“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” - Alan Watts


Marketers are often viewed as change agents. There are a few reasons why this occurs. Many organizations are led by marketing. The standard marketing challenge is always “What new innovative idea can we bring to market?” Or one could say “What can we do to disrupt the status quo and create positive activity for our product or service?” After every campaign, initiative or quarter, marketers ask themselves “What could have worked better?” This brings more change. And marketers by nature should be good communicators and have the ability to work cross-functionally, at all levels, to bring that change to market.

While working for a marketing-led organization, I helped manage through growth, turnarounds and market exits. I drove cross-functional change management across numerous internal and external teams that resulted in cutting the launch period in half. With those experiences in mind, I have a few tips on how to navigate change management.

  1. Have a clear vision. It always starts with this.

  2. Tie your activities back to the strategic objectives. Remember your customers!

  3. Find an executive sponsor and keep them informed of the efforts.

  4. Cross-functional collaboration. Bring in a cross-functional team early and listen to your subject matter experts (SMEs). You picked them for a reason, yes? Always favor collaboration over silos. Effective change cannot occur if you are stuck in your ivory tower.

  5. Alignment is essential. Make sure the overall cross-functional team members as well as those reporting under them understand the vision and objectives and that all work-streams are on the same page. I have often said, the team needs to be on the same boat, facing the same direction and rowing together as one.

  6. “Compass over maps” (Ito and Howe). I recently read Whiplash: How to Survive our Faster Future and this stuck with me when considering change efforts. We do our best to put together a comprehensive plan with major milestones but we must allow for deviation from that roadmap. We cannot predict all the needs or steps necessary in these initiatives. And we must allow our SMEs to help navigate through the change. This is where having a compass is more important than a detailed map.

  7. Document and communicate. These two are necessary to ensure alignment and knowledge of what the other work streams have going on. A mix of cross-functional and smaller team meetings in addition to written documentation is required.

  8. Drive action. You are here to lead the team towards action. Stay on top of next steps and milestones. Keep the team moving forward.

  9. Celebrate the small wins not just project end.

  10. Vision the future. Yes you needed a clear vision for the initiative but you also need to consider what is next. What will be the outcomes from this effort? How will this change impact other teams or systems? And how can you best prepare for those future needs? A change management effort never really ends at project launch. It is often a continuum.


Ito, Joichi and Howe, Jeff. Whiplash: How to Survive Our Faster Future. Grand Central Publishing, 2016.)

Photo: By Amy Mikel. Waterfall in Lysefjord, Norway. August 2017.