UK: Questions For Change Management Leaders

Last Updated: 30 October 2012

A few years ago, we read a news story about an executive who had been hired to turn around the fortunes of a business that was on the rocks. The product was bad. Morale was awful. Management appeared to be confused about what to do. And customers were staying away in droves.

Clearly, this fellow had been hired to make changes, and here's what he said: "We gotta shake this place up and keep shaking until we get it right."

He was a change manager, to be sure. He had been brought in because things were not working well and somebody had to make miracles happen quickly. And our guy did that in spades, firing middle managers with abandon, reversing policies that had served the organisation well, and establishing immediately that he was King.

You know what? It worked – for a while. The operation seemed to take on a new focus, and customers returned. The product got better. Management relaxed and the teamwork that everyone had hoped for seemed to emerge once again. That's the good news.

But we used that word "teamwork" advisedly because this organisation indeed was a team – a small football club in a large Southern city. Sports franchises make great cases for the study of change management because the results show up so quickly.

In this case, the "shaking up" of the organisation worked for slightly less than one season and the new manager was summarily relieved, even as his bravado still seemed to echo off the locker room walls. He was a bold manager of change, to be sure, but he was not a skilled one.

The many constituents of change

The lesson of our friend's forceful and narrow-minded attack on the company he set out to correct is critical for corporate managers. It says that change cannot be mandated or forced. It says that change has many constituents and that these constituents count.

It says that change managers need to ask difficult questions of themselves before they set out to "shake things up". And it insists that they must listen to the answers.

Here are the questions that sensitive change managers must consider before they set out to improve things.

  1. What is the employees' perspective?

    To mobilise a workforce to transform itself, leaders must:
  • know what people in the organisation are thinking
  • encourage them to articulate their points of view and their concerns
  • be ready to respond to them sincerely.
  • The first question that leaders should ask is: "What is the employees' perspective?" And don't rely on second-hand information or make assumptions about what you think employees think. Ask them – and keep asking them until they tell you. Only then can you begin to design a strategy that builds on synergies and fills in perception gaps.
  1. Did you "set the stage" for change?

    One of the most vital roles of leadership is to anticipate the corporation's future and its place in the global arena, and then to formulate strategies for surmounting challenges that have not yet manifested.

    To proactively respond to these challenges, businesses must continually reinvent themselves. Leaders must encourage employees to join a constant questioning of the prevailing business assumptions – and to be ready to act upon new opportunities early in the game to maintain a competitive advantage.
  2. Are you tracking employee perceptions throughout the change?

    As important as it is to find out what employees are thinking before the change, it is just as crucial to have a system for monitoring employee perception throughout the change process. George Bernard Shaw once said that the problem with communication is "the illusion that it has been accomplished". When it comes to communicating change, leadership must be especially careful not to suffer that illusion.

    Strategies that include employee interaction and feedback systems help organisations track the level of workforce comprehension. You will find that the greatest advantages come when organisational feedback is gathered immediately after the delivery of every important message.

    One of our clients uses this short questionnaire to query her audiences before they leave the meeting room:
  • What, in your view, are the most important points we just covered?
  • What didn't you understand?
  • With what do you disagree?
  • With what do you agree?
  • What else do you need to know?
  1. Are you giving honest answers to tough questions?

    In the light of economic realities that offer little in the way of job security, employees must be able to rely on their employer to give them honest information that will allow them to make informed choices about their own jobs, careers and futures. And when you can't answer every question, it is best to tell people that you understand their concern but don't know the answer. Or that you don't have the information yet, but will get back to them as soon as decisions are made.

    It is even better to tell people that you have the information but can't release it than to withhold or twist the truth. Not everyone will appreciate candid communication, but few will tolerate anything less.
  2. Can you answer the most important question: "What's in it for me?"

    We were in Sweden working with a county government agency that was completely revamping its healthcare system. The leader of this enormous change was proud of the way he had communicated it to the county's residents. They had been given a thorough briefing – the reasons behind the change, the timing of the change, and exactly how it was to be carried out.

    Then he turned to the TCii consultant with a frown and said: "But you know, there is still one question that I get asked all the time." Our consultant interrupted. "Let me guess," he said. "People want to know if the wait for a doctor's appointment will be any shorter than it currently is. Am I right?" The man looked startled. "How did you know that?" he asked. We told him that we knew to expect that question because it is the one we hear most often about change: What's in it for me?
  3. Is your communication "behaviour-based?"

    Organisations send two concurrent sets of messages about change. One set of messages goes through formal channels of communication: speeches, newsletters, corporate videos, values statements and so forth. The other set of messages is "delivered" informally through a combination of "off the record" remarks and daily activities.

    When we mentor senior management teams, we begin with two questions:
  • What do you currently do that already supports the change? and
  • What do you have to do differently to align with the change?
  • For today's sceptical employee audience, rhetoric without action quickly disintegrates into empty slogans and company propaganda. In the words of Sue Swenson, president of Leap Wireless, "What you do in the hallway is more powerful than anything you say in the meeting room."
  1. Can you paint the big, little picture?

    Vision is the big picture (we'll look at this next), and it is crucial to the success of the enterprise. But along with the big picture, people also need the little picture:



Present the concept of transformation.

How are we going to do that?

Set long-term corporate goals.

Where do we begin?

Develop the overall objectives of the transformation.

What are the priorities?

Create the mission of the organisation.

Where does my contribution fit in?

Communicate organisational values.

What does this mean in my daily life?

  1. Is it your vision or our vision?

    Leaders understand the power of vision to imbue people with a sense of purpose, direction and energy. A compelling vision of the future pulls people out of the seductive hold of the past and inspires them to set and reach ambitious corporate goals. Of even greater importance is the sense of meaning that people derive from their jobs when they can tie their contributions to the fulfilment of a clear, compelling vision.

    Leaders must therefore be able to paint the big picture. But if the vision belongs only to top management, it will never be an effective force for transformation. The power of a vision comes truly into play only when the employees themselves have had some part in its creation.

    So the crucial question becomes: "Whose vision is it?" Leaders must create a master narrative that coherently articulates the company's identity and ideals, and is embraced by every member of the company.

    If you want employees to feel the same kind of connection to their work that the executives felt at the retreat, you have to get employees involved too.
  2. Are you emotionally literate?

    To be a consummate manager of change, it is not enough to engage people's logic: you also have to appeal to their emotions. As leaders arrive at the insight that people skills (the "soft stuff" of business) hold the key to organisational change, human emotions take on new significance.

    Large-scale organisational change almost invariably triggers the same sequence of reactions: denial, negativity, a choice point, tentative acceptance, commitment. Leadership can either facilitate this emotional process or ignore it – at the peril of the transformation effort.
  3. Do you know what shouldn't change?

    The greatest challenge for leaders is to know the difference between what has to be preserved and what needs to be changed. The "genius" of leadership is being able to preserve an organisation's core values, and yet change and adapt as times require. And the product of that kind of leadership is a company that goes on for a very long time.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.