Change Management

organizational and personal change management, process, plans, change management and business development tips.


Here are some rules for effective management of change. Managing organizational change will be more successful if you apply these simple principles. Achieving personal change will be more successful too if you use the same approach where relevant. Change management entails thoughtful planning and sensitive implementation, and above all, consultation with, and involvement of, the people affected by the changes. If you force change on people normally problems arise. Change must be realistic, achievable and measurable. These aspects are especially relevant to managing personal change. Before starting organizational change, ask yourself: What do we want to achieve with this change, why, and how will we know that the change has been achieved? Who is affected by this change, and how will they react to it? How much of this change can we achieve ourselves, and what parts of the change do we need help with? These aspects also relate strongly to the management of personal as well as organizational change.


Do not 'sell' change to people as a way of accelerating 'agreement' and implementation. 'Selling' change to people is not a sustainable strategy for success. When people listen to a senior management person 'selling' them a change, decent diligent folk will generally smile and appear to accept what is being said, but quietly to themselves they are thinking, "I don't like this. I've not been consulted or involved. I am being manipulated. This change will benefit the directors and owners, not me, so actually I won't cooperate, and I might resist and obstruct this change, in every way that I can.." (And that's just the amenable types - more forceful employees will embark on a more serious transition from 'gamekeepers' to 'poachers'.)


Instead, change needs to be understood and managed in a way that people can cope effectively with it. Change can be unsettling, so the manager logically needs to be a settling influence.


Check that people affected by the change agree with, or at least understand, the need for change, and have a chance to decide how the change will be managed, and to be involved in the planning and implementation of the change. Use face-to-face communications to handle sensitive aspects of organisational change management (see Mehrabian's research on conveying meaning and understanding). Encourage your managers to communicate face-to-face with their people too if they are helping you manage an organizational change. Email and written notices are extremely weak at conveying and developing understanding.


If you think that you need to make a change quickly, probe the reasons - is the urgency real? Will the effects of agreeing a more sensible time-frame really be more disastrous than presiding over a disastrous change? Quick change prevents proper consultation and involvement, which leads to difficulties that take time to resolve.


For complex changes, refer to the process of project management, and ensure that you augment this with consultative communications to agree and gain support for the reasons for the change. Involving and informing people also creates opportunities for others to participate in planning and implementing the changes, which lightens your burden, spreads the organizational load, and creates a sense of ownership and familiarity among the people affected.


See also the excellent free decision-making template, designed by Sharon Drew Morgen, with facilitative questions for personal and organizational innovation and change.

Dawn Stanley's excellent RISE Personal Change Model, a simple helpful 'how-to' framework for personal change, is also a very useful reference model for change of many other types.


To understand more about people's personalities, and how different people react differently to change, see the personality stylessection.

For organizational change that entails new actions, objectives and processes for a group or team of people, use workshops to achieve understanding, involvement, plans, measurable aims, actions and commitment. Encourage your management team to use workshops with their people too if they are helping you to manage the change.


You should even apply these principles to very tough change like making people redundant, closures and integrating merged or acquired organizations. Bad news needs even more careful management than routine change. Hiding behind memos and middle managers will make matters worse. Consulting with people, and helping them to understand does not weaken your position - it strengthens it. Leaders who fail to consult and involve their people in managing bad news are perceived as weak and lacking in integrity. Treat people with humanity and respect and they will reciprocate.


Be mindful that the chief insecurity of most staff is change itself. See the process of personal change theory to see how people react to change. Senior managers and directors responsible for managing organizational change do not, as a rule, fear change - they generally thrive on it. So remember that your people do not relish change, they find it deeply disturbing and threatening. Your people's fear of change is as great as your own fear of failure.


