C10.7.3.5 Guidance for Managing Change


Here are some tips to apply the above principles when managing change:

  • Give people information – be open and honest about the facts, but don’t give overoptimistic speculation. I.e. meet their openness needs, but in a way that does not set unrealistic expectations.
  • For large groups, produce a communication strategy that ensures information is disseminated efficiently and comprehensively to everyone (don’t let the grapevine take over). E.g.: tell everyone at the same time. However, follow this up with individual interviews to produce a personal strategy for dealing with the change. This helps to recognise and deal appropriately with the individual reaction to change.
  • Give people choices to make, and be honest about the possible consequences of those choices. I.e. meet their control and inclusion needs
  • Give people time, to express their views, and support their decision making, providing coaching, counselling or information as appropriate, to help them through the loss curve
  • Where the change involves a loss, identify what will or might replace that loss – loss is easier to cope with if there is something to replace it. This will help assuage potential fears.
  • Where it is possible to do so, give individuals opportunity to express their concerns and provide reassurances – also to help assuage potential fears.
  • Keep observing good management practice, such as making time for informal discussion and feedback (even though the pressure might seem that it is reasonable to let such things slip – during difficult change such practices are even more important).


Where you are embarking on a large change programmes, you should treat it as a project. That means you apply all the rigours of project management to the change process – producing plans, allocating resources, appointing a steering board and/or project sponsor etc. The five principles above should form part of the project objectives.

To drive change it can be useful to know where you are now. Then you can identify where you need to be and plan a route to achieve that.


There are some useful signs to look for.


In terms of vision, long term goals, purpose or mission, statement of values, brand or image:

  • If your organisation has any of these, is sustainable development integrated into them? The term sustainable development may not necessarily be used – it may talk about getting back within environmental limits, or meeting people’s needs without compromising the future, or decoupling economic growth from environmental impact.
  • If it does have some kind of sustainability commitment, as far as you can tell, is the commitment to ‘strong’ sustainable development, or to ‘greening’ the status quo?


In terms of objectives and targets:

  • Do the objectives or targets of the organisation include any which are designed to help the organisation reach sustainability (being back within environmental limits and meeting everyone’s needs)?
  • If they are not about long-term sustainability, are there at least some which are about environmental and social impact?
  • Are there any which contradict sustainability?


In terms of monitoring, measuring, assessing and rewarding performance:

  • How does the organisation monitor, measure and assess its performance, in terms of sustainable development? Would it know if it was moving further towards or further away from sustainability?
  • Are the ways that it monitors its social and environmental performance integrated with the ways it monitors its financial performance, and with the ways it monitors how well it is meeting its core purpose (e.g. standards of health care if it is a health body, standards of education if it is an educational institution)?
  • Are staff recognised and rewarded for better performance on sustainable development, as well as for better performance in other areas? Are the signals strong enough to encourage higher environmental and social performance?


In terms of skills, competencies and professional development:

  • Are the skills and knowledge needed for sustainable development integrated into the organisation’s approach to staff learning and development?
  • If they are not integrated, are they at least available to staff?


 One of the most important questions for a sustainable development change maker to ask themselves is: “Has my organisation agreed that it wants to become truly sustainable in the long term?”

 Source: IEMA “Change Management for Sustainable Development”, 2006.