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A principles-based approach to designing change

Many times peers or potential employers/clients ask "what change management methodology do you follow?" I’ve never heard anybody ask: "what are the beliefs you hold about change and what values do you apply when doing change?" Maybe there is an assumption that a methodology is an encapsulation of beliefs and values. I speculate it’s a context of holding un-examined un-exposed beliefs and values, be that in the choices you make every day, or in the methodology you follow.

My journey to a principles-based approach started when someone said “People don’t change; people resist change“. I thought: ‘Hang on – there are plenty of situations and circumstances where people will change – they’ll even change willingly and stick with the change!’ It’s not helpful to hold a belief, as if it is a major tenet of organisational change, that “people don’t change“. I came across a better perspective “People change if it is meaningful to them“.

So it got me thinking: what heuristics, insights, and beliefs do I apply in my change management practice which has strong design sensibility influence?

That thinking led to a collated set of ideas – formed up as Principles to apply when taking a ‘designing change’ [1] stance.

Introducing Change Design Principles

Learn more about the Change Design Principles idea in this short video (2 min).

Introducing Change Design Principle Cards

The Principles are published on a set of cards that can be used as a conversational and learning tool. Download this free poster of Principles at a glance to see the range of Principles in the Card Set.

The card set also includes Activities to do in exploring or choosing Principle cards for your situation. The Activities range from those done in a group, as a pair, or by yourself.

Learn more about the card set and two Activities in this short video (1:45 min).

Situations for using the Cards

Here are four typical situations in which the cards can be useful:

  • Coach or team lead seeking to stimulate a fresh conversation in a team about how they orientate to each other and the work they do

  • Change Practitioner working with Change or Business Sponsor to define a Changing Strategy

  • Change Practitioner working with Change Team and/or Stakeholders to design engagement programs and activities

  • Change Practitioner wanting to cultivate fresh mindsets and practices as part of their own professional development

Additional Inspiration

There are additional activities and stories to read that can inspire how you apply the cards as an OCM practitioner.

Getting you Change Design Principle cards

Purchase your very own set of Change Design Principle cards or get a Coaching Session with me including free cards. Signup to the Timbs and Co Change Design update, and get a special discount CODE to apply on cards or Coaching Session.

[1] Designing change (the verb), i.e. designing changing


Helen Palmer is a Human Experiences Guide at Timbs and Co. She’s also the creator of the Change Design Principle Cards from her other gig at Questo. She likes to create things that inspire and shape meaningful change in workscapes everywhere.

Originally published by Questo (2018); republished with permission.

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