Responsibility for managing change

The employee does not have a responsibility to manage change - the employee's responsibility is no other than to do their best, which is different for every person and depends on a wide variety of factors (health, maturity, stability, experience, personality, motivation, etc). Responsibility for managing change is with management and executives of the organisation - they must manage the change in a way that employees can cope with it. The manager has a responsibility to facilitate and enable change, and all that is implied within that statement, especially to understand the situation from an objective standpoint (to 'step back', and be non-judgemental), and then to help people understand reasons, aims, and ways of responding positively according to employees' own situations and capabilities. Increasingly the manager's role is to interpret, communicate and enable - not to instruct and impose, which nobody really responds to well.


change must involve the people - change must not be imposed upon the people

Be wary of expressions like 'mindset change', and 'changing people's mindsets' or 'changing attitudes', because this language often indicates a tendency towards imposed or enforced change (theory x), and it implies strongly that the organization believes that its people currently have the 'wrong' mindset, which is never, ever, the case. If people are not approaching their tasks or the organization effectively, then the organization has the wrong mindset, not the people. Change such as new structures, policies, targets, acquisitions, disposals, re-locations, etc., all create new systems and environments, which need to be explained to people as early as possible, so that people's involvement in validating and refining the changes themselves can be obtained.


Whenever an organization imposes new things on people there will be difficulties. Participation, involvement and open, early, full communication are the important factors.

Workshops are very useful processes to develop collective understanding, approaches, policies, methods, systems, ideas, etc. See the section on workshops on the website.

Staff surveys are a helpful way to repair damage and mistrust among staff - provided you allow allow people to complete them anonymously, and provided you publish and act on the findings.


Management training, empathy and facilitative capability are priority areas - managers are crucial to the change process - they must enable and facilitate, not merely convey and implement policy from above, which does not work.


You cannot impose change - people and teams need to be empowered to find their own solutions and responses, with facilitation and support from managers, and tolerance and compassion from the leaders and executives. Management and leadership style and behaviour are more important than clever process and policy. Employees need to be able to trust the organization.


The leader must agree and work with these ideas, or change is likely to be very painful, and the best people will be lost in the process.


change management principles

  1. At all times involve and agree support from people within system (system = environment, processes, culture, relationships, behaviours, etc., whether personal or organisational).

  2. Understand where you/the organisation is at the moment.

  3. Understand where you want to be, when, why, and what the measures will be for having got there.

  4. Plan development towards above No.3 in appropriate achievable measurable stages.

  5. Communicate, involve, enable and facilitate involvement from people, as early and openly and as fully as is possible.

John P Kotter's 'eight steps to successful change'

American John P Kotter (b 1947) is a Harvard Business School professor and leading thinker and author on organizational change management. Kotter's highly regarded books 'Leading Change' (1995) and the follow-up 'The Heart Of Change' (2002) describe a helpful model for understanding and managing change. Each stage acknowledges a key principle identified by Kotter relating to people's response and approach to change, in which people see, feel and then change.




Kotter's eight step change model can be summarised as:

  1. Increase urgency - inspire people to move, make objectives real and relevant.

  2. Build the guiding team - get the right people in place with the right emotional commitment, and the right mix of skills and levels.

  3. Get the vision right - get the team to establish a simple vision and strategy, focus on emotional and creative aspects necessary to drive service and efficiency.

  4. Communicate for buy-in - Involve as many people as possible, communicate the essentials, simply, and to appeal and respond to people's needs. De-clutter communications - make technology work for you rather than against.

  5. Empower action - Remove obstacles, enable constructive feedback and lots of support from leaders - reward and recognise progress and achievements.

  6. Create short-term wins - Set aims that are easy to achieve - in bite-size chunks. Manageable numbers of initiatives. Finish current stages before starting new ones.

  7. Don't let up - Foster and encourage determination and persistence - ongoing change - encourage ongoing progress reporting - highlight achieved and future milestones.

  8. Make change stick - Reinforce the value of successful change via recruitment, promotion, new change leaders. Weave change into culture.

Kotter's eight step model is explained more fully on his website www.kotterinternational.com.

Related to Kotter's ideas, and particularly helpful in understanding the pressures of change on people, and people's reactions to change, see a detailed interpretation of the personal change process in John Fisher's model of the process of personal change.



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