Change Management Consulting, Practitioners, and Coaches

What is change management?

In the big picture, change management is exactly what it says. Managing individuals, teams, and companies through planned and unexpected changes is extremely important to ensuring success, even when things do not go as planned. Like all things, change management is not nearly as simple as it seems. Countless factors, skillsets, personalities – knowing how these come together and how to manage each part – is what makes up change management. Small parts coming together is never simple or easy when success is the goal.

Preparing those involved, giving them the tools they need, and guiding them through change is all part of the process. Embracing change in a way that is beneficial is emphasized, rather than trying to prevent change when it is not planned or is not entirely positive. Encompassing tools and skills can be adapted to fit individual situations, goals, and timelines.

Since so many parts of a company can influence how change is handled, different levels of change management are orientated towards different parts. Change management training may occur at the individual employee, organization or enterprise level. On the individual level, the idea that change is often resisted is one point that is challenged. Even those with the best intentions may unknowingly resist change through their actions and influence. Change management on this level starts with understanding how people go through change and what they need to do so in a productive way. Coaching new behaviors and improving existing ones, knowing when to create learning opportunities, and how to encourage change to remain permanent are some parts of individual change management.

When teams grow beyond a few people, it becomes increasingly difficult and eventually impossible to manage change for each person individually. Actions taken at the team and project level are tailored to involve everyone and the central goal of the team as key components in change. Project management is complemented by change management – project management gets things done and change management makes sure it sticks. The enterprise level of change management ensures that key ideas are taken into account on every level of a company – roles, processes, structure, and more.

Change management having its roots firmly planted will allow more effective execution of its functions. Individuals are impacted on this level as well, being more open to change. Organizations are given the tools and skills to best handle change promptly and beneficially.

Who is change management for?

If a person is involved in the operation of a business, they are part of change management. Those far from management positions are still involved and are key parts of making sure everything works out as intended. Whilst the materials tailored for a lower level worker will differ from those for executive management, expect the same fundamentals throughout. Executive employees will be taught the best ways to become a sponsor of change. Managers will be given the tools necessary to build a framework that supports the change and accompanying goals as  much as it supports the employees who are involved. Project leaders, as well as those directly involved with projects, are shown how to combine project management and change management to ensure that goals are achieved. Everyone else who is involved will become aware of resistance, with one aim being for resistance to be replaced with confidence, thereby allowing them to remain motivated in whatever area they may work in.

Change management courses are available for employees of all businesses and also those working specifically with the change management field. Researching and employing the knowledge associated with change management can become a career. For such professionals, look for skill training and refresher courses tailored towards that demographic. Strengthening existing knowledge and learning what is new and updated is what makes an expert what they are. Seeking certificates may be encouraged by the business, or an individual may do so in order to further build their own skills and their resume experience.

When a merger and acquisition occurs, the two companies involved may experience some clash in their culture and practices. Now combined, the problems they may face are amplified – employee loyalty, motivation, etc. The natural resistance to change is only increased when two methodologies are butting heads. Change management courses or the hiring of a professional coach or consultant can make this already difficult process a bit smoother.

Managing change in a changing business world

Expressworks, a top consulting firm, has dealt with acquisition before. An example of consulting and education working in this situation can be seen in one client acquiring a gas and oil company but not integrating it with their existing business. Integrating the processes that both companies have used into one working method is something a consultant can help with. Dealing with hundreds of existing projects, furthering communication, building a change plan, and notifying those involved in the projects are some tasks that this client had done with a consultant. The consultant faced resistance due to the complex and lengthy nature of the process, but meetings were held to meet the needs of all time zones’ participants and everything was explained.

Hostess filed for bankruptcy in 2012, despite being in business since the 1930s. Blame was placed on the workforce and unions having been unwilling to follow the demands of management. Whilst this could have been a contributing factor, nothing hurt Hostess more than their attempt at selling the same things in the same ways, using the same methods that they always had. Nutrition, consumer preferences, cost of production – these factors were ignored. 18,000 jobs were lost and one of the most popular and iconic brands ended in failure. Hostess may have been able to avoid filing for bankruptcy if they integrated change management into their operations, rather than denying that change was necessary.

Change that goes unmanaged makes it difficult to find success when so much is holding a business back. Only 23% of companies had full time change management staff in 2007, meaning that change was happening and 77% of businesses did not have staff dedicated to it.  Whilst there is a cost associated with change management education or the hiring of professionals, nothing costs more than losing a business and causing even a handful of employees to lose their livelihood due to unpreparedness or unwillingness to change.

