Merge's Blog

Change management is akin to journeying on a bus

transport, tourism, road trip and people concept - group of happy passengers boarding travel bus

For any kind of organizational change – procedural, structural, or technological – to be successful, three key players must be involved: the champion, the change manager, and the employees and/or stakeholders who have to accept and implement the change.  This fundamental premise of change management is fittingly illustrated using the metaphor of a bus.

Three key players

Think about a change initiative as a journey carrying many people from the status quo to the new normal.  For travel from one point to another to occur, first you need the vehicle, in this case the bus.  Which means that you need an investor to finance the purchase of the bus, paint it in team colours, and provide ongoing funding to keep it roadworthy.  This investor is the champion.

Then you need a driver to navigate the bus, plot a route from the beginning to the end of its journey, making stops (and detours if necessary) along the way.  This is the change manager.

And of course you need your passengers to willingly come on board to make the journey.  True, some may have to be dragged on kicking and screaming, but the majority need to come on voluntarily, and preferably enthusiastically.  These passengers are the employees charged with implementing the change, and other stakeholders who face the outcomes of the change.

Each role is critical to successful change implementation

Each of these three categories play critical roles.  Without a champion, there is no change initiative, and any effort with falter quickly.  Even if there is a champion, without a change manager, there is no one to drive the bus, and the change initiative will simply remain parked in champion’s “wish list” parking lot somewhere.  And unless the champion and the change manager can persuade the majority of the stakeholders to get on board the bus and travel the journey with them, the change initiative is doomed to eventual failure.

This basic premise of change management is central to a successful change initiative.  Yet there are numerous examples of failed change implementations (or ones that didn’t even get started) because one or more of these key players were either weak or even absent.  What has been your experience with change management in this context?  Please share by adding your comment below.


  • Understanding the roles of the champion, the change manager, and the implementer/employee is important to making change a reality. Without it, nothing happens. The collaboration between the three is critical to assessing a situation, planning for change, executing the change and assessing or verifying the results. In a process where all of that works in concert, change flows and progress is achieved.

    • “Collaboration between the three is critical” — that too has been my experience Jim! And yet, I repeatedly see situations where people don’t grasp this, ultimately dooming their change initiative to failure. Thanks for sharing.


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