Five Principles of Change

Posted on August 13, 2010


Personal Management, photo from

Introducing change can be a pretty messy affair, and may well open a Pandora’s Box of never ending problems. The main resistance to change is people, for people are creatures of habit, and tend to prefer staying within their comfort zone, the status quo. As such, it is pertinent that as leaders and managers, we carefully manage the introduction of change in a way that can produce maximum effects for our team.

In this leadership lesson, we shall look at five principles that we can follow as we set out to introduce change that is effective and lasting.

1. Be Accountable

Often, simple changes that are introduced, that are otherwise acceptable, are complicated by the lack of accountability. What does this mean? It simply means that people reject change as it was not properly explained to them. All too often, we as leaders and managers implement grand and elaborate changes that seem to be foolproof, but fail to take the simple step of adequately explaining it to our team. To us, the plan is easy enough, and it would appear to us that it doesn’t take a whiz to be able to execute the plan. However, this egocentric way of thinking fails to realise the fact that while the plan for change is so clear to us, it is probably covered by a veil of mystery before our team members, unless we take the time to explain exactly what we intend to achieve and how we hope to have it done. Giving a clear account of out plans would make them so much more accountable, and definitely more acceptable.

2. Gain consensus

While formulating the plan, we often get overly excited with our plan for change, and belief that it would be the most effective plan, and would most certainly bring about results. However, again this egocentric view fails to take into account the thoughts of the team members. In this case, such a plan amounts to a one-sided plan as it comprises only the ideas of the leader or manager, and not from the team as a whole. Gaining general consensus or seeking multiple opinions from the team members would most certainly generate a better rounded plan which has little flaws, and more importantly give the team members a sense of belonging to the plan, as if their opinions and views counted in the formulation of the plan. As such, they would be more likely to accept and support the plan for change, rather than accepting a plan they believe lacking their point of view and are do not identify with.

3. Allow for time to adjust

As mentioned, a team consists of people, who are by nature resistant to change, rather than mindless robots. As such, it is critical to allow a period of time for the team members to accustom to the new procedures or environment or culture. This time is needed for the team members to get a hang of the new way of things and learn through experience. It would be unwise to be too harsh or critical during this period of time as it should be set aside as the time for learning and acclimatizing.

4. Clarify your expectations

Not only should you clarify your plan for change, it is also crucial to clarify what is expected of the members. Specificity is needed here. The outcome of this clarification is that each member should be aware of what constitutes a successful change, or what is considered to be the new norms for the new style of work. Useful statements would be, “I know I have achieved success in change when…”

5. Reward

It helps to reward successful change. When your team eventually reached the desired outcome, it would help to reward them. It could come in the simple form of a verbal affirmation, physical rewards, or rewards in terms of concessions. While this may seem like a carrot given by a transactional leader, it is more important as a signal to the team that they have arrived at the intended outcome, and that you as the leader or manager have recognized this fact. This adds on to the accountability of a leader and manager as discusses in the first point.

Depending on your style of leadership, some of the principles listed above would matter more than others. However, the concept behind these should always be kept in mind in introducing change that is effective and lasting.