BEST WM Show Michelle Bartonico Need for change management

“How do you help your organization see the need for change management?” Find out in this episode of Appfire Presents: The BEST Work Management Show by Appfire. Even after leadership’s committed to change, you still have work to do evangelizing that change to the rest of the organization if you want your initiative to succeed. Michelle Bartonico shares advice on selling the concept of change management at your organization so you can more effectively lead your team through transition.

About the guest

Michelle Bartonico is a senior strategist and project manager at Trinity University. She is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP), completed the Google Project Management program, and the Search Engine Optimization specialization from UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education. Follow Michelle at for thoughts on project management, marketing, and higher education.

About the show

The BEST Work Management Show by Appfire features smart leaders sharing their secrets for optimizing business processes and increasing productivity. Get the goods on how they handle everything from setting up workflows to automating processes. Every episode is 10 minutes or less, packed with insights you can use right away to supercharge your team’s productivity.

For your convenience, here is the transcript of this episode:

How do you help your organization see the need for change management?

Kerry:  Today we’re going to address how do you help your organization see the need for change management. To walk us through that is Michelle Bartonico. She’s a senior strategist and project manager at Trinity University, a certified project management professional, she completed the Google Project Management Program and the search engine optimization specialization from UC Davis Continuing Professional Education. She even has a book coming out, Stakeholder Engagement Essentials You Always Wanted to Know, available for preorder at Stick around for 10 minutes of work management awesome.

Thanks so much for joining, Michelle. Tell me, you know something needs to happen, leadership agrees the thing needs to happen, how do you help everyone else in your organization see the need for change management? 

Michelle:  It’s a great question. Typically, when you think about projects, people are usually inundated with the scope, the budget, the technical side, and the deliverables. They sometimes overlook the people side. When you think about any change that has to happen in an organization, it’s people that usually have to change, whether or not that’s because of processes or software that gets implemented, or there’s a brand campaign that happens that has a current state to a future state. 

I think the first thing to illustrate to leadership or anyone else who needs to see how this is related to your organization is almost everything has change involved in it. Whether it’s an enterprise project or a micro project within a department, you need to bring people along because they’re the ones who are going to actually adopt the change.

One of the other aspects that we often talk to leadership about when we need to see them come along and come on board is how it affects the bottom line. If people aren’t going to adopt what you’re implementing, then is it really a success? Oftentimes, they have project managers who are paired with a change management practitioner. For example, I’m working on a project right now and I’m the change side and I work in tandem with the project manager. Collectively, I’m the ears to the ground that provides feedback, a contact loop, focus group research, different aspects to make sure that the project team and the core team can carry along their deliverables so that they can actually be successful.

At the end, an organizational outcome is really the collective results of individual change.

Kerry:  Down to the individual level, the contributor level.

Michelle:  The contributor level, the adoption level. If you think about a printer project, if you’re changing your printing structure on your campus or your organization, think about who actually uses printing or copier machines. That’s probably every single person in your organization. They all need to be aware of what’s changing, why it’s changing, and they need to be able to adopt it. 

Some resistance you might meet with leaders or directors and above is, “I don’t have time to focus on every single person. We just have to move this project along.” Well, there is some truth to that. But the reality is, and this is done by Prosci, which is one of the leading change management organizations, what the research tells us is that projects that do even a fair amount of change management are three times more likely to succeed in their project outcomes.

Kerry:  Three times more likely just because you paid attention to managing the process? 

Michelle:  Just because you paid attention to the people side of the project. If you actually lean into that change management component and you do a good job, you’re six times more likely. If you purely look at this from a financial perspective or how to get this project over the finish line, thinking about the people side of change, thinking about the people side of your project, will actually allow your project to succeed more likely than if you hadn’t looked at the people side.

Kerry:  What about things like fatigue? I remember vividly working with a guy named Jake, but he never did a thing that management would say to do because he was like, “They always change their mind, or they’ll forget, or they let it go. I’m not going to bother. They can come to my desk and tell me.” What about things like that, how do you address something like fatigue that’s not borne of resistance or fear, it’s just like we tried this before and it didn’t work? 

Michelle:  What you’re describing sounds like a culture issue within the organization.

Kerry:  It was just the one guy, but…

Michelle:  But, yes, fatigue is real, change fatigue is real. The world is full of change right now, and that is a component that I think needs to have a lot of empathy assigned to it. As you’re looking at projects and as you’re in the change management role, it is imperative that you think about people’s lives outside of work and think about the whiplash that we’ve all gone through for the last three years. Approach your side of the project like you would anything else, with empathy and stakeholder engagement in mind.

That being said, if Jake has fatigue, one of the ways that we approach change management is to look at sort of on a matrix who are the influencers within your organization, who do I need to make sure is on board, who do I think is going to be a resistor, who do I need to pay attention to, and what do I need to do to educate them on why this is different in that particular case. If they’ve been burned before, they do have a particular perception about what this change will be like. 

That’s the other thing that’s really important to stress to leadership. What happens in project X is an indication of what will happen in project Y. If you lean in and you look at the people side of change in project X and it goes successfully, then people like Jake will say, “The next time a project comes along, maybe I won’t wait until they come to my desk. Maybe I’ll read a couple of emails and see what this project is about. Maybe I’ll be more engaged, maybe I’ll be interested.” So, it is important because it indicates how the next project will also flow.

Kerry:  Do you view it as important to have a change management person and a project manager working together throughout the entire process, or do you jump from group to group because some organization wide projects have many project groups?

Michelle:  I do think at the core it is important to have a person who is dedicated to change management. Whether or not it’s a large scale project and someone can be a part-time change management practitioner on one project and another, that’s somewhat up to your organization and what the scale and the level of impact and importance is. 

What I do think and know from experience is the change practitioner has to be involved in the beginning. It’s not always the case, and that just comes with its own risks, but in general, the more in lockstep the change manager is with the project manager, the more successful the project will be. Because the change manager is an informant to the core team to help them know what people are saying, what people are feeling, the change manager is the one who will run the “ad campaign.” When I say ad campaign, I mean awareness and desire. 

Some people who are listening to this might be familiar with Prosci’s model ADKAR. A is awareness. That doesn’t mean just you saw my email, now you know this is all happening. It means what might be changing and why it’s changing. Then the D is desire to actually change. With those two components up front, it really will help to make sure that the core project team knows how to move along.

Again, ultimately what leadership wants to know is the project that we’re pouring resources into will be successful. It is proven that it will be more successful if you do even a fair job at involving change management.

Kerry:  You don’t even have to do great. 

Michelle:  No, you really don’t. It truly is like you can show up, do some work, get a C, and you’re three times more likely.

Kerry:  Amazing. Michelle, thanks so much for stopping by. Your new book Stakeholder Engagement Essentials You Always Wanted to Know is coming out January 24th, and people can get that at 

You can find more episodes of The Best Work Management Show, some of which feature Michelle Bartonico, at Thanks for stopping by. We’ll see you next time.

Last updated: 2023-07-31

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