Game On! - Engagement - Players and Managers

Transitioning People Through Constant Change

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In my last blog I gave an overview of the roles that I believe are need if organisations are going to be able to survive in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world. In this world change is constant.

I used a soccer team analogy to describe the roles that are needed in an organisation subject to constant change.

The following paragraphs are a recap of the roles. If you have read these in a previous post, please jump to section 'Game On! - Engagement'.


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.

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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.

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

Game On! - Engagement

In this post I would like to explore engagement – the relationship between the Players and the Managers.


The Players

The Players consist of everyone in the organisation who needs to be able to transition to new ways of working in a world that is now subject to constant change and where changes in direction need to be made quickly.

With the support of the Managers and Coaches, employees will be prepared. We have to prepare our people for continual transitions to new ways of working.

The Managers

Managers comprise Organisational Change Managers within an organisation. They are a core competency and an organisational change management (OCM) centre of excellence.

Building change management competencies throughout the organisation is a key goal.

Their role is to prepare the Players through engagement. Ultimately it is the Players who will win or lose the game.

In conjunction with the Coaches and Players, the Manager will undertake a match review in order to capture what worked well, what went wrong, and what they could do differently next time.


Engagement consists of four activities – educate, communicate, facilitate and alleviate. Change resilience can be acheived through engagement. When excessive amounts of change are taking place, employees can become disengaged.

A HBR article (2010) summed up constant change. It said

 “The companies most likely to be successful in making change work to their advantage are the ones that no longer view change as a discrete event to be managed, but as a constant opportunity to evolve the business.
GE, HP and Nissan are three companies who are starting to treat change as a constant event, not as an initiative that needs to be managed. In these organizations, change readiness is the new change management”.

The four engagement activities aim to make people change ready.


We need to ensure that our people can be like plants that have learnt though evolution to become resilient and sustain growth even in hard and constantly changing conditions.


Change Managers (the change management professionals) need to educate the players (and the Coaches) about the fact that we are now living in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world and unless we embrace constant change we will not survive. Education needs to assist the Players build personal resilience in a constantly changing and uncertain world. No longer can we undertake readiness assessments, identify resistance to change and put in place resistance management plans to overcome it. Change is constant!!! We have to manage resistance by building a platform for change (not a program) and overcome resistance across the entire portfolio.

The following list contains some suggested education to support everyone through continual transitions. Every organisation is unique so training programs cannot be formulated in isolation. These ideas are included to generate some thinking within your organisation. Note that these suggestions are specific to addressing a need for increased resilience from an organisational change perspective and do not include supporting education such as leadership, communication and listening,

  • Understanding change at an organisational and personnel level in a VUCA world
  • OCM skills for working in an environment of constant change
  • Understanding my role and that of others in organisational change management within my company
  • Building personal resilience
  • Letting go! Developing delegation skills
  • Identifying change resistance and the right tools to use to overcome it

It is the Managers responsibility to ensure that everyone has received the necessary training to manage constant change within the organisation.


Managers have to communicate effectively with the Players. Players need guiding principles or guard rails so they understand their scope of control. This needs to be communicated on a regular basis, as it will change over time as the principles decrease and the guardrails move further apart.

Managers will provide two-way channels for communication (and engagement) for Players at all levels of the organisation.

Constant and consistent conversations about transitions and what it means to operate in a VUCA world are needed.

Players should inform Managers so that engagement strategies can be adjusted as needed to ensure that players remain resilient in a turbulent world. Communication should ensure that players know what resources are available to them to assist with transitions.

A lot has been written about effective communication and I do not intend to replicate that here. What is important to note is that effective communication has never been more important than it is today. When we are working in a VUCA world, we can only maintain resilience and avoid disengagement through effective communication.


Communication needs to build a sense of belonging and self-worth amongst Players so they can thrive. Use communication to congratulate Managers, Coaches and Players when something has gone well.

Communication should be used to discuss the things that did not go as expected. It should examine what went wrong, lessons learnt, and what we will do differently next time. Communication can be widely used to provide transparency and develop a culture mutual trust.


Managers will enable Players and Coaches with the right tools and resources at the right time so that they can perform their roles in the most effective way possible.

Resources to support Players should include:

  • Knowledge that is easily accessible from anywhere at any time
  • Access to research and subject matter expertise in relation to organisational change management
  • Self-help tools accessible from any mobile device
  • Training courses – classroom, online or hybrid
  • Workshops to discuss how improvement could be made to processes, tools and education
  • Managers being visible and approachable by both Players and Coaches so that there can be open and honest discussions
  • Measurement tools to inform the organisation of the level of Players satisfaction
  • Managers need to be available to both Players and Coaches so that any issues or problems can be dealt with in a timely manner.

The Conference Board on Change Management reported in its 2015 annual survey “organizations must focus on behavioural change to make change more sustainable and become agile. It is about helping people embrace and adopt change by building personal competencies . . . It is about instilling personal responsibility and accountability for change at every level. . . .The focus should be on developing change leaders at all levels, not just reactive change managers” (Mitchell et al. 2015). 

This is what Managers need to facilitate. 

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Managers need to work to lessen the impact of constant change though the continual strengthening of organisational change capability.

In a world that is relentlessly changing, Managers need to ensure that the organisational capability to continually transition is ahead of the game. This capability includes the capabilities of Players and Coaches to undertake the various roles expected of them at any point in time as well as the supporting systems that provide the platform for change across the organisation. Managers need to ensure that leading edge approaches to continual change are in place and that the organisation is future-proofed for the evolving VUCA word.

In any way possible, Managers need to alleviate the pressure and stress that can come from constant change. This could be raising the issue with senior management and requesting that further prioritisation of change is made to ease the workload. It could be identifying where stress resides and requesting coaches make an initial diagnosis and interventions where possible. If this is not possible, additional professional assistance may be required.


Keep it simple. In a complex world of constant change we need to look for simplicity wherever it may reside. Rather than having a cast of thousands, have three roles of Manager, Coach and Player.

Equip them with the right skills, capabilities and tools to undertake their roles in an effective and efficient manner.

Managers will plan the strategy and direct the gameplay so that Coaches can further develop the skills and capabilities of the Players. The Players execute the gameplay, knowing at anytime it could change due to internal or external circumstances and embrace the fluidity of constant change.

Remember - ultimately it is the Players who will win or lose the game.

The next post will be about the Sustainment aspect of people transitions.


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!

Karen FerrisComment