How to Lead Change Management: 10 Guiding Principles - EmployeeConnect HRIS
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How to Lead Change Management: 10 Guiding Principles

There was time when senior executives in large companies had a single focused goal for themselves and that was to maintain the stability of their respective organisations. Shareholders looked out for a little more than predictable returns. Since markets at that time were either underdeveloped or closed, it was possible for the executives or leaders to deliver accordingly via exercises carried out annually which offered slight modifications to the original plan. As an outcome, the prices used to be in check and there was job retention. In other words, life was good.

With increased labour mobility, market transparency, instantaneous communication, and global capital inflow the comfortable situation that existed earlier was thrown off its feet. Nowadays, owing to global competition, most of the companies is forced to drive its management’s attention towards something which could have been easily avoided previously.

Large enterprises and their advisors were used to be focused on devising the best strategic plans, but in order to succeed they need to have an in-depth understanding of the human side of change management. In other words, they need to align the company’s culture, people, values as well as behaviours to produce the desired outcome. Plans in themselves have no value and they can be realised with the collective and sustained action of the employees who are associated with factors like executing, designing, and sustaining in the changed environment.

There are four prime characteristics of long term structural transformation: scale, magnitude, duration and strategic importance. However, the actual rewards can be reaped by the organisations when the change takes place at the ground root level or at an individual employee level.

What is Change Management?

Change management is a broad discipline that determines  the analysis, preparation , executions  and communication  to successfully adopt a change that meets the  organisational goals and objectives. While all changes are unique and all individuals are unique, decades of research shows there are actions we can take to influence people in their individual transitions. Change management process offers a structured approach for supporting your employees to smoothly move from the normal  states to the state of change with minimal impact.

A simple approach to understanding change as a process is to break the change process down into the  component elements The Current State, Transition State and Future State.

The Current State – The Current State is how things are done today. Whilst it may not be working great, it is familiar, comfortable with expected outcomes. The Current State defines who we are. Above all it’s a known entity and therefore safe.

The Transition State – The Transition State is characteristically chaotic and unpredictable and always in a state of flux. This comes with an equally chaotic emotional charge with emotions ranging from despair fear and anger. As you would expect productivity during this phase declines. This is the phase where new behaviours need to be embraced.

The Future State – The Future State is the place you need to get to. Whilst not fully defined and prone to change itself, it is by definition a better state than the current state in terms of performance. The issue here is the fear that the future state might not align with our personal and professional goals and therefore our success could be jeopardised.

Change Management Guiding Principles

There is never a scenario where a single methodology does not fit every organisation. However, we have attempted to list down top 10 guiding principles of change management which can be adapted by organisations for a variety of situations.

By following these guiding principles, executives will be able to lead their individual change as well as to involve the entire organsation in this process of change management.

  1. Begin with the people factor. It is a very common observation that whenever there is any significant transformation, it gives rise to people related issues. For instance, it requires changes in terms of new leaders being asked to step up, changes in terms of jobs, new skills are expected to be developed and a certain amount of uncertainty brews amongst the employees. If you deal with these issues you need to adopt a formal approach such as beginning with the leaders first and then moving on to involve the key stakeholders. This process entails a lot of planning and analysis. Change management needs to be based by realistically assessing an organization’s history, its capacity to change, and above all its preparedness.
  1. Take a top down approach. Since any kind of change at an organizational level is inherently unsettling for most of the employees, the expectation of all these individuals automatically gets redirected to the CEO and the leadership team seeking for support, strength, and direction. Leaders need to embrace the new approaches first so that it motivates and challenges the employees of the organisation. They need to follow an approach where they “walk the talk”. The leaders need to be sensitive in their attitude considering the organization is composed of a wide variety of individuals who are also undergoing stress as a result of this change and they need to feel supported. Executive teams that function together as a unit are better aligned for success. They are committed towards the direction of change and comprehend the behaviour and the culture that these changes intend to introduce so that they can accept these changes themselves first.
  1. Involve every layer.All transformation programs moves ahead from the phase where strategies are defined and targets are being set in order to design and implement. Such transformations impacts individuals across the organization at different levels. The efforts towards change need to include plans for identifying leaders across the organization and shifting the responsibilities for design and implementation further down so that there is a smooth cascading effect of the transition across the organization. The leaders who are identified and trained at every layer of the organization needs to be aligned with the company’s vision so that they are equipped to execute their respective mission and are motivated to carry out the change.
  1. Build the business case. It has been observed that when winds of change blow in an organisation, individuals are seen to put forth their rationality and question to what extent this change will be required and if the organisation is heading in the right direction, also whether they wish to personally commit to make this change take place. The employees look up to the leadership to the answers to all such questions. Hence whenever a change needs to be introduced, the need to formally create a written vision statement is paramount so that it creates an atmosphere of leadership and team alignment. In order to develop a formal case, the following three steps need to be followed:
  • First of all try to confront the reality and communicate convincingly the need for this change.
  • Secondly, you need to demonstrate faith in the fact that this change will pave the way for a viable future for the organization.
  • Finally, you need to share a road map with everyone in order to guide the behaviour and decision making.

