5 Principles of Change Management

5 Principles of Change Management
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Knowing the principles of change management is more important that understanding techniques, tactics, or trends.

Understanding principles will help you:

  • Adapt strategies and models to your specific situation
  • Create better programs that get better results
  • Get more support from employees and executives alike

Tactics can be useful, of course.

However, it’s a mistake to focus on tactics and ignore principles.

Principles vs. Tactics

To understand the difference between the two, let’s look at chess.

In chess, a tactic could be an opening series of moves.

A principle, however, would be controlling the center of the board.

Change management principles and tactics are no different.

Tactics would be techniques such as implementing:

  • Onboarding software
  • User feedback surveys
  • A specific change framework

As in chess, these tactics can be useful.

However, the principles below will help you understand which tactics to use and why they work.

5 Principles of Change Management

Here are some of the most important principles to follow when you are involved with organizational change:

1. Change Must Be Human-Centered

Product developers and marketers know that customers come first.

The customer experience is the best way to design relevant, useful, likeable products.

In the same way, change programs must be human-centric.

Remember that:

  • Employees drive change
  • Executives must support and lead change
  • And customers must benefit

People make change possible, so it is important to treat everyone as the customer.

This means getting consensus from people at every level – bottom, top, and middle. It also means treating everyone as important.

Another principle closely related to this one is inclusiveness. Including everyone will prevent feelings of alienation and boost morale.

2. Today’s Businesses Are Digital-First

Digital is a hot topic today, but it’s not just a buzzword. It’s the foundation of today’s economy.

To stay relevant, many businesses are undergoing digital transformation.

This is a type of organizational change that aims at building a modern, digital-first business.

Digital-first means many things, including:

  • Digital Adoption – Adopting and implementing new technology to its fullest extent
  • Digital Workplaces – Creating work environments, workflows, and processes that use digital technology
  • Digital Culture – Shifting cultures and viewpoints to mindsets that are more adaptable and change-oriented

Today, all change managers should put digital first. This means that all change managers are digital change managers.

Digital-first does not require managers to become IT experts.

It does, however, mean change managers should understand where the world is headed. And they should change accordingly.

At its heart, change management is about adaptation … and if change managers can’t keep up with the digital economy, then their change programs won’t be very effective.

3. Lead from the Top

Management and leadership go hand in hand.

Leaders are those who act as a “voice” for change. And they are often (though not always) the ones who initiated the change program.

Change leaders have the vision for change. Then, along with change teams and managers, they create stories that provide the structure for employees to follow.

Sometimes the change manager and the change leader are the same person, especially in smaller organizations.

Regardless, change leadership comes in a few forms:

  • Support from stakeholders and executives
  • Change champions who lead teams and departments
  • Change leaders who are the driving force behind the change

It’s important to create a systematic leadership structure that includes these three groups.

Without leadership, support for an initiative will flag.

With leadership, employees will know where to go, why they are going there, and how to get there.

4. Support from the Bottom

Another key principle of change management is bottom-up support.

This support is just as important as leadership, because without it, programs can grind to a halt.

At the end of the day, this is because employees are the ones who must change their workflows and styles. Employees can either drive change or resist it.

To avoid employee resistance, it’s necessary to follow the first principle mentioned above. Include everyone.

Don’t just pay this principle lip service, though – create a system for getting support:

  • Include employees in discussions
  • Invite participation and feedback
  • Communicate often
  • Demonstrate the benefits of change

Always remember that bottom-up support directly impacts your program’s results.

Better employee support will improve productivity, reduce resistance, and reduce time to completion.

5. Constantly Improve

Continual improvement should be a staple of every business program, including change programs.

To improve, establish a feedback loop:

  • Gather data and input from employees, stakeholders, and leaders
  • Analyze and learn from that information
  • Make adjustments
  • Repeat

This type of system is one example of continual improvement.

The important thing is to create a standardized process for ongoing improvement, tailored to your needs.

Doing so will reduce waste, increase employee performance, and enhance your overall results.

Final Thoughts

Tactics are the tools of principles.

As mentioned, it’s necessary to create systems and structures for any principles you employ.

But it’s much better to understand why you’re doing what you’re doing.

Understanding these change management principles will help you create change programs that get more support and better results.

Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.