Key Principles of Change Management

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In our previous article, we discussed What is Change Management and why it’s important for organisations. Here, we will walk you through the key principles you need to focus on to achieve transformation success.

Table of Contents

The 5 key Change Management Principles that you need to focus on are:

5 Principles for Change Management
5 Principles for Change Management

1. Identify the ROI or Change Benefit

In order for any change to be a success there must be a detailed account of what needs to change. All people involved need to have a strong understanding of both the endgame and why they need to change. This why is often described as the burning platform or the compelling reason for changing. Only with the “what” and the “why” defined, can you start to craft the message.

But as we highlighted above in trends, one key piece that we tend to miss, is identifying the measurable value of the change. This is not the message on “What’s in it for me”, the WIIFM, though that needs to be clarified as well. But how will we know that we have arrived? What is the measurable change benefit or expected return?

As with any major initiative, the ability to measure and communicate the value of Change Management is key to winning over the hearts and minds of those impacted by changeWhile there is greater awareness of organizational change management as a profession, these quantifiable benefits are often hard to articulate. 

Your first step in defining the change benefit is to look at the Business Case that is driving the change. It should include both a detailed description of the reasons for change and the benefits the organisation hopes to achieve.

Calculating the Change Benefit

The proposed benefits of a successful implementation must invariably have two properties.  The first is that they are quantifiable or measurable.  Typically this includes that the proposed change will improve the organisation’s bottom line whether it be through efficiencies or increased sales. Second, the proposed benefits will be based on a percentage adoption of the new changes by the organization.

Once the anticipated adoption levels and the business case benefit numbers are known, then it is a straightforward task of simple math to quantify the financial benefit, or dis-benefit of increased/reduced levels of adoption.

Let’s take an example of a change that is targeted at delivering $5M of in efficiencies based on 80% adoption. First off, huge congrats to the team for calculating the business case on more realistic expectation of 80% adoption versus 100%. However what if only 60% adoption is achieved?

Change Benefit vs. Adoption
Change Benefit vs. Adoption

In that case, your change benefit has just decreased by 20%. Now your new ways of working can only be expected to deliver $3.75M worth of efficiencies – quick equation of 5 x 0.8. 

This assumes that the programme is delivered on time, which it will be thanks to your improved change management capabilities, and that none of the original benefits case has been eroded by other factors. 

But it’s a good place to start when you are proving ROI. As there is no better way to get management on board than to link poor adoption to missing target savings. Next up, time to build a coalition for change.

2. Build a Coalition for Change

So you have a fantastic change initiative, fool proof even, and yet your presentation to the programme governance board has met with significant push back from some key senior stakeholders.

The second key change management principle is to build a coalition for change. In John Kotter’s 8 Step model for leading change, originally published in 1988, he highlights the need for “an army of individuals to guide, coordinate and communicate about the change”. It is still no different today.

You will need to spend time upfront, earning the support of your key stakeholders by communicating the vision. In these one to one discussions you need to explain the nature of what is changing and actively listen to any concerns they might have. Any negativity that would have aired in public can then be dealt with individually. When this job is done well, it builds engagement from influential people, ensuring advocacy at steering group level. 

More importantly it builds top down advocacy within their functional areas. Do it well enough times and you will have built a coalition that will enable your governance presentations to run smoothly and receive the necessary sign offs.

3. Assess organisations' readiness

Our next key change management principle is to assess your organizations’ readiness for change.  Are you ready for change? How do you know that? A poorly prepared change initiative often creates issues that are unmanageable down the line.

Fail to understand what the organisational and cultural repercussions of your change are and your lack of understanding will create roadblocks at every turn.  You need a structured approach.

Three ways in which you can prepare for the change, before you start implementing include conducting:

  1. Change Management Readiness Assessments
  2. Behavioral and Cultural Readiness Assessments
  3. Change Management Impact Assessments

Change Management Readiness Assessment​

A Change Readiness Assessment is an assessment of the willingness and ability of people within an organisation to adopt to a change. Through engagement with those affected, you can uncover a number of findings which point to root causes which can ultimately mean the difference between success and failure. Addressing these root causes can then become an integral part of your change management strategy.

