What are the Principles of Change Management?
Sean McGauley

By: Sean McGauley on December 3rd, 2020

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What are the Principles of Change Management?

Change Management

Change Management Principles

Why do so many organizations struggle with implementing change? Is it bad tactical plans? Poor strategy? A lack of focus from senior leadership?

Many times, it boils down to people – the human side of change. Careful consideration and planning for your company’s culture, values, people, and behaviors could help separate your project from the majority that fail.

An intimate understanding of the human side of your change can be achieved through Change Management. Today we're going to look at the principles of Change Management as they are covered in AIIM's training. Some excerpts from the training will even be used to help in explaining these principles.

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Defining the Change

Every change project has to start somewhere. For change projects, the first step is in defining the change. However, the degree to which the change is defined is often the difference between success and failure.

*“Every project starts with someone believing that they understand the change they’re undertaking. That is, it starts that way until someone –even the person themselves–starts to ask questions.”

Take time to clearly articulate exactly what the change is that you want. It’s more than just saying, “We’re moving to this new software because it’s better.” Go beyond this with your questioning to truly define the change.

Project and Program Management

At its core, a Change Management undertaking is a project. With any project, the ability to manage it is perhaps the most important aspect. While change management requires a great deal of leadership to accomplish, this is lost without the ability to manage the project.

*“While it’s essential to maintain control of your change management projects, the end analysis of the success of the project will not be measured primarily by the cost or schedule constraints but by what you end up with. As we seek to deliver change in our organizations, we must gain and maintain support through the process; to maintain a schedule and produce a result that no one likes does no good.”

Project and program management skills are needed to keep your project for change on track. Project management skills are useful throughout business with lots of training and resources available.

Motivating Adoption

Is organizational change without adoption really change?

*“The value in any organizational change is in getting people to actually do the change. If you implement a change, and no one makes the change, did anything really change? In truth, probably not.”

To motivate adoption, factors that drive and block adoption must be considered. Adoption is a somewhat complex thing in that there are many factors that go into it. To help understand adoption and motivation, AIIM’s training looks at some of these factors:

  • Differences – differences in the way people are motivated
  • Barriers – big and small barriers that can get in the way
  • Trust – a critical component for change
  • Change – both at an individual level and organizational level
  • Purpose – the power of purpose and its ability to pull everyone together
  • Learning - adult learning principles to realize how the way we educate and communicate may not work for some people

Understanding motivation is the key to inspiring it. Take time to consider user adoption and find ways to encourage motivation throughout your project.

Communication Skills and Strategy

It’s not just what you say; it’s the way you say it. Communication is arguably the most important aspect of your project.

*“It’s our ability to communicate with one another and to have shared intention that has allowed us to become the dominant lifeform on the planet. We’re not the strongest nor do we have the best natural defenses, but together we’ve found ways to conquer the planet. Communication, as much as it is innate in our species, is not something that everyone –or even most people –do well. There are miscommunications and hurt feelings every day, because though we communicate, few have been taught communication skills in a way that makes them effective. “

Develop a strategy for communication. This strategy should include approaches, cadence, and channels - the mediums and methods we use to communicate our message.

A quick note on communication skills. Many of us communicate all the time – and most of us think we’re pretty good at it. However, there’s always the opportunity to sharpen your skills to make them even more impactful. Good communications skills are not just useful in work but throughout life.

Stakeholder Management

Change often requires a whole team of people to deliver. These teammates on your change project are called stakeholders. Understanding these relationships inside your team is the key to stakeholder management. AIIM’s training breaks this down into five areas of focus:

  1. Building the Team – identify the important stakeholders for your project
  2. Building Community – building the larger community of people who will be impacted by the changes
  3. Conflict – dealing with problems managing stakeholders
  4. Buy-in – developing buy-in for the change and related ideas
  5. Transparency – the importance of generating transparency

What are the Principles of Change Management 1

Organizational Change – Putting it All Together

Change can complex, challenging, and hard. But, it’s a necessary part of long-term business strategy.

*“Here, we expose and explore the hidden systems in organizations that keep them functioning as they have. These systems create and sustain the friction that holds the organization in its current shape. Organizations are, in many ways, designed to resist change. They’re designed to protect the status quo. While we may be able to disrupt part of the organization’s behaviors, we may find that other foundational structures like culture are more resistant. The good news with organizational change is that it begins by changing one system and then another until the organization can be shaped in a new direction.”

Bring together these principles in order to transform your organization and to accomplish the change your organization needs.

*Excerpts taken from AIIM’s Confident Change Management for the Information Professional training.


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