The Four Principles Of Change Management (2023)

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No company or organization can operate the same way forever. Whether you’re a rapidly growing startup with agility baked into your DNA or a decades-old corporation responding to market shifts, you need to adjust to progress and improve. How well you can do that depends on how your organization approaches the process of change management.

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What Is Change Management?

Change management is a structured process for planning and implementing new ways of operating within an organization.

Many academic disciplines have studied and developed theories about the best ways to approach change in an organization. Central to theories across disciplines is the goal of making change happen—i.e., moving an organization forward—with the full support and cooperation of everyone who’s affected by it.

Change management models recognize change can’t happen within one position or department without affecting the entire organization. Theorists developed the models to approach change in ways that acknowledge its effects across an organization, prepare everyone for those effects and get everyone on board for the transition.

Several change management models exist, and your organization can choose which makes the most sense for you. One of the most prominent thought leaders in the field is John Kotter, a professor at Harvard Business School and founder of the management consulting firm Kotter International.

Kotter’s model for change management involves four key principles and eight steps.

4 Principles of Change Management

Kotter’s four change principles include:

  1. Select few + diverse many
  2. Have to + want to
  3. Head + heart
  4. Management + leadership

Select Few + Diverse Many

Who drives change in your organization? Do decisions and directives tend to come from the same small group of managers or leaders? These are known as the “select few”—and there’s a danger to this approach to change.

Everyone within an organization is affected by change. It’s the “diverse many”—the broader group of people that makes up your company—who have to adjust their processes and activities day to day to accommodate change.

When the directives come from a select few, you skip the step of understanding what everyone else needs to effectively implement change. You also miss out on an opportunity to get them on board, so they’re eager to welcome change when it comes.

Get representatives from across your organization involved at every stage of a change process—from identifying challenges and planning improvements to implementation and reflection.

Have To + Want To

Getting the diverse many involved is your first step to moving change from something they feel they have to do to something they want to do.

(Video) Change Management | Meaning | Types | Triggers | Reaction

A workforce filled with people who feel like they have to implement changes or initiatives is a recipe for complacency. One filled with folks who want to make change is a formula for action.

When the people in your organization are involved in identifying challenges and recommending improvements, they’ll understand the reasoning behind changed processes and new initiatives. They’ll be invested in improvement. They’ll be eager to take the steps needed to implement—and sustain—change that moves your organization forward.

Head + Heart

You must drive decisions and directives for change from both:

  • The head: appeals to logic, data and reason
  • The heart: appeals to how people feel and what they desire

Putting hard data behind organizational decisions is smart, but implementing change requires more. It also requires employees who are inspired by what the change will mean for their day-to-day work and the organization’s ability to fulfill its mission.

This means digging a little deeper when you communicate change to your employees.

You can’t just share what the change is and how you’ll implement it. You also have to explain the why behind it, the ways it’ll move the needle for the company, your customers or clients, your employees, and the mission they come into work every day to achieve.

Management + Leadership

Navigating change in an organization requires both management and leadership.

That is, you need both the technical skills to manage projects, make a plan and oversee deliverables; and the emotional skills to communicate a vision, inspire action and empathize with concerns.

Any business leader has certainly heard an earful about the differences between managing and leading — but we’re not saying one or the other is better here. To make effective change in an organization, you need the combined strengths of both management and leadership.

Kotter’s 8 Steps to Change Management

Kotter’s eight-step process for leading change within an organization includes:

  1. Create a sense of urgency. Rather than simply presenting a change that’s going to happen, present an opportunity that helps the team see the need for change and want to make it happen.
  2. Build a guiding coalition. This group of early adopters from among the diverse many will help communicate needs and initiatives to guide change.
  3. Form a strategic vision and initiatives. Draw a picture of what life will look like after the change. Help everyone see—and long for—the direction you’re headed, rather than focusing myopically on the steps in front of them right now.
  4. Enlist volunteers. You’ll need massive buy-in across the organization to effectively implement change. Use your coalition to keep up the momentum on the sense of urgency and continue to communicate the vision.
  5. Enable action by removing barriers. Learn where employees face challenges to implementing a change because of structural issues like silos, poor communication or inefficient processes, and break them down to facilitate progress.
  6. Generate short-term wins. Keep up the momentum and motivation by recognizing early successes on the path to change. Continue to recognize and celebrate small wins to keep everyone energized and aware of your progress.
  7. Sustain acceleration. Lean into change harder after the first few small wins. Use those successes as a springboard to move forward further and faster.
  8. Institute change. Celebrate the results of successful change. How do changed processes or initiatives contribute to the organization’s overall success? How do they continue to help employees contribute to the mission they care about?

