Game On!

Transitioning People Through Constant Change

soccer tactics.jpg

In a recent post entitled “Constant Change is the New Black” I described how the organisational change management approaches of Lewin, Bridges, Prosci®, AIM®, etc. are no longer going to cut it in a VUCA world.

That is, one that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.

In order to thrive, organisations cannot continue with the change “program” approach where change is driven top down.

Change is constant

Change is now constant and complex. There is no time to take breath and wait for one change to be embedded before moving on to the next. Changes are hitting us like an automatic rifle. The old scattergun effect of dealing with change is dead.

In this post, I would like to explore the roles we need in the organisation to manage in a VUCA world.

Keep it simple

If you look at the change management roles cited in the various change management approaches and frameworks in use today, there are many. The following are just some of them.

  • Executive sponsor

  • Primary sponsor

  • Reinforcing sponsors

  • Sponsors

  • Agents

  • Champions

  • Catalysts

  • Targets

  • Change managers

  • Change analysts

  • Change specialists

  • Change consultants

  • Stakeholders

We need to keep it simple!  We do not have the time to sit down with a key sponsor and the project team and determine:

a)    what our sponsorship model is going to look like 

b)    who our sponsors need to be

c)    the capability uplift sponsors need to be effective sponsors

d)    who the stakeholders are

e)    where they reside on a change continuum e.g. ADKAR, Change Curve etc.

f)      tactics we need to put in place to move people along the continuum

g)    proactive and reactive resistance management plans

h)    reinforcement plans

We do not have time to develop a comprehensive:

  • Communication plan

  • Sponsor roadmap

  • Coaching plan

  • Resistance management plan

  • Training plan

  • Reinforcement plan

  • Master change management plan

Change platform

If you are lucky enough to have infinite experienced organisational change management resources; managers in the organisation have sufficient capacity to sponsor multiple and multi-faceted programs of work; and you are dexterous enough to assess stakeholder positions on many change continuums for each of the changes they are experiencing - then maybe – just maybe – this approach is possible!!

Meanwhile, for us mere mortals this is not the case. We have limited resources and capacity.

It’s time to wake up and face the world we are now living in and determine how we can successfully absorb all of the change that is hitting us whilst being able to change direction quickly.

What we need is what Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini coined when writing for McKinsey – ‘a change platform’.

This is where anyone can initiate change, decision-making is delegated and people are encouraged to experiment and innovate. Change is not driven from the top and rolled out. Changes are embraced everyone can set priorities, determine problems and issues and generate solutions to overcome them. Everyone has the ability to suggest alternatives. Remember, people don't resist change – they resist decrees from on high.

There are guiding principles or ‘guard-rails’ to avoid total chaos but for most of us it is a very different world to that which we live in today.

In future posts I will explore how an organisation needs to ‘transform’ in order to truly have a change platform on which everyone has resilience to change. This includes flattening the structure, managers letting go of control, increased employee autonomy and authority, building a culture of evolution rather than episodic change and so on.


In this post I want to look at the three roles that I believe are needed in organisations to manage constant change. This is where I ask you, my reader, to take a leap of faith and imagine that we do have a change platform in which these roles operate. If you can do that, the following will hopefully stand up.

I believe there are only three roles required if we have a change platform - managers, coaches and players.

Soccer Roles Large.jpg

I am using a soccer analogy because I am from Liverpool in the UK and a staunch Reds supporter. But you can align those three roles with most field sports.

In the sports team

Managers determine the strategy that is going to be played out and direct the gameplay. They provide instruction and motivation. Managers ensure that Coaches are receiving education and training, support, coaching and mentoring, so that they can effectively and efficiently transition Players through change. Managers ensure that Coaches and Players alike have all the sporting equipment and facilities needed to be a winning team.

Coaches ensure that Players are game fit.  They develop the skills and capabilities of the Players. They communicate the strategy and game plan that Players are being asked to fulfil. They are change sponsors supporting and reinforcing the change.

They will receive feedback from the Players and determine if changes need to be made to the game plan. Coaches will identify resistance and establish the cause of the resistance. In conjunction with the Change Manager, remediation will be undertaken. Coaches need to keep an eye out for change fatigue and respond accordingly.

Players are ultimately the people that will win or loose the game. It is the Players that actually make things happen. They use the gameplay and capabilities with which they have been equipped to win

Change is constant for Players. Every match played is different to the one before. Players are faced with new opposition, different weather conditions, and different playing surfaces.

Players also have to rapidly respond to changing situations whilst play is underway. The opposition may change tactics that requires a change in the way the game is being played.  For Players, change is constant. New Players may join the team mid-match and playing positions may be adjusted accordingly. One minute, a Player is playing as a mid-fielder and the next minute they are in an attacking position. Team numbers may depreciate at any time due to a red-card decision by the referee. The Players have to adjust again to compensate being down in team numbers.

Team numbers may depreciate at any time due to a red-card decision by the referee. The Players have to adjust again to compensate being down in team numbers.

The sports team and the roles within it can be applied to any organisation trying to deal with constant change.

In the organisation

The (change) Managers are the experienced professionals in organisational change. They form the organisational change management competency within the organisation. The competency is provided by skills and equipped Managers who build capability and credibility and have an enterprise view of change.

They know the terrain and have the experience and expertise to navigate the complexity that is change. Their aim is to continually develop change management competencies throughout the organisation and enable the organisation to successfully transition through constant change.

Managers build organisational-wide resilience in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world.

Coaches are the active coalition of change agents and sponsors. Coaches are advocates, facilitators, motivators, mediators and advisors.

Players are our employees who need to be prepared for continual transitions to new ways of working. Support for employees comes from the Managers and the Coaches. The Managers support the Coaches.




Managers have to understand the Players and prepare them for constant change. Preparing the players is done through engagement.

Engagement is a series of activities including education, communication, facilitation and alleviation.


Managers sustain the ability of the Coaches to be effective in their role.

Managers equip the Coaches with the skills and capability to effectively support the Players through continual change. Coaches have to be able to effectively communicate, advocate and coach. They have to identify and manage resistance to playing in VUCA world.

Managers ensure the Coaches have continuing education, support and coaching so that they can help transition Players through the complexity of change.

Managers have to sustain – that is maintain and support the coaching network.


Coaches provide support for Players through communication. They advocate, manage resistance, coach, liaise and network.

Coaches also act as sponsors for change whilst building and maintaining a healthy change Coach network. Their role is crucial in sustaining an organisation that can thrive in a VUCA world.

So keep it simple – three roles and no more.

Coming up!

In my next post I will explore – in more detail - each of the roles of Manager, Coach and Player, and the activities that they undertake across a change platform. These activities are focused around engagement, sustainment and support.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent – but the most responsive to change” – Charles Darwin

More posts on their way over the coming weeks and months exploring how we need to take a fresh and radical look at organisational change management, and the changes we need to make if we are to thrive.

In the meantime, please subscribe to my posts so you have no fear of missing out!