Unravelling Change Training & Assessment: It's Complicated! ... or is it?
As a seasoned Project Management professional that moved into Change Management, I often get asked what the right way to upskill change management capability is. Coming into the profession I personally really struggled to make sense of the volume of content out there. A recent publication from APM cited over 25 theories and frameworks for Change Delivery. 25! Seemingly disconnected and when and how to apply them evidently unclear. Tired of a lack of order, I have taken it upon myself to bring some structure to the content of this wonderfully fascinating subject. So if you are considering a move into the profession or simply to brush up and empower some of your current thinking then here is my rough guide to Change Management Training and Assessment.
Coincidentally a broader acceptance that Change Management is an organisational imperative and execution can only be delivered with suitably qualified and experienced professionals along with a recognition that change is in some ways in everyone's job it isn't that surprising why some many are trying to navigate the same challenge. With that is mind it might be worthwhile to have a quick recap of what Change Management is.
Historically it has been the combination of theories and practices from Business Management, Project Management, Operations, Organizational Development and Marketing brought together to drive the effective and sustained adoption of new behaviours, process and procedures underpinning delivery of individual, societal and organizational growth. That’s a mouthful for sure but picking out the key words – new behaviours underpinning individual and organisational growth – that is it in a nutshell. I’m sure many people connect with this last statement – whether you are directing or impacted by change.
Since the early 2000s, Change Management has risen from these disciplines into its own profession but much of its teachings remained within Project Management or Organisational Development. Since 2008, as the profession began to stand on its own two feet, the Change Management Institute (ChgMI) - a professional body dedicated to defining and delivering best practice in change - established a competence model for professional change managers. This was followed in 2013 by the ChgMI publication of a formal professional Body of Knowledge – setting out the underpinning knowledge required for effective practice. This Change Management Body of Knowledge (‘CMBoK’ – The Effective Change Manager, CMI, 2013), like the competence model, represents the combined efforts of over 600 Change experts across 30 countries bringing together a cohesive set of competencies to demonstrate the capabilities an individual must demonstrate to deliver change in a professional manner.
A said earlier that the APM cited over 25 theories and frameworks for Change Delivery. The sheer volume illustrates how complex the field appears to be when it comes to gaining qualification and recognition of one's skills in the area, so lets take a look at some structure around it and more importantly what might be right for you.
The Change Assessment Landscape
From my travels of available materials, there are two broad types of offer in terms of recognising your change management abilities:
1. Change Theory Training /Certification – educating and testing your understanding of various theories and practices that have been used to deconstruct and frame how humans and organisations deal with change. This covers a lot of what is on offer and I break down in to two further categories:
Unframed theory, used to arm professionals with various tools and techniques commonly used in the delivery of change. I use the term unframed as training providers have a syllabus to cover but you will not leave with an approach to deliver change – simply the key tools that have been shown to be valuable.
There are two levels:
Certified Local Change Agent – building skills needed to support change from within a functional role.
Change Management Practitioner – building skills and teaching theories needed to plan and deliver change as a dedicated role.
Framed theory, often pulls together a set of theories, methodologies and tools into a change framework. Frameworks provide a set process in which to approach change and the approach is taught and then tested with a case study or other means to test knowledge retention e.g. Prosci’s ADKAR framework.
2. Change Management Accreditation – application of theory to real life examples to showcase practical delivery. Testing applicant’s ability to assess and apply appropriate change approaches pulling together a blend of models and methodologies to address a specific need. Assessed through the Change Management Institute’s Accreditation process.
So let’s dive into a little more detail.
1. Change Theory Assessment - Unframed
What is it?
Education of Change Management theory is part of a number of Undergraduate and Postgraduate degrees. The level and depth of which varies widely. As such, although it has importance and relevance, it alone is typically not enough to showcase an individual’s capabilities in a business environment.
In fact, the minimum expectation on capabilities is something the Change Management Institute worked hard to define and has been articulated through the Change Management Body of Knowledge [CMBoK].
