The 10 Key Principles of Change Management

Over the last 6 months I have been designing, testing and piloting an exciting new Change Management Game for leaders and teams which lets them experience what it is like to lead a complete 9-month change management project over the course of a single day. The development process forced me to think through what I really believe to be the key principles of change management in a sufficiently clear and concrete way to be able to design an online/offline game round them. Here is what I ended up with:

The 10 Key Principles of Change Management

1. Gather as much intelligence as you can before you intervene
There are two main purposes of an intervention - information gathering/relationship building or adoption - most interventions are largely one or the other - some may be both.

2. Make appropriate interventions relative to the person's adoption attitude
For example, asking an outright opponent of the change to become a champion is not likely to be a very useful intervention. You need to know when to use 'light touch' interventions (e.g. opinion/advice seeking) - particularly with those who are negative or with whom you have little relationship. Somebody once said never accidently make an enemy - in change management this applies also and extends into never carelessly annoy an opponent either!

3. Be very careful with email
Because email requires little effort and has large potential reach it is very tempting to misuse it. Email has 3 potential uses in change management - 1) showing senior support, 2) communicating progress/success and 3) reinforcing messages which have already been conveyed face to face. Extend its use beyond these at your peril!

4. Build on supporters rather than attempting to neutralise opponents
A key question in any change management strategy is whether you start by neutralising your opponents or by exploiting the enthusiasm of your supporters (assuming you have supporters!) Research shows it is generally better to start with your supporters although are situations where you may have a vocal and powerful opponent whom you simply cannot ignore. In this case you would need to divide your efforts between working on both supporters and opponents at the same time.

5. Intervene with those you can influence
There is no point intervening with someone who is not "influencible" by you. Your influence on another person really depends on 3 things - their relationship with you, your credibility and their openness to the change you are promoting. Note that no matter how good your relationship and your credibility if the person is simply not open to the change then you are wasting your time and theirs trying to change their minds.

6. Intervene first with those who have power to influence others
Change Management is a great example of 'osmosis'. You influence people and they influence and are influenced by others. There are two main ways people have power to influence others - their authority/seniority and their reputation. Often there are people not at the top of organisations who have great reputations and social connectedness and who act as the eyes and ears of the top executives. You need to turn both types of power-brokers (seniors and reputationals) into your champions - partnering with you to promote the change.

7. Don't neglect indirect interventions
Some people may not be open to any direct intervention from you (as per point 5) but this does not mean you cannot influence them. You just need to use indirect interventions such as working with their team, their boss and their peers. So you can influence others who have influence over them and through the power of osmosis they can also be influenced (as per point 6).

8. Never stop nurturing
People are never generally in a fixed attitude towards a change - they are either warming up or cooling down. They are never standing still. So if you get somebody 'on board' and then neglect them don't be surprised if their enthusiasm and commitment wanes.

9. Be patient
Adoption is often rather slow to start with and nothing much visible seems to be happening. Don't let this side-track you into thrashing about switching strategies and trying lots of different things. If you are confident you are doing the right things then stick with them even if the initial results take a while to appear. However if after a few months you are still not seeing the leading indicators of change emerging then this is the time to review your strategy and try something different.

10. Be creative
Change Management methodologies are all well and good but don't be seduced into thinking you have to do everything by the book. Sometimes an unconventional move like having a blazing argument, sending a funny card or hiring a clown can totally unlock a situation. So always be aware that the killer intervention you need next might be one which has not yet been invented and definitely not in your change management play book!

To experience these principles live within a Change Management game contact me (ken.thompson) at the usual email (bioteams.com) to organise a online demo.

Alternatively checkout the 1-page factsheet on Cohort: The Customizable Change Management game for leaders and teams.

Checkout some of my other articles on Change Management.


About Ken Thompson

Ken Thompson delivers keynote conference speeches, workshop facilitation and in-house consultancy in four key business areas:

  1. Creating High Performing Teams in enterprises including Virtual and Mobile Teams (based on the Bioteams Book)
  2. Establishing effective Collaborative Business Networks enabling companies to co-operate effectively in areas such as sales and product development (based on the book - The Networked Enterprise)
  3. How to use the latest social media technologies including blogging and online communities to promote enterprises, brand, organisation or event
  4. Development of graphical on-line interactive Business Games, Dashboards and What-if Simulators for organisations to support Performance Improvement, Strategy Development and Executive Team Development.



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