Bottom Line

Creating change within the organization can make people balk, but ensuring that all parties understand why a change is necessary, how it benefits them and the organization as a whole and allowing them to give input on how to implement said changes leads teams to feel invested in the process.

Building a clear vision and celebrating the small wins along the way will make sure that no one is left wondering what’s happening, and encourage them to take the next step forward. Before long you’ll be achieving your goals as a team—use that as an opportunity to get feedback on the process overall so that the next time flows even more smoothly.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are good change management skills?

To effectively drive and lead change in an organization, you need a combination of leadership, management and strategic strengths. You should be strong in both communication and listening, as well as strategic thinking and analysis.

What is change management risk?

Change management risk refers to factors that could derail an initiative or make it fail to achieve its purpose. Part of change management is identifying these risks and creating a plan to mitigate them.

Why is change management difficult?

Implementing change in an organization is hard because of inertia. The easiest way to operate seems to be the way we’ve always operated. Effectively implementing change means stopping and redirecting that force across dozens, hundreds or thousands of employees.

Is a change management strategy necessary to implement?

To achieve the best success with a planned change, it’s best to have a change management plan in place beforehand. It allows the operation’s leaders to create and work with change within the parameters of certain guidelines, concepts, approaches and language.

(Video) 4 Principles of Change Management

Is risk management part of change management?

Yes. Creating a plan for change in an organization involves a risk assessment to determine what effects the change will have, as well as the level of risk regarding whether you’ll face resistance to change.


What are the 4 principles of change management? ›

Successful change management relies on four core principles:
  • Understand Change.
  • Plan Change.
  • Implement Change.
  • Communicate Change.

What are the principal of change management? ›

Change management principles are the guiding practices business leaders should follow to effectively manage change, transitions, and disruptions within an organization. Changes may be internal (e.g., migrating to a new software platform) or external (e.g., new market opportunities, industry trends, or threats).

What are the four 4 considerations in effectively implementing changes in order to improve organisational and workplace cultures? ›

These four steps are a good place to start to set your organization back on the right track:
  1. Foster an environment of accountability, from managers down to individual employees.
  2. Discuss with teams what matters most to them.
  3. Institute better practices based on feedback.
  4. Continue to assess your culture.
Mar 11, 2019

What are the 4 important principles of management explain? ›

Management has four basic functions - planning, organizing, leading, and controlling, also called the POLC framework in management. Without these in place, there would be little to no structure and focus in an organization.

What are the 4 stages of change? ›

The stages are shock, anger, acceptance and commitment. People's initial reaction to the change will likely be shock or denial as they refuse to accept that change is happening. Once the reality sinks in and people accept the change is happening, they tend to react negatively.

What is the first principle of change? ›

How First Principle Thinking Drives Change. The first principle forces you to break things down into smaller pieces and look at each component as its own individual moving part. When you break things down in such a way, it drives innovation because it makes you look at things from a different perspective.

What are the 4 pillars management and relate towards organizational efficiency and effectiveness? ›

You will learn the four pillars of management: planning, organizing, directing, and controlling, and learn how to apply them to turn wishes, dreams, and ideas into reality. You will become a better manager and leader.

What are the four key steps on improving the quality of the organization? ›

4 Steps to Improve Quality at Your Business
  • Document your processes. For small and midsize businesses to improve quality, processes must be consistent across the organization and over time. ...
  • Identify quality issues. ...
  • Fix the problem for the customer. ...
  • Ensure that the problem doesn't reoccur.
Feb 24, 2015

What are the principles of management 5 possible answers? ›

Five principles of management are as follows:
  • Division of work.
  • Unity of Command.
  • Subordination of individual interest.
  • Unity of Direction.
  • Remuneration.

What is the best management principle? ›

Principle No. 1: The Functions of Management

At the most fundamental level, management is a discipline that consists of a set of five general functions: planning, organizing, staffing, leading and controlling. These five functions are part of a body of practices and theories on how to be a successful manager.

What are the four 4 functions of management to be effective and efficient? ›

There are four generally accepted functions of management: planning, organizing, leading and controlling. These functions work together in the creation, execution and realization of organizational goals.

Who proposed 4 principles of management? ›

Taking what he learned from these workplace experiments, Taylor developed four principles of scientific management. These principles are also known simply as "Taylorism".

How do the 4 management functions interact and why is this important? ›

Managers must first plan, then organize according to that plan, lead others to work towards the plan, and finally evaluate the effectiveness of the plan. These four functions must be performed properly and, when done well, become the reason for organizational success.

What is 4 basic management style? ›

The four leadership styles managers use are autocratic, democratic, laissez-faire, and paternalistic, and each will be most effective depending on particular situations.

What is a change management plan? ›

A change management plan is a process a business follows to implement changes across the organization. Change management plans are typically used for significant or complex organizational changes that require a more strategic approach because of their impact on someone's job. We all react differently to change.