The difference between online and in-person coaching

What can’t you get online in this age? Change management material and teaching are available online as free to access information, educational courses, and private conversation with professionals. In-person workshops, seminars, and classes offer a different touch on the same material. It comes down to a number of factors that every company must consider regarding their situation and goals, as well as resources such as time and money. Fortunately, the bountiful opportunities and forms of change management education mean that there is something to fit all needs. Even if a promising source is a bit off in terms of exactly what is needed, customization and tailoring is part of the experience.

Online courses are widely available and provide instruction and certification for all levels of employees involved in change. From brand new employees to truly seasoned executives, there is always something to learn. Onboarding instruction allows new employees to align themselves with the processes of a new workplace, as well as learning how to increase productivity and commitment. Having change management material presented when employees are new allows the company to work on furthering change management implementation with confidence. Employees already working in a changing or soon-to-change environment may benefit from courses that provide exercises and interactive tools, like those from and others. Reinforcement that happens as the person gains confidence and motivation can drive success more than just presenting everything upfront and calling it a day.

Is one better than the other?

There are pros and cons to both online and in-person education. In some situations, a combination of the two may yield optimal results. Online courses and instruction give flexibility that in-person anything just cannot have. Completing tasks as is convenient, keeping track of progress, being able to go back and review videos or read information again, having a resource to look at even after the instruction is done; these are the reasons many choose online change management education. Some classes, such as the organizational change management class from Watermark Learning, are available in both formats.

On the other hand, it would make sense that a people-oriented discipline such as change management would bode well as as in-person experience. But for some individuals, in-person education may seem rushed, impersonal, or not accessible. As mentioned earlier, it is nearly impossible to tailor all training to each person and their learning style. Consider what each format can offer and how it could benefit employees versus another. Seminars are an option that can provide education to numerous employees of different involvement levels. Some offer certification as part of the agenda. Time is more of a consideration with these as some take multiple days, such as the three day Prosci certification seminar listed on

Just like the change that is being implemented, the training behind change management is not instantaneously learned or taught. Online training may work in situations where flexibility is needed and time is short, as employees do not have to leave work and they can complete courses quickly. Seminars, conventions, and workshops are more involved. Whilst workshops can take place in the business, planning is needed for both outside and inside teaching. Finding providers, choosing times, and organizing employees to be present takes coordination. Seminars and conventions often require those attending to travel at least some distance, meaning valuable work time can be lost. These are best for using when there is downtime.

How much does it cost?

Online or in-person, group or individual, topical learning or in-depth education – it is not possible to say there is one universal cost for change management education, or for the professional hiring of those who provide it. Fortunately, given the vast range of options available, there is something within most budgets. The most expensive options tend to be multiple day seminars, such as the Prosci three day certificate mentioned earlier. Cost varies due to venue, availability, and other factors. Housing, books, and other resources are included in the cost of attendance, which goes down as more people come together as a group.

It is not practical to send employees off to their own seminars, but sending a moderate group could make it a cost effective and educational opportunity for everyone involved. For courses from Business Training Works, cost also varies based on the amount of people being enrolled. A half day session is $3,500, with a two day session going up to $8,100.  This is for one to six people, encouraging interested parties to enroll more. For groups up to 36, a half day session is $5,500 and a two day session is $11,600. This pricing is for in-person training, and larger groups may be accommodated with consultation. Providers such as Alison offer free courses and certification if budget is a concern, or if the waters want to be tested before investing money into further education.

Change management coaching vs. change management consulting

Whilst the subject matter is the same or similar, coaching and consulting will provide different experiences and results. They are fairly different and one may fit a company’s needs better than the other. According to the International Coach Federation, coaching involves a partnership with clients and working with them in the process of maximizing their potential. Coaches can be excellent coaches even if they are not completely familiar with the topic at hand, but change management coaches are available. A consultant is different in that they are used for their opinions, rather than their mentorship. Ideas can be bounced back and forth with a consultant, and a coach would help their client construct ideas to begin with. A consultant is presented with problems and is expected to give their insight on potential solutions. Coaches help a client come up with their own insight, unlike consultants who give it upfront. Because of this, it is possible and often beneficial to employ both a coach and consultant in the change management process.


