Resume: Seven Principles for Change Management – Gordon Stanley

1. Plan for change from a solid base.

Supply relevant and convincing data
Be beware that how we make use of it matters. It is important to have a handle on the strengths and weaknesses of available data and how it can be marshaled in support of the change programme.

2. Identify discrepancies between formal and informal practice in the organization.

Understanding informal practice can contribute to the understanding why formal rules were not followed, e.g. unworkable, better alternatives, … and can lead to an adjustment of formal practice.

3. Control expectations about the proposed changes.

Working out what can be done is affected by the extent to which expectations about proposed changes can be handled and controlled.
While it is desirable to have high standards in education, they need to be achievable to avoid disappointment with the result. Reality checking is an important element in controlling expectations about change.
Change may also challenge people out of their comfort zone.

4. Select change agents carefully.

Inside or outside agents?
It is important to check on the track-record of any change agent!
Inside agents should have a track-record of leadership and have a clear focus on data-driven decision making.

5. Build support among like-minded people however they are recruited

For successful change to occur it is essential to build social consensus among those affected by the change. This means paying careful attention to getting those who are most agreeable to the direction of the change on side and then using this base to expand the numbers on side. There needs to be clear communication of the objectives of the change and agreement to resolve issues identified in the consensus building process.

6. Identify those opposed to change and try to neutralize them.

Those opposed to change should not be allowed to appropriate basic issues.
Listen to critics carefully: there may be some important truth in their criticism that may have been overlooked; if the criticism is not valid then in dealing with the critic one can rehearse the communication message that will need to be honed for successful agreement to the change.

7. Avoid future shock

Setting time frames for change is an important part of the planning process.
Many plans for change are unrealistically future-oriented.
Long-term time frames can have an aspirational value and move thinking beyond the immediate problems + a sense of direction allows individuals to see what the future holds.
If the horizon is too far into the future there are fewer objective criteria against which to measure alternative solutions. Moreover the longer time frame provides more opportunity for opponents to build support.
Continuing uncertainty about the future is very disabling to the efficient operation of an organization.


Leading change is a risky business and challenging. Not leading change is even riskier because change is a necessary factor in management of all contemporary organizations.
The assumptions driving change need to be constantly examined so that meaningful results can flow from the planned change.


Stanley, G. 2006. Seven Principles for Change Management. Sustainable Leadership in Education. University of Sydney.


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