that 4% figure was a big old “eep” as I thought back to the times I’d communicated change messages myself. Although it wasn’t something I did often, it was clearly something I should do… never.

Instead, it was time to get good at creating space for the right people to send the right messages. To learn how they talk and give them their talking points. To schedule the sessions, invite the people, buy the food, and get the heck out of the way. This is where I learned the importance of visible, participatory, energetic sponsorship for change efforts. Sponsors need to show up, over and over, and speak to the change and why it’s happening now.

This is one of a million (approx) things I’ve learned from Prosci, the outfit behind the figures I mentioned above. Prosci researches change management, then pours what they learn directly into a container of excellent, thoughtful change management tools + methods.

I now believe that, in the same way that every project can be a lean project, every project can be a change management project. None too big, none too small. Maybe the strategy is simple, but it’s still worth thinking it through.

And if you ever find a project where the sponsor won’t speak up, RUN! Life’s too short to try to talk one’s way out of that dismal 4% figure.


  • Communications about big changes should come from the right people:
  • Those in exec/leadership roles…
  • …And the managers of everybody affected by the change.
  • Prosci has super great methods to help.
  • Don’t waste time on projects without active sponsorship.