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A human lens for Change Management

Amongst professional change practitioners, a favourite love-hate subject is how Change Management differs from Project Management.

Of course, Project Management and Change Management both take a functional view of change being made. After all projects are a mechanism to bring about a change.

One way to differentiate is to emphasise that Change Management is about people.

This isn’t particularly useful, for Project Managers are people too, and emotionally intelligent ones care about people aspects in doing great Project Management work.

So, here’s a short elevator-ride (i.e., 10 seconds!) take on the difference:

• Project Management is concerned with Time, Cost, and Quality.

• Change Management is concerned with Hope, Trust, Compassion and Stability.

These four aspects for Change Management are from GALLUP’s research on what a Leader is about or does [1]. They say that Followers want four things: Hope, Trust, Compassion and Stability. The Leader’s job is to Create Hope, Build Trust, Show Compassion and Provide Stability. Sounds like the perfect description for human-centred quality Change Management!

Expanding a little on each of these:

HOPE is what gets people out of bed; has them believing in something they can’t yet see or touch; and gives them a sense of purpose amid confusion, uncertainty, or chaos. Hope is connected to optimism – a sense that there is a reason to be positive about a better and meaningful future. The absence of hope is doubt, which often results in pessimism.

TRUST is when people are confident that their belief in something is not misplaced; that the person or thing in which they are placing trust is reliable, will make good on promises and is worthy of being trusted. When there is high trust, people will be gracious, forgiving, and tolerate ambiguity and discomfort. The loss of trust is often felt as betrayal.

COMPASSION for some is synonymous with kindness, for others with pity. I see it as recognising that others are feeling something or experiencing something, for which your consideration and thoughtful actions would provide a degree of comfort, solace, or relief. Compassion is about connection to another human being; it requires attention and caring. The absence of compassion is separateness and neglect.

STABILITY is about ordering and organising the things that can be managed, and – with a combination of trust and compassion – having capacity available to cope and deal with things that can’t be managed. Change can be disruptive, that is the nature of change! But all changing doesn’t need to be handled as a surprise. You can get useful insights for advanced planning from people with knowledge gained from experience, and people with a sense of the future. When you can give stability to aspects (not all) of a changing process, you provide an anchor to weather the storms of that which cannot be predicted.

Hope, Trust, Compassion, Stability – are all things that deeply affect people, even if sometimes they can’t articulate it. The absence of these is often at the root cause for the failure of a change initiative.

At Timbs and Co, we dream that organisational change initiatives are shaped and led with Hope, Trust, Compassion and Stability as guiding principles. And that at the end of an initiative, the group of people who enabled the change and who were asked to change, have more Hope, Trust, Compassion, and the resilience to cope with instability than when the initiative started.

Want to share in our dream?

If this concept resonates with you - check out this resource/activity for exploring the present and a trajectory for the coming future, on these four aspects. And you can purchase your own set of cards for using in a personal or shared conversation.

[1] Rath, Tom, & Conchie, Barry. (2008). Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow: Gallup Press.


Helen Palmer is Human Experiences Guide at Timbs and Co. She’s also the creator of the Questo Change Design Principle Cards that include cards for the HTCS conversations. She likes to create things that inspire and shape meaningful change in workscapes everywhere.

Originally published by Questo; republished with permission.

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