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Ask the Trainer! Change Management featuring Nicola Busby

Welcome again to our series of 'Ask the Trainer' blogs where we take a quick tea break with the lead trainers of our most popular methods and pose to them some of the questions that we have been given by you, our clients and delegates. So, join us for a pitstop Q&A session with SPOCE lead trainer and esteemed author, Nicola Busby on her favourite subject of all 'Business Change Management.'


Question 1: What qualities do you think make a good change manager?

"For me, the quality that makes the best change managers is the ability to see the world through the filters of other people. Just as light through a lens refracts into many different coloured shards, all actions and decisions relating to a change initiative distort through the filters of individuals into a range of different interpretations, emotions and subsequent reactions.

These distortions are one of the things that makes working with people through change so challenging. Everyone working on a change initiative will have a different focus. A project manager will concentrate on plans, dependencies and risks. Leaders will be interested in finances, benefits and strategic fit. It is our job as business change managers to check every decision and action relating to the change through the filters of our stakeholders. We need to constantly ask ‘what might people feel about this’ and then manage all the interpretations, distortions and reactions which may follow. People who cannot empathise, imagine and easily view the world through the eyes of other people will be limited in their effectiveness as a change manager."


Question 2: What made you want to focus on change management in your career?

"Organisational change is difficult. Business change management can be the one thing that makes the difference between success and failure of a change initiative, and can make an enormous difference to the welfare of the people involved. I have supported people through some very tough changes and seen the difference that I can make by involving them, giving them a part to play, ensuring their concerns are heard and acted upon, and building their confidence and enthusiasm to make the effort to change. In the end, this involvement has resulted in a better change, happier staff and more benefits for the organisation. Business change is neither straightforward or easy but it is endlessly challenging and there is always something new to learn. For me, all these factors combined makes change management a fantastic career to work in."


Question 3: What tips do you have for managing the differing objectives of change management and project management?

"There will always be a certain level of tension between project management and change management. This is because the objectives of the two roles are inherently contradictory. A project manager’s job is to prepare and introduce tangible changes into the organisation, whereas the business change manager’s job is to ensure everyone accepts the change and adjusts their ways of working, thinking and behaving to realise the benefits. As the majority of change initiatives have limitations on resources, time, and access to users, there is often tension between these two sets of objectives.

The amount of time needed to prepare the tangible changes and prepare the users to accept them can vary enormously, and with limited resources and access to users, there are often compromises to be made between the business change and project activities. My tips for managing this conflict is to ensure that you build strong relationships with your project managers based on mutual respect. Both jobs are valid and necessary, and the two roles must work together to come up with the best compromise in each situation. Close working and clear honest communication is vital, as is the need for both roles to be aiming for the same goal – a good change that works for the organisation, is accepted by those affected, and which will be managed in a way that allows the expected benefits to be realised."


Question 4: What type of qualifications and experience would you recommend for someone wanting to get into change management?

"I would highly recommend the APMG Change Management Certification for anyone who wants to get into change management. APMG worked in partnership with the Change Management Institute (CMI) to develop the syllabus and exams based on the CMI’s Change Management Body of Knowledge (CMBoK). This means that the certification is a great introduction to all the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to become a successful change manager.

In terms of experience, business change management requires a lot of similar skills as many other people-facing jobs. It is all about working positively with a wide range of people in challenging and stressful situations. Relationship building, empathy, managing conflict and influencing skills are all vital, so any experience in these areas is highly valuable. It really doesn’t matter where this experience has been gained - one of the most successful business change managers I ever appointed had a background in catering. She had spent years dealing calmly with a wide range of staff and customers under pressurised circumstances. The skills and experiences she had developed translated wonderfully into the tricky world of supporting people during change."


Nicola Busby Bio

Nicola Busby is an experienced change professional who is passionate about the benefits that business change management can bring to organisations and staff going through change. She has supported many organisations in the private, public and not for profit sectors through a wide variety of change, inlcuding:

  • organisational transformations, restructures and mergers
  • IT - enabled change
  • cultural and behavioural change
  • bulding organisational capacity to deliver change


Nicola's clients have included Penguin Random House, Houses of Parliament, Financial Ombudsmen Service, National Childbirth Trust, BBC, ITV, Network Rail, Kent County Council.

Nicola is an accredited trainer for the APMG Change Management qualification and authored the chapter on Change Readiness, Planning and Measurement for the set text for the course 'The Effective Change Managers Handbook.'

Nicola's latest book 'The Shape of Change: a guide to planning, implementing and embedding organisational change,' is published by Routledge and available now.

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