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C&E Perspectives

Interview With a Change Expert: Managing Change in Societies and Scholarly Publishing Organizations

April 5, 2024  |  By

At C&E, we partner with clients on strategic and digital transformation as they navigate the high-velocity change in our industry. As part of our series of interviews with C&E Network team members, Colleen is talking to change management expert Charlotte Talmage of Uuna, who brings a wealth of change management experience in our sector. Uuna is a consulting firm that delivers people and data-led change solutions. In this interview, we ask Charlotte’s advice on how scholarly publishers and societies can more effectively manage change.

At a high level, can you tell us what change management is?

Organizations are in a constant state of change. Change can be necessary to adapt as the external environment evolves, to improve efficiency and effectiveness, to innovate and stay relevant, to respond to market demands, to stay compliant, and to maintain a competitive advantage.

Change management moves your people from old to new ways of working, helping people get from a current state to a desired future state that will deliver better business (or mission) outcomes. It can apply to various changes within an organization – such as shifts in processes, technologies, structures, cultures, or strategies. The goal of change management is to facilitate a smooth and successful transition for your people (e.g., employees, stakeholders, and customers), creating the conditions for the change to be a success.

We’re aware that change management is a discipline requiring specialism and training. How does one prepare to become a change management specialist? What skills do change management practitioners need to have? 

Change management requires real expertise and specialization. Change management specialists understand the complexities of change within diverse organizations and guide them through the implementation of successful, joined-up change initiatives. Change managers prioritize being people and outcomes-led, leading with empathy, bridging perspectives, and increasing dialogue and collaboration. They facilitate leaders in shifting mindsets and ways of working across their teams sustainably. Successful change managers have strong facilitation and project management skills along with high emotional intelligence. They are also great at coaching and enable people to problem-solve. A great list of skills would look like:

Strategic thinker:

  • Sees the bigger picture and plans change so it fits with business context and culture
  • Challenges the status quo to get to better answers
  • Convenes the right people to move the change forward and create alignment

Great communicator, trainer, and facilitator:

  • Partners with and influences leaders to align on change outcomes and scope
  • Creates compelling written content
  • Plans and conducts workshops and events

High empathy and emotional intelligence:

  • Considers individual community needs (what does the change mean for me vs. generic corporate statements)
  • Facilitates leader engagement with impacted stakeholders, building support and trust and listening and responding to feedback early
  • Acts as a coach, supporting change leadership


  • Enables data-led change
  • Assesses organizational change readiness and measures progress regularly
  • Identifies risks

Agile and adaptive:

  • Comfortable with uncertainty; pivots and evolves plans rapidly and collaboratively
  • Proactive and solution-oriented

Project management:

  • Efficiently plans and executes change initiatives, with discipline and attention to detail
  • Takes an agile approach to get to action and experiments quickly

Influence and persuasion:

  • Partners with leaders and stakeholders at all levels of the organization to facilitate the best approach, empowering voices of impacted employees

Growth mindset:

  • Embraces continuous learning
  • Adapts approach based on new information or thinking (not evangelists to method)

One of the big changes within the marketing discipline is the emergence of specializations and the fact that it is unrealistic for teams to have all the skills, bandwidth, and expertise they need internally. Is it similar within change management?

Yes – depending on the size and complexity of the organization and the change initiative, different change management specializations and roles may be required. Some examples are:

  1. Change Management Strategy: Partners with leaders to analyze, plan, and guide context-sensitive, collaborative change strategies
  2. Organizational Development: Enhances organizational effectiveness and culture, and coaches leaders
  3. Communications: Creates compelling communication plans and content for change
  4. Training: Designs and delivers skill-building programs

Given the amount of ongoing change in organizations right now, building a future change capability is critical. One of our core values is to upskill internal employees and management (through training and coaching) as part of working together to leave a lasting capability.

What are some best practices for successful change management projects?

We believe there are a number of “lighthouse principles” in change management. These are timeless, enduring best practices that, depending on your context and culture, typically deliver successful change. Let’s look at a few of them.