Change Readiness Impact Assessment
Change Readiness and Impact Assessment

The benefits of well run Change Readiness Assessments include:

  • Safeguarding the delivery of expected benefits from change initiatives of any type
  • Improving employee satisfaction by engaging them throughout the business transition
  • Identifying and addressing sources of resistance and apathy surrounding the change
  • Uncovering risks early-on enabling more cost-effective remedies, and
  • Providing insight for improvement in other areas of the business

For more information on the Behavioral and Cultural Assessments, Change Impact assessments and other change management tools, read our article on the The Change Manager’s Toolkit.

Only when an organisation has used its change management toolkit to ensure that it is has adequately planned for the reaction to the change across every single impacted function and team can they then start to roll things out.

4. Personalize the change, making it relevant to everyone affected

One size never fits all and never will. Corporate ecosystems are underpinned by a variety of different functions with their own cultural idiosyncrasies. As such, all change journeys are highly personal to individuals and their teams.  The key measure of success for cultural change will be the extent to which they buy into the new culture on a personal basis.

Therefore the fourth change management principle is to make change relevant to every individual affected. With this in mind, each employee needs to feel a keen engagement with the personal benefits that change will bring (both in terms of well being and efficiency). Remember WIIFM? What’s in it for me? Now is when it comes into play.

Key considerations for making change personal​

The change manager needs to consider the following aspects when looking to understand how functions, teams and individuals prefer to consume change:

  • The predisposition to change
  • The history of previous change attempts
  • The middle management support / resistance to change
  • The organisational influencers (non hierarchical)
  • Role based differences
  • Function based differences
  • Neuro-diverse differences
  • Site based differences, and
  • Hierarchical differences

Let’s take neurodiversity as an example.  Neurodiversity reflects the combination of “neurological” and “diversity” highlighting the many variances amongst people in an organization with regards to our sociability, moods, behaviors and many other functions.

We recently held a webinar on Tips for Delivering Change Management into Neurodiverse Organizations.  Access the recording here.

The fact is that people prefer to ingest change in very different ways and understanding their neurological profile is a big deal in terms of working out how to communicate and explain the change in question. 

You may be asking how can you possibly be this specific in delivering change? The answer to which is that “its not as hard as you think if you have a decent change agent network”.

Change Agent Network​

A critical component of any change programme is a robust Change Agent Network, facilitating organization-wide stakeholder engagement and communications throughout the change life cycle

Change agents receive dedicated training enabling them to disseminate communications out to a wider audience. A well run network typically benefits from having advocates at three levels of the business: Sponsors/Leaders; Team Leaders/Middle Management; and Key or Super Users. This supports the mitigation of risk that middle management often presents in its opposition to change.

But having Change Agents in the mid and lower tiers of the business also ensures that people are receiving the change message from a source that they respect and who they feel understands their situation with regards to the change.  Recipients of change are often most receptive to new ideas and ways of working when the changes are advocated and communicated by their direct line management.

For additional reading check out our case study on Next Generation Technology Program Delivery where our team developed an integrated roll out strategy across various stakeholder groups, ensuring collaboration while also satisfying essential regulatory requirements.

5. Measure to sustain performance of change​

Our final change management principle is focused around sustaining stakeholder awareness around the change. 

Most of us have a knee-jerk reaction to change. We will try out the new change initiative and struggle through any emotional resistance. Then when we have a deadline looming and pressure mounts, we revert to our previous behavior. That is when your change success rate can start to suffer.

It is critical to continue to take the temperature on change during large transformational programs.  You can use the Change Readiness Assessment, running it again, or you can kick off a Stakeholder Assurance Assessment. 

The result is a change dashboard that accurately identifies the pain points allowing senior management and the change team to accurately plan future change interventions in order to sustain the change.

Stakeholder Assurance Dashboard
Stakeholder Assurance Dashboard

Highlighting the paint points in this way is very attractive to time-poor executives who need straight-forward analysis. Once the areas that require attention have been highlighted, its time to work collaboratively through the identified challenges and develop robust solutions. 

The key benefit here is the promotion of a culture that drives a repeatable and robust analysis of where pain points are in a programme, followed by a proven methodology for fixing the problems you identify in order to drive significant efficiencies.


In Summary, change is hard. We are not trying to dispute that. However with a greater awareness of organizational change management and its benefits, a change model integrated with programme delivery and a few key principles for change management introduced through this guide, we believe that you have a strong chance of improving your programme’s success.

This article was written by James Lewis

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