Ten key evidence-based change management principles

Insights on how organisations can work with technology to drive change. 

Technology has opened a wealth of means to communicate, making it easy to work and collaborate with people across the world. In my career, I have worked closely with clients and colleagues that I will probably never meet in person due to their geographical location. Technology, flexible working and (almost) free storage capacity are just some of the few forces driving change across many industries and countries.

These forces make it more and more challenging to act pro-actively and plan for change. There are myriads of books and practical recipes to “make change happen”. From the classic Lewin’ s Three-Phase Process to the famous Kotter’ s Eight-Step Model, there is plenty of prescriptive models to drive change. Stouten, Rousseau & De Cremer (2018) synthesised both popular change management practices and academic research on organisational change in this paper.

They looked at popular practical approaches and scientific studies and came up with ten steps they have called key evidence-based change management principles to “make (and sustain) change”. I found this approach compelling and have found it useful to drive change in most contexts, not only internally but also to remove buyers’ barriers to purchase and maximise purchase ease (i.e. selling).


The ten-key evidence-based change management principles

I briefly summarise below Stouten, Rousseau & De Cremer (2018) ‘s key evidence-based change management principles. I mapped these steps to action undertaken by the sales teams when trying to win deals (especially large transactions).

1. Get Facts Regarding the Nature of the Problem – Diagnosis Step #1: Look at multiple source

s and compare and contrast data and findings. It would help if you found out whether there is a real need for change

and whether people subject to change believe there is a legitimate reason for it. In a selling environment, this step can fall under a prospecting stage.

2. Assess and Address the Organization’s Readiness for Change—Diagnosis Step #2: Assess whether the organisation is ready for change. Look at this from three perspectives: 1) Background, compan

y’s history of change attempts (successful or otherwise); 2) Change recipients’ level of stress (to assess their bandwidth to take on a significant change), and 3) Leadership’s capability to guide and implement change. These give you a picture of your company’s readiness for change. This step could be called a qualification stage in a selling function.

3. Implement Evidence-Based Change Intervention: In the previous two steps, you should have identified the kind of change needed and ways to improve readiness; now it is the time to identify the right solution to the problem found. In here, you should talk to 1) People knowledgeable of the problem (inside/ outside your

company); 2) Stakeholders (managers or key individual contributors), and 3) Available knowledge in literature and research. You need to come up with an evidence-based process to experiment and find a solution. You can call this a proof of concept (POC) or discovery stage.

4. Develop Effective Change Leadership Throughout the Organization: Use a multi-level approach (i.e. senior and middle exec, key individual contributors) to foster participation and coach those acting as change agents. In a customer-facing engagement, this could sit under an evaluating phase.

5. Develop and Communicate a Compelling Change Vision: This vision must reflect a goal broadly shared among all change recipients. A key element is to use multiple communication channels (meetings, one to ones, media) to help change receipts understand the reason for the change. This step can be a proposal stage in a selling transaction.

6.  Work with Social Networks and Tap Their Influence: Individuals in highly cohesive teams are likely to be more moved by appeals directed to the team and by change efforts that engage the group. Also, work the relational ties of influential employees who support the change to convert the change sceptics. In a selling environment, working with decision-makers as a team as well as individuals can make the difference of winning the contract.

7. Use Enabling Practices to Support Implementation: You can use the following enabling processes to initiate your change intervention or solution implementation:

a) Goal Setting: Set up clear expectations at different levels of the organisation (individual, department, companywide) to avoid contradicting objectives, assure accountability and measure progress (i.e. when change is an improvement).

b) Learning: Provide the tools and processes to deliver and capture knowledge about the change at all levels of the organisation (i.e. individual, executives, teams). You should also provision for skills development and assessment.

c) Employee Participation: Share information and gather feedback to empower employees to take ownership of the change and actively engage in issue resolution and adoption monitoring.

d) Fairness and Justice: Use a fair procedure in making decisions and treat people respectfully. The more you and senior managers do so, the more the people will identify with the organisation and embrace the change (i.e. change as an opportunity rather than a threat).

e) Transitional Structures: Leverage a task force to guide the change initiative. Try to promote flexibility and create opportunities to practice new skills and roles.

8. Promote Micro-Processes and Experimentation: Implement small-scale or micro-process change interventions to adjust for industry or local requirements such as culture or other idiosyncratic features. These processes will allow for failure, adaptation and learning.

9. Assess Change Progress and Outcomes over Time: Use a multi-level approach (i.e. individual, executives, teams) to assess success from the perspective of the different stakeholders involved in the change.

10. Institutionalise the Change to Sustain Its Effectiveness: Integrate the change into your company’s culture and management systems (i.e. HR practice, power structure, and governance), Set up the incentives and rewards to sustain adoption and incorporate the change into daily routines and practices.

Do these steps resonate with what you have seen in practice? Please let us know your comments below.

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