  • At the top of the list is to begin with a clear change scope and set of outcomes so that everyone aligns their efforts to what you want to achieve.
  • Second is to create a compelling vision for change so that you have a clearly articulated purpose. Changing is a challenging and emotional process, and your people need to be inspired to come with you. When the rationale for change isn’t clear, messages are confusing, people don’t feel their work is aligned across the business or functions, and engagement drops. Worse still, initiatives waste time and budget focusing on different interpretations of a brief, and what’s finally delivered may not be fit for purpose.
  • Next comes leadership alignment on scope and accountabilities so that there is less resistance on approach later down the line slowing you down. Leaders must sign up to make your change a reality. If leaders are not aligned and appropriately coached, they can be unclear on how to lead during change. In one survey of organizational leaders, 72% admitted they don’t know what employees must do differently during change.[1]
  • Change is then brought to life by visible change leadership motivating people – leaders and managers are anchors through a change. They create regular, open, and honest dialogue about the change, acknowledging uncertainty and ensuring people feel informed about what’s going on. To achieve change adoption, it is necessary to shift employee mindsets and behaviors so they are able to accept a new way of working. Team leaders (i.e., people managers) are key to creating “will, skill, and opportunities” for their teams to work in new ways. When organizations skip the step of coaching and setting their line managers up as change influencers, it can be much harder to advance a change agenda. 
  • Manage networks effectively outside the “change hierarchy.” When change is cascaded top-down, it creates a sense of being “done to” people. Building and drawing on change networks with people from all levels of the organization can garner buy-in and support. And peer-to-peer influencing is the most effective. Often, the strongest voices sit outside the traditional hierarchy of change but have credibility with the front line. Linked to this is leveraging the knowledge of the front line and all levels of the organization to think through how best to implement strategic plans. A lot of unspoken knowledge within organizations can be under-utilized.
  • Solicit early input from impacted stakeholders across all levels of the organization to help shape the change based on operational realities, and to build buy-in and accountability. Organizations that collaborate with employees and give them a voice are 14 times more likely to achieve change success according to Gartner. They see the risk of change fatigue in their employees fall by 29%, and employee intent to stay increases by as much as 19%.[2] It is important to make clear for people and teams what the change means for them. At the end of day, most employees’ first thought is, “what does this mean for me?”. Often, senior leaders have been wrapping their heads around change for months before their people even hear about it. The earlier you can involve your people and give them opportunities to shape the change, the better. It is important to recognize that people take different amounts of time to get on board with change – and people want to choose to change, rather than feel pushed.
  • Anticipate, listen to, understand, and learn from input/”resistance”. Use it to continuously review and improve your approach to change delivery. “Resistance” – or rather, responses – is something to be valued, not vilified. Rather than creating an “us versus them” narrative when you see people responding to change, change managers should bring people together and unpack the root cause of the feedback – recognizing that everyone has a different lens with which they will be viewing the change.
  • Change is now integrated into organizations. Many organizations view change management as a “separate thing” when managing change is part of everyday work, and as a result, they don’t upskill key people to be able to manage change as a day-to-day part of their job. We often see organizations look at problems they are trying to solve in isolation, rather than evaluating the broader context and various contributing factors. Taking a systemic approach to assess root causes helps avoid investing in expensive technical systems and platforms that may not be right for the whole organization.
  • Regular bite-sized measurement to track the progress of your change is critical. By taking a baseline, you can see the difference your interventions are making.

In our experience the articulation of a compelling vision is critical, but so is the ability to break down the vision into a clear milestone-based roadmap. Some change projects are small in scope, but large change agendas can span years. How do you keep momentum for the large and long projects?

One of the key challenges we see is organizations setting unrealistic expectations for the amount and type of change that’s possible within a specific timeframe. It’s also the reason why change is often considered to have “failed” (you may be familiar with the “70% of change fails” statistic). But, in fact, it might be that only part of the change outcomes has been delivered, not that the whole program was a failure.

For this reason, it is critical to break large change programs down into component parts and roadmaps, and track and celebrate progress along the way. For example, a move to more global ways of working for the first time across a historically siloed organization will often see better results when broken down into smaller phases.

Critically, the leadership team needs to be aligned on the component parts and be clear on what the change will mean for their teams and their part of the business up front. Breaking change down and celebrating progress along the way is also critical to keeping momentum and energy for change.

We know many of your clients are in the same space as our clients at Clarke & Esposito. What are some of the patterns of change you are seeing and nuggets of insight you have gleaned in working with scholarly publishers and societies? 

While every scenario is different, some of the bigger changes we are seeing are below.

Rethinking Technology Projects

Historically, many organizations have thought of technology as a “silver bullet.” As a result, projects have been “technology-led.” There is little benefit in implementing a system that is not fit for stakeholders’ needs or does not meet your use cases. Technology provides value only if you also align all other components that sit around it – and if there is a business case supporting the technology investment based on a clear “why” and set of outcomes the business needs. For example, we think the work C&E does helping organizations strategically plan and successfully adopt marketing technology is a good example of making sure marketing leaders, and the marketing function, are driving the change that will be enabled (not led by) technology.

