6 Basics of Change Management

April 27, 2010
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Sometimes I forget. I forget that there are folks that are just starting to learn about “change management” and what it takes to lead and realize successful change. I just wrapped up a conference call where some folks clearly had never been exposed to the basics of change management. The “basics” or what I refer to as the “surface level formula” consists of six key concepts. Here’s an excerpt from my book/toolkit, Lead Change by Design: A Toolkit to Make Ideas Happen, that describes these six key concepts.


There are multi-day surface level change management certification courses that tell you six things (and it will cost you about $3000 to learn them):

  1. You need influential people on board with your change. Conventional change management literature uses corporate speak such as “develop your sponsorship model” or “create a guiding coalition.” Let me cut to chase. You need some kick ass influential people to get behind your change. I’m not just talking CXOs; I’m talking about people both in terms of position authority (these are your CXO like folks) and even more important, people with personal connectedness—you know, those folks in the trenches 

Sometimes I forget. I forget that there are folks that are just starting to learn about “change management” and what it takes to lead and realize successful change. I just wrapped up a conference call where some folks clearly had never been exposed to the basics of change management. The “basics” or what I refer to as the “surface level formula” consists of six key concepts. Here’s an excerpt from my book/toolkit, Lead Change by Design: A Toolkit to Make Ideas Happen, that describes these six key concepts.


There are multi-day surface level change management certification courses that tell you six things (and it will cost you about $3000 to learn them):

  1. You need influential people on board with your change. Conventional change management literature uses corporate speak such as “develop your sponsorship model” or “create a guiding coalition.” Let me cut to chase. You need some kick ass influential people to get behind your change. I’m not just talking CXOs; I’m talking about people both in terms of position authority (these are your CXO like folks) and even more important, people with personal connectedness—you know, those folks in the trenches  that others look up to. You get these guys and gals in the trenches to support your change and I guarantee you’re life will be a lot easier.
  2. Tell people about the change (the WHAT). What is this change about? Don’t sell me on it, just tell me about it. Tell me what is and what needs to be.
  3. Tell people why we need to change (the WHY). When change is introduced, people wonder, what’s in it for me? Will I win or lose? Will I look good? How is this going to impact me personally? Is this picture I am going to be able to succeed in? Does this change make a difference?
  4. Tell people how this is going to work (the HOW). How is this really going to work? What are the steps? Have you thought this out from my point of view? Have you thought about the details? How will I be trained?
  5. Communicate so folks know the WHAT, WHY, and HOW multiple times, through multiple media, in various forms. There is so much noise and distractions that people don’t always catch the message and realize the importance. Furthermore, if people hear something once, they don’t necessary remember they did, or internalize what it means to them. Just because it has been said doesn’t mean it’s been heard.  Use redundancy.
  6. Understand two things that are needed for people to change. First: People need to be motivated to support a change personally (what’s in it for me?); socially (the universal truth that people like being in synch with their peers), and structurally (think systems and procedures that need to support the change). Second: People need to have the ability to change. They need the knowledge and skills to support a change. Knowledge+skills = ability.

There. I just saved you $3000 dollars for your change management certification course and you’ve got the basics. The difference between what I write here and what you would experience at a conventional change management course is that you would get a BIG binder of templates and assessments at a change management course. I’m not a believer in templatizing or assessing your way through change. I’m not into busy work and lengthy templates that people spend countless hours on and then no one looks at. That’s not useful.

What are your thoughts? Where would you start with someone new to change management? Where would you start with someone that is trying to realize successful change in their organization? If you’re new to change management, what questions do you have about the projects you’re working on?