Although not directly examinable – the CMBoK has been used to develop training courses to ensure a minimum level of quality of change understanding. The Change Management Institute specifically partnered with APMG to develop an examinable course designed to validate the core understanding of theories and models. Depending on your intended career aspirations two levels of assessments exist, intended to sufficiently ground individuals with the tools and techniques to be proficient at enabling change for their organisations.
1. The Certified Local Change Agent
Who is it for?
Local change agents’ as described in the qualification are not expected to be ‘responsible for the delivery of change’, but in a good position to support and facilitate it within their work areas.
Duration: 2 day course covering the basics of being an effective local change agent within change programmes.
Format: Classroom training with examination at the end of day 2.
Cost: Training provider dependent – see list of ATOs: https://apmg-international.com/product/clca
2. The Change Management Practitioner
Who is it for?
Individuals thinking to formalise their Change Management capabilities or to be well grounded in the theory and practices of
Change Management. This could be to prepare for a potential move into a professional Change Management role or to strengthen professional skills in project or programme management, business analysis etc. It is also a great grounding for team leaders and line managers who need to lead or implement change.
Duration: 5 day course, typically split into Foundation (3 days) and Practitioner (2 days)
Format: Classroom training with examination at the end of day 3 (Foundation) and day 5 (Practitioner - subject to passing the Foundation level).
Cost: Training provider dependent – see list of ATOs: https://apmg-international.com/product/change-management
2. Change Management Theory - Framed
What is it?
How one change initiative is planned and delivered essentially can form the blueprint for how you might approach another similar Change programme. There are countless organisations "selling" a tried and tested Change Framework. Most use them as a proprietary way of connecting with clients but some also sell the model as a way for others to apply the approach. A great example of an independently trained framework is PROSCI. Prevalent in the US, and well recognised in Europe, it is a framework to assess, plan, manage and deliver change through a repeatable set of steps.
Who is it for?
Actually quite hard to answer but generally speaking it is for Change Managers working with organisations that like a process which is supported by countless examples of successful delivery. Think about how you might assess relevance of a Project Management Framework for your own development - you could be Prince2, APM, SAFe or PMI certified but some organisations will be familiar and recognise one over another so your decision will be based on what organisations are valuing – which itself may be determined by the industry you are in.
3. Change Delivery Capability - Change Management Institute Accreditation
What is it?
Beyond recognising theoretical awareness of change models and principles, the Change Management Institutes Accreditation scheme seeks to validate an individual’s capability to deliver change through review of their past client work and assessment of a live case study by already accredited Change Masters.
Who is it for?
If you are looking to establish yourself as an independent change / transformation consultant, ratification of your capabilities in genuine delivery roles will be paramount to standing out from the rest of the consulting and contractor market. Contractors themselves will be a cut above the traditional project and programme managers simply relying on certifications for Project and Change Management.
Duration: No set duration, dependent on time for individuals to process application steps and obtaining references / scheduling assessments with assessors.
Format: Assessment is offered at three levels: Foundation, Specialist and Master. Each level takes account of the years of experience and typical roles you have performed with appropriate evidence against the competency for the level. As a guide - the below infographic from the Change Management Institute helps direct you:
Full details can be found here: https://www.change-management-institute.com/three-levels
Cost: To find out more about costs in your country, please see: https://www.change-management-institute.com/acm-master
Whether you are looking to build internal change capability or stand on your own two feet as an independent advisor, showcasing your skills in this area is a tight combination of theoretical training and practical experience. What education and assessment is right for you will largely depend on how you see your career developing and the relative importance of Change Management as a set of skills within that.
Formal recognition then, simply acts to signal to organisations you have the necessary skills at particular levels of depth, together with the commitment and tenacity to subject your skills and knowledge to independent assessment.
“Frankensteining” Change Management models and theories to address a specific organisational need is a skill in its own right. That's why there are some very accomplished independent consultancies really making transformational differences.
However for the average individual looking to run change programmes and with the mixed levels of maturity of Change Management in role definitions and organisational acceptance – sticking by what works and combining with your experience of your organisation maybe the deciding factor in what is right for you. None are mutually exclusive so if you are feeling brave why not immerse yourself in all – believe it or not, it isn’t that difficult and entirely worthwhile for the true change superheroes.