Change management is people

This post is a summary of resources that I am referring to as part of a virtual Emerging e-Leaders’ session today.

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
— Leo Tolstoy

Point 1: He tangata! He tangata! He tangata! It is the people.

We talk a lot about ‘managing change’, ‘change management’, ‘change leadership’. It is easy, with these phrases, to think that change is somehow a ‘thing’ that we can plan for with a neat framework or process.

To ‘manage change’ is to manage people – so it is messy, and thrilling, and exciting and exasperating – so we cannot make decisions about other people on their behalf.

We should be wary of loosely using  the phrase ‘change leadership’ – it can seem as though we are assuming people should change. It might be our view but it it their view? How often do we stop to look at our own values and beliefs about purpose and about the people with whom we work?

Point 2: Start with the who, not the why

Simon Sinek has made a career focusing on the ‘why’ – how good leaders focus on the purpose and on inspiring others to be motivated by it. Yes – and no.

I would assert that we need to start with the ‘who’:

start with who

Kōrero with the Māori and Pasifika whānau in CORE have reminded me time and again that who people are, their culture, their background, and your relationship with them is the starting point, not necessarily the purpose that we believe is important. The purpose develops from the people’s motivations.

Point 3:  CBAM – so what?

The Concerns-Based Adoption Model (CBAM) reminds us that:

  • people come to new ideas from different points of readiness
  • they often have their own needs driving their reactions
  • people need time to find their own doorway into an initiative


Leaders might do well to consider how much time they put into finding out where people are at, in ways that allow people to feel safe and valued enough to share their true feelings, before they start to design intervention.

And I would encourage leaders to also consider how far we are inclusive, personalised and user-driven in the way we design professional learning. If it’s important for our learners, it’s important for our staff, too.

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