New technology needs to be integrated to work in harmony with an organization’s workflows, processes, data, culture, and ways of working. Our recent work has encountered problematic technology programs in academic publishing and got them over the line – by clarifying scope, bringing together fragmented communications, and enabling change leaders to actually lead change within their teams. We’ve helped build an aligned and more engaged program team that built trust with the business.

Fragmented Change Outcomes Across Functions and Teams

When change is at the organizational level and structures are siloed (e.g., membership and publishing may be two separate teams), this can lead to a disjointed change approach and sub-optimal people engagement. We’ve been able to work with clients to bring leaders together under one change vision and set of outcomes.

New Business Models Forcing Change

Our industry has seen a number of transformations in recent years – most notably, the rise of Open Access. To remain competitive, organizations have had to constantly reevaluate their strategies, processes, and thinking, making substantial changes to how they operate.

Editors have a larger role in the commissioning of authors, with many organizations adding new on-staff roles focused on commissioning and community development. Marketing is shifting from B2B (institutionally focused) to B2C (audience and author centric) where technology and data are more important than ever. Organizations are streamlining author workflows and systems to focus more on author experience.

All of these changes require a focus on change management. We’re currently working with a client on an editorial structure shift. What’s key is creating a representative community of impacted stakeholders, often internal and external, and involving them early to shape the change, facilitating early alignment and buy-in.


Do you have any evidence you can share that change management works?

In addition to our experience helping clients successfully navigate change, there are a range of statistics from the broader industry about the impact change makes. A few key statistics are below:

  • Organizations with an excellent change management strategy are 6 times more likely to meet or exceed objectives.[3]
  • 75% of change destinations were reached when employees were included in early planning.[4]
  • Companies are 2.5 times more likely to financially outperform their peers when a good change management practice is in place.[5]

We know that you have a vertical expertise in the publishing sector, but you also work with clients outside our industry. Any interesting lessons to share?

We’ve seen very strong results at a major energy organization from giving people impacted by a change a voice to shape it. This has been done at scale via a monthly pulse check, consisting of a small number of questions at the start of existing meetings employees already attend. We’ve seen the overall change experience score that the survey produces each month increase over time, as trust increases from people seeing that their feedback is being acted upon.

Leaders have commented that it is a very simple and cost-effective way of finding out what program teams and employees are thinking and feeling about a change—and giving people the opportunity to shape how it is delivered. It’s being used across several change programs in one organization.

If an organization needs to focus on change and has limited bandwidth and budget, what is the top thing they need to do?

First, prioritize initiatives that will have the biggest impact on the organization’s or function’s strategic goals. And check in on capacity. Will the same people be needed to deliver all the desired changes?

In parallel to this, leaders must agree on a shared change portfolio/change scope and on the key change outcomes they’re enabling. Otherwise, resistance will slow you down and cause budget burn. Delivering change is typically not as simple as we think it is, due to the variety of stakeholders involved.

Second, organizations need what we call a “change maturity assessment” to help them determine the key risks/bumps in the road (at an organizational or functional level) they need to mitigate to deliver their change well and look after their budget. We deliver a complimentary organizational assessment to help you get to grips with some of these challenges.

Finally, if you can only focus your budget on one area of change management, we would recommend working with your sponsors of change to build their leadership capability. This can be done by working with change experts that offer coaching and management services. Change leadership is one of the biggest success factors in delivering change well because it sets in motion the elements needed to be successful, from people engagement and alignment to careful planning and measurement.

[1] Marcus Chiu and Heather Salerno: “Changing Change Management An open-source approach,” Gartner, 2019.

[2] Jordan Turner: “This New Strategy Could Be Your Ticket to Change Management Success,” Gartner, 28 November 2023.

[3]What is Change Management and How Does it Work?Prosci (accessed 29 September 2023).

[4] Boris Ewenstein, Wesley Smith, and Ashvin Sologar: “Changing change management,” McKinsey & Company, 1 July 2015.

[5]Towers Watson Global Study Identifies Six Activities That Influence Success of Organizational Change Management,” MarketScreener, 19 April 2012.

Colleen Scollans

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Colleen Scollans leads Clarke & Esposito’s Marketing & Digital Transformation Practice. She is a seasoned marketing, digital strategy, and customer experience leader. Prior to consulting, Colleen was the Chief Marketing Officer for Oxford University Press’s (OUP) Academic Division. See Full Bio

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