Change management is a large and growing discipline that is being increasingly recognized for its importance. Like most things in demand, there exists professionals who study and work with the ideas of change management as their specialty or entire career. Some may conduct classes when not at their job, and others may make a full time living out of education and researching change management.

Certifications and education

The APMG International Change Management Practitioner certification is one example of a way to become recognized in the discipline. The Change Management Institute has collaborated with APMG to offer this certification. Certified professionals are recognized for their ability to support and strengthen smooth change management. Certifications from all providers help to increase confidence that the certified individual can perform as a change, transformation, and transition manager.

Multiple professional techniques and approaches are used in order to handle different situations that the individual may come across in their own work or as a hired professional. Motivation regarding employees is also a main point in having a certification granted. One area that may be overlooked is engaging stakeholders when change is happening. A person who is a stakeholder may not interact with employees everyday, but they are key in the operation of a business and the communication that should be supported. Minimizing risk and recognizing when change initiatives may not work are also important concepts, as even the best professionals may enter situations where the outcome will not be what was expected.

Certification requires an exam to be passed after the necessary training has been completed. APMG provides resources on finding training and booking the exam once appropriate. Certification is also available through free online courses or other organizations like ATD. Choosing a certification that is comprehensive and recognized will be far more beneficial than simply finding the cheapest or quickest solution.

Change management specialists

What can be done with a change management certification? Becoming a specialist is one such option with a fair number of job openings under that title. Whilst companies can hire coaches or consultants as needed or send their employees to classes, an on-staff specialist can help work change management concepts into the operation and success of a company. Skills needed to become a specialist in the field will likely come with experience: project management, communications, training, and good old common sense. If a person has a degree in any related area and experience working in such fields, becoming a change management specialist is an option. Having certification will increase the likelihood of landing a job. There are job openings, but in such an in-demand and important field, expect credentials to hold great importance.

The job description for a change management specialist will vary from company to company and field to field, but tasks and duties will be similar. Creating strategies for change is a key part of this job. This includes communication, training, stakeholder involvement, readiness assessment, and more. Working with others is extremely important as change management is very much a people-based and people-driven field. Being in touch with human nature and basic psychology is also helpful.

An understanding of how change affects all aspects of business and how to support tasks and events that support change are included in the responsibilities of specialist at Accenture and others. Understanding change, knowing how to support it, encouraging those involved, following through, and analyzing change is a simplification of a very complex job. A few years of change management experience and training strategies are considered basic qualifications, with preferred skills depending on the field and specific company that is hiring.

How to choose a change management coach

There is a lot to consider when choosing a coach. Settling on going after a coach versus a consultant or pre-made training resources is the first decision that must be made. One dividing factor is the change management model that a coach operates with. Different models structure the approach to and handling of change differently, with aspects that may make one more appropriate than another. These models are not the be-all end-all of change management, but rather a guiding philosophy to base function on. Some popular models include the Kurt Lewis model, ADKAR (Awareness Desire Knowledge Ability Reinforcement), Kotter’s, Stephen Covey, and Kubler Ross.

The Kurt Lewis Unfreeze-Change-Refreeze model is a simple and popular model that has resulted in many spin offs. ADKAR is very popular and focuses on actions and their results, with providers such as Prosci using it. John Kotter’s eight step model has been updated with a modern framework. Stephen Covey’s model includes seven habits that apply to managing individual effects of change and how this influences work. The Kubler Ross model uses the stages of grief to explore resistance to change. Looking into each model and providers that base their coaching on them will help in finding a partnership that is understandable and effective, rather than overwhelming or convoluted.

Popular change management firms and providers

There are countless firms offering consultation and coaching. Listings such as The Consulting Bench’s top firm list can help narrow down appropriate firms that have experience in the specific areas needed. A firm with IT company experience may not work well when hired by a law group, for example. On the other hand, do not dismiss any option based solely on the fact that a provider has not published their experience with a specific situation. There is always a first for everything, and many firsts are very successful ones.

Is it worth it?

People, whether in their own personal lives or in a business environment, are naturally comfortable with habit. Change upsets this instinct, even though change is always occuring. Strategies, systems, structure – the fabric of a successful business must change in accordance to society, technology, and other factors. Training is essential to reinforce that change is needed as a positive thing rather than a negative.