Leaders need to then customise this message for the audience at various levels and describe any other pending changes that may be of essence       for the individuals.

  1. Establish ownership and accountability. In times of implementing such change management, the leaders especially need to over perform during this transformation phase so that they set themselves as examples for the masses that the change is in everyone’s favour. To project this kind of attitude, there needs to be a sense of ownership amongst the leaders who show their willingness to accept responsibilities for making the change take place successfully in all the areas that they wish to control or influence. A great sense of ownership is often created when you involve people to identify issues and take their help to look for viable solutions. Additionally, you must reinforce this habit by the medium of rewards and incentives. These can be either tangible benefits such as financial compensation or morale boost at psychological level via certificates or awards.
  1. Communicate well, Communicate often. It has been seen that quite often change leaders commit the mistake of believing that others comprehend the issues as well as they do and that others feel this need for change and redirection just as they feel. The best of the change management programs always ensure that they reinforce the core messages by means of regular and timely advice which is practical and also inspirational. Also, communication needs to flow from the bottom and move up to the top and it should be directed to provide the employees with the right kind of information at the right time. You also need to ensure that you solicit the input and feedback of your employees. To achieve this, you would need to drive this communication through multiple or even redundant channels.
  1. Assess the cultural nuances.It has been observed that change programs gain momentum and intensity as they cascade down the rung making it all the more critical for leaders to comprehend and account for the culture and behaviour at each level of the organisation. Very often companies are seen to skip this step or they make the mistake of assessing the culture quite late. A thorough analysis of such cultural landscape helps to assess an organisation’s readiness towards this change and it helps to surface major issues, define factors, and also identify conflicts across the organisation. When you run these diagnostics, they help you identify core beliefs, values, perceptions, and behaviours that need to be taken into consideration for the change to occur successfully. These factors serve as the baseline for designing important elements of change such as building the infrastructure, formulating a new corporate vision, and the programs needed to drive this change. 
  1. Address culture directly.Once the culture is well understood, the leaders need to be explicit about the culture and the underlying behaviours that will help in supporting this new way of doing business. You must also look for opportunities to model and reward such underlying behaviours. In order to do this, you must develop a baseline, define explicitly the desired culture, and also devise detailed plans in order to carry out this transition. Any company culture is usually an amalgamation of explicit values and beliefs, common attitudes, and shared history. Change programs entail creating a culture, combining cultures, and reinforcing these cultures.
  1. Continually reassess and make adjustments. You must understand that no change program goes completely as per the plan. There may be multiple reasons such as people react in unexpected ways, there may be shifts in the external environment, and also may be the areas of anticipated resistance fall away. In order to manage change effectively, you need to continually reassess its impact and the willingness of the organization and its ability to adopt this wave of transformation. Driven by real field data and supported by firm decision making processes, the leaders may go ahead and make the necessary adjustments in order to main the momentum and drive results.
  1. Maintain a personal dialogue.This change is not only at the organisational level but it also takes place at a personal level, since employees spend a lot of time at work and it is just like a second home to them. Hence employees certainly need to know how this change will impact their work, what they can expect during and after the change program. They also remain concerned as to how they will be measured and what does success of failure of such a change entails for them. Hence it is important that the team leaders need to be honest and share explicitly all the information that is seeked for by the employees. As leaders while contemplating change you must understand that employees certainly matter a lot and hence you must take efforts to address their initial queries pertaining to this change.


Change Management Activities

Once you have established the change management objectives and scope, you’ll now need to consider the specific tasks. The point of this is to establish the necessary tasks that will support the change management objectives.

This can include:

  • Ensuring there is clear understanding of the reasons for change
  • Identifying key “change agents”, brand ambassadors, influencers and employees who will be be accountable for key change activities.
  • Assessing all the stakeholders and defining the extent of support, execution and communication
  • Project Planning activities of Change Sponsor
  • Messaging and Communication Planning
  • Assessing the impact of the changes on employees, processes, teams and entire organisational structure
  • Ensuring that people involved and affected by the change understand the change process
  • Making sure those involved or affected have the requires help and  support especially during moment of uncertainty
  • Assessing the training needs driven by the changed planing for the delivery
  • Identifying  and measuring  the key success & performance  indicators


Ari Kopoulos

CEO at EmployeeConnect