What are different types of change management? ›

Within directed change there are three different types of change management: developmental, transitional, and transformational.

What makes a change successful? ›

Successful change formulas involve (1) vision, (2) benefits, (3) sponsorship, (4) resources and (5) methodology. If any of these five ingredients are left out, the outcome won't taste all that great. For example, if aligned vision is lacking confusion sets in quickly.

Why is change management important? ›

There are many benefits to change management. Some of these benefits include improved communication, increased productivity, reduced stress and improved decision making. change management can also help improve employee morale and create a more positive work environment.

What are the 4 most important pillars of successful team management? ›

The four pillars include:
  • Leadership. Leadership is how you interact with your team and influence their feelings about the organization. ...
  • Management. Management involves the planning part of your role. ...
  • Communication. Communication involves meaningful interactions between staff and with customers. ...
  • Execution.
Jun 24, 2022

What are the 4 perspectives of organizational effectiveness? ›

According to Balduck and Buelens (2008), the issue of effectiveness in organizations revolves round four main approaches: the system resource approach, the goal approach, the strategic constituency approach and the internal process approach.

What are the four 4 main purposes of setting goals in an organization? ›

Motivation, vision, accountability, and fulfillment (or success) are the four most important outcomes of goal setting. These outcomes help employees realize their contribution to the larger picture, strive towards achieving it, and celebrate with team members when the goal is achieved.

What are the 4 quality management techniques? ›

Quality management is the act of overseeing all activities and tasks which are necessary to maintain or achieve a certain level of excellence in your organization. It consists of four key processes: quality planning, quality assurance, quality control and continual improvement.

What are the 4 C's of quality management? ›

In this blog series, I will be breaking down each of the 4Cs – comprehensiveness, consistency, continuousness, and certification – to explain their place within the framework and the important role they serve in upholding the high level of quality our customers expect of us.

What are the principles of management answer? ›

Formally defined, the principles of management are the activities that “plan, organize, and control the operations of the basic elements of [people], materials, machines, methods, money and markets, providing direction and coordination, and giving leadership to human efforts, so as to achieve the sought objectives of ...

What are the important questions on principles of management? ›

Principles of Management-Important QuestionsExplore More

Explain the nature of principles of management? What do you mean by optimum utilization of resources & effective administration? Write the difference between unity of command and unity of direction? What does principle of initiative indicates?

What is the importance of principles of management in 5 points? ›

The five points of importance of management are achieving organisation goals, achieving individual goals, creating a dynamic environment, developing society, and improving efficiency. Management refers to the process of performing tasks efficiently and effectively while achieving personal and organizational goals.

What is principle management answer in one sentence? ›

Principles of management are broad and general guidelines for decision making and behaviour.

What is the example of principle of management? ›

A manager can present a good example to his subordinates by disciplining himself. For example, if the employees break their promise of working up to their full capacity, it will amount to the violation of obedience. Similarly a sales manager has the authority to do business on credit.

What is one good thing about the principles of management? ›

One good thing about the Principles of Management is that it helps understand the relationship between human and material resources in achieving organisational goals.

What are the 5 R's of change management? ›

During the restructuring process, there are five R's of change you need to manage effectively to maintain productivity, performance, and profitability in your organisation – resistance, redundancy, redeployment, re-engagement and retention.

What are the 3 C's of the change management? ›

The three-C principle can help you overcome this change management challenge. Managers should ensure the changes they are communicating are clear, compelling, and credible.

What are the 5 pillars of change management? ›

  • Pillar #1: Start by Looking Inward. The first pillar of change management is continuous assessment. ...
  • Pillar #2: Build Executive Buy-In. ...
  • Pillar #3: Make It a Team Effort. ...
  • Pillar #4: Developing the Plan. ...
  • Pillar #5: Delivering the Goods. ...
  • Wash, Rinse, Repeat.

What are the 4 phases of change? ›

When change is first introduced at work, the people affected will typically go through four stages. These can be visualised on the change curve. The stages are shock, anger, acceptance and commitment.

What are the 6 principles of managing change? ›

Before you begin a system implementation, a transformation program, or any initiative involving change for your organization, remember to integrate the six key principles of successful change management: Leadership, Inclusion, Communication, Metrics, Enablement, and Reinforcement.

What are the 6 change management plan? ›

Typically, there are six components of Change Management: Leadership Alignment, Stakeholder Engagement, Communication, Change Impact and Readiness, Training, and Organisation Design.

What is the Big 3 model of change? ›

Lewin's change model is a simple and easy-to-understand framework to humanize the change management process. These three distinct stages of change (unfreeze, change, and refreeze) allow you to plan & implement the required change.


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