Pauliina Piri: Change manager, follow these 3 rules to always succeed in change 

I run trainings for management teams, project managers, and people managers to equip them to succeed in changes. In nearly every training I get the question: “What is the most important way to ensure successful change?” I respond that change is most likely to succeed if you execute carefully the following three actions: 

1. Align the “why” in the change 

The first and most important action to do to succeed in change is to ensure that everyone impacted by the change agrees on why the change is needed. I don’t mean that the executive or the project team should be unanimous about the reasons behind the change. What I mean is that you need to gather all key groups impacted by the change and confirm: “Do we agree that this aspect is not working as well as it should?” 

To make this happen, you need to do your groundwork carefully: based on what metrics or on whose feedback do we think that something is not working? Sometimes the why of the change is not related to any current problems but to ensuring success in the future: for example, by harmonizing the processes and ways of working, we can aim for more fluent merger expansions. In this situation as well, it is essential to have genuine conversations on the reasons behind the change and what the concrete goals are. 

Sometimes one good question such as “What would happen if we did nothing?” can help a group to find a common understanding of the necessity of the change. 

2. Co-create – genuinely 

The second action is to make sure that the developed solution really solves the problem. This phase can succeed only if a fair amount of the impacted people gets to participate in the change project with real opportunities to influence the decisions. 

I often face situations, where all significant decisions have been made with a small team; for example, a new system has been chosen without hearing the current system users or a new organizational chart has been drawn without a wider discussion about what is currently not working. Although it can be impossible to include everyone in the conversations, it is essential to ensure that all impacted stakeholder groups feel heard and have an opportunity to participate, by having a representative from each business unit, geographical area, or team of specialists for example. From the perspective of commitment, it is also necessary to communicate transparently about who have participated in the decision-making and how the questions and concerns of different stakeholder groups have been considered along the way. 

3. Invest in line managers 

The third action is to pay extra attention to managerial support and communication. Based on research, we know that managers and colleagues are the most effective “communication channels” in organizations. Each of us wants to hear news concerning our work from our closest manager. However, line managers, especially middle management, are the most overloaded group in organizations. Therefore, it is critical to help managers succeed in their communication roles. 

One proven approach for supporting line managers is to prepare brief and practical support material for them and review it together. This provides managers an opportunity to ask for more details and raise possible concerns about the topic. By investing in line managers, you make sure that the change communications across the organization are aligned and succeed in the way you wish to. 

Interested in a learning path or change training customized for your organization?

Please contact Auli Packalén: or +358 040 845 3045