Getting started with Change Management: Prosci’s Five Tenets

23 April 2018
author picture Article written by Vincent Piedboeuf

Status quo is a dangerous place to be. In our fast moving world, organisations are pushed in the back to adapt and transform. But dealing with change takes intention and structured actions. Rushing headlong from one activity to another can only make things worse. That is where Change Management comes into play.

As a context-specific approach, it requires a sound understanding of the reasons driving change and of its impact on the people. Only then can Change Management plans be properly rolled out. Here are Prosci’s Five Tenets of Change Management to help you get off to a great start.

1 - We change for a reason.

There are three states in the change process: for simplicity the « current state », the « transition » and the « future state ». Whatever the words, change is always driven by a reasonable expectation that the future will be better than the present. Triggers can either be internal (e.g. fixing performance issues, pursuing a policy of continuous improvement, doing more with less) or external (e.g. competitive threats, new technologies, new regulations). The same goes for stated goals. Intrinsic goals common to most organisations include lesser costs, higher incomes, higher efficiency, less errors. Outward-looking corporate objectives, at turn, are many and varied and differ according context (e.g. reduced exposure to risk, market share gains, enhanced customer experience and extended partnerships). The clearer the objectives, the better the chances of getting people on board. So start with a strong “why”.

2 - Organisational change takes individual change.

Digital transformation, new managerial culture, ERP system implementation, … whichever the change at stake, there is a common thread: organisations do not change, people do. People are the first building blocks of change. It is therefore important to have a good grasp of the situation at the individual level and to never stop at the « helicopter view ». Among the many work aspects and routines that can be impacted are the processes and systems, tools, roles, behaviours, attitudes and beliefs, hierarchical structure, performance assessments, financial compensation and location. Before jumpstarting the change, make sure you have an accurate picture of the nature and extent of the impact on a more disaggregated level.

3 - Organisational effects are the collective result of the input of individual changes.

If change is a three-step process, actual change is the combination of (individual) stages people find themselves in – or the superposition thereof.  Focus too much on the macro-level and you risk missing out on critical individual transitions. The end result is a chaotic future state where trajectories are not aligned, some of them incomplete, others not yet started. With more holes than in a Swiss cheese, the graph below demonstrates the existence of such a risk.

Results are usually constrained by human factors, that is to say, the extent to which people change the way they work[1]. This is generally referred to as people-dependent ROI[2]. CM ROI has three components to it: the adoption speed of a given change or “solution”, its utilisation rate (number of people using the solution) and global efficiency (proficiency or performance level of the people compared to the expected result). Simply put, the best solution may crash if disregarded or misused.

4 - Change Management offers a framework to deal with the people side of change.

Now that people-dependent ROI is recognized as significant and impact has been properly charted, Change Management may bring the right solution to your needs. It all comes down to preparing the people, top to bottom of the organisation, for the transition. But make no mistake: sending an email on Monday to provide people with training the next day and kick starting the project on Wednesday is not an option. The ADKAR model for individual transitions is a simple tool that guides you through the exact sequence of steps to successfully implement and sustain the change. Start with creating Awareness (“I understand why”) and Desire (“I have decided to”) before providing people with Knowledge and Ability (“I am able, capable of”). Then push past the finish line by Reinforcing the change (“I will keep on doing”) through success celebration and continuous improvement feedback. It is crucial to create an ecosystem that will support the effort in the long run. Key success factors include a solid sponsorship coalition and consistent communication, unwavering engagement from managers and staff, synchronisation with Project Management … and needless to say, dedicated resources. Change Management is in essence a structured approach that builds the envisioned future one person at a time.

5 - Change Management is there to help deliver expected benefits and outcomes of change.

The benefits of Change Management are manifold. Change Management maximizes the chances of delivering the results of change. More specifically, research shows that they are multiplied by six when best practices are used. The likelihood to deliver on time and on budget also increases. Change Management also plays an important role in preventing chaotic situations as the “Swiss Cheese” chart. It helps minimize the negative consequences often related to change such as frustration, anxiety and conflicts, to name but a few. Furthermore, Change Management mitigates and reduces the risks and costs of withdrawals and retrograde moves that ultimately force re-working, re-training or re-designing. Because it captures the people-dependent ROI, which usually amounts to 80% of benefits, Change Management is your best ally to make deep-rooted change, maintain a competitive edge and achieve long-lasting success!


[1] Creasy T. & Hiatt J. (2016), Change Management, The People Side of Change, Loveland: PROSCI Learning Center Publications.

[2] Read more about CM ROI : Halluent, V. (2017), Change Management ROI, Shifting the conversation, Solving the challenge [online]


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