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Equipping Line Management to Lead Change

A previous blog talks about project change management activity that addresses the emotional reason that help an employee population achieve the DESIRE stage of ADKAR. The other reasons that people but-into change are political and rational.

The political element, in my experience, is critical to helping employees transition to DESIRE. There is no one political activity that does it all. One set of activities is working with line management (and, where it makes sense, with union leadership).  Studies have shown that the communications and physical presence of the executives do not equal the same influence as line management. Line management are with their people every day. They know their people. Here are two activities leveraging their influence.

Prior to roll outs to all employees announcing the project start, reasons for, and intent of the project, make line management aware of what’s in the coming announcements. This equips them to answer questions from their employees immediately after the roll out. It supports their role of leading their people. It can also head off the rumor mill that can start right after the roll out.

If the project roll out of the coming project is not preceded by line management pre-positioning, every one gets the same information at the same time. Typically, immediately after the communication session has adjourned, employees turn to their line management with more questions. Where line management was not prepositioned, they can’t perform their job of supporting their teams with any clarification. Their responses will largely be, “I heard it the same time you did. You know as much as I do.”  Or another response could be, “You know ‘them’ (corporate). To them we’re just a bunch of mushrooms, in the basement and in the dark.”

Next activity: going into process piloting and full implementation, prepare line management for their role (accountability) in implementation success. It is far more effective if line management leads the initial area roll out introducing process training rather than a stranger to the group. It also positions line management to play an active role in implementation coaching and follow up.

Prepare a one-to-two-hour workshop for line management on the process changes for implementation, the schedule, and managing resistance. Optimally, start with five to ten minutes of opening remarks by their executive. Once the session is approved by the executives, bring a department manager, associated supervisors, and staff into a session dedicated to their department.

Make it clear that they are accountable for implementation. The consultants are only there to help them. Line management will lead it, and report weekly progress to the project steering committee. Provide the structure and agenda for the roll out, training, coaching, and quantitative implementation of progress measurement and reporting.

During the managing resistance section, work with the group to discuss different resistance behaviors and how to manage them. Establish an open discussion about how to manage different forms of resistance. The fun part is asking individuals about their own, go-to resistance behaviors and their input on how best to help them overcome that resistance.

Please contact me at if you have questions or would like to know more about rational, political, and emotional workstreams in a project.


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