Change management training is becoming commonplace curriculum in business and management courses, but it is also important to be open to learning on the job and throughout one’s career. Taking obstacles and creating valuable opportunities from them is a skill that lasts a lifetime and benefits both work and personal lives. Regardless of where training comes from, starting with the belief that change is inevitable but can always be made more positive creates a better outcome. Online training courses for leadership sometimes offer certification and even courses without certification can still provide essential information. High level leadership and employees alike will benefit from knowing why change happens, what is done to bring change about, and how to deal with change that is not planned.

Effect on leadership

Often times, both employees and management figures resist change in their work environment. Managers setting poor behavioral standards or speaking negatively about a change initiative will only drive employees to do the same. Even the best leadership ever can still be resistant to change. This does not make them bad at their jobs, but rather in need of training.

For senior leadership, having authority over the change project, and knowing how individuals will work together is essential. Other responsibilities include acquiring and assigning funding, being aware of issues that may arise, and expecting alteration of plans when necessary. Approving or denying major decisions should be left to senior leadership. Like every employee, retaining a vision of the change being implemented is what drives success. Understanding the possible outcomes as a whole and for individual aspects of the project will make adaptation and realistic expectations possible.

For leadership, having accessible and recognizable authority every day is especially key during change. Working to engage and support individuals as well as the teams they make up creates an environment that is welcoming and appreciative of those involved. Information related to change should be relayed to those higher-up. The daily work of leadership influences the daily work of employees, and it is this work that adds up to create change. It is also the responsibility of leadership to enforce behaviors that encourage results.

Human resources, or another appropriate department, is responsible for assisting those in leadership roles, and advising them when expertise is called for. Flexibility to adapt to specific roles, like gathering data or creating content, is also important. Truly understanding the authority that is granted during a project is essential, as it may differ from usual business. The ability to explain the reasoning behind the process of change will also support employees. Employees involved elsewhere must understand why change is being implemented, and they should expect reasonable differences in their own lines of work.

Effect on employees

About 40% of employees say that they are informed of their company’s strategies, goals, and tactics. The other 60% is left in the dark, so why would they support change that requires them to move out of their comfort zone? Business aspects, like these, are just as important as the personal aspects of a company – vision, values, charity, etc. Understanding the whole their parts make up will help employees to envision positive change for themselves. Employees who feel that they are engaged are less likely to leave a company. This is especially important during periods of change, as supporting new employees or losing key members of teams can add difficulty.

The right team is made up of the right people, but only support and commitment can create a perfect team. Showing enthusiasm and trust will draw people in on their own, meaning they will be motivated for themselves as well as the organization. Weak leadership, complex structure, and attempts to work around what needs to be done can bring failure to any business plan. Empowering action and dissolving barriers should inspire optimism and confidence. Individuals even outside of leadership roles can be valuable if they have change management experience of their own. Recognizing and rewarding work, as well as giving constructive feedback, can make the vision more accessible to those who work in lower levels. Showing them how their work, no matter their role, plays into change can also be extremely helpful. Those who are higher-up but resist change must also be addressed.

How does that help a business to succeed?

Once training has been completed, it is necessary to continuously support and redefine what was learned. Using training as a starting point and seeing all obstacles and successes as additions to that training will help ensure that value is gained. The support of change management can go beyond providing materials and education with “change management” in the title.  Courses designed to build communication skills, leadership strength, and reinforced understanding of job duties will only further cement change management with skills that make it possible. This requires understanding of general concepts and the flexibility to see how they can be adapted to fit specific situations. No business is exactly the same as another, nor are the business plans that guide them. Change management training can create an environment that makes achievement a regular occurrence, and failure a truly valuable learning experience. Providing these additional key skills will of course help further employee and business success, and make implementation of learned change management information possible.


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APMG International
Reputable global examination and accreditation provider

The largest talent development association

Business Training Works
Education provider with extensive client list

Change Management Coach
Licensed counseling psychologist and certified life coach

Cornell HR Review
Collective publication of HR experiences by leading university

Certification courses from a leading university

Technology-focused education provider

Express Works
Consultation provider with change expertise

FTC Global
Award winning consultation firm with broad services

International organization that provides certification for professional coaches

LinkedIn-provided business education resource

Management Help
Coaching and action learning blog

Popular change management firm with 20 years of research.

The Consulting Bench
Detailed profiles on the top 140 US consulting firms with information on over 600 more

Watermark Learning
Provider of online and in-person education and certification