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The Five Cs of Change Management

CIO INSIGHT published an article recently titled IT Change Management: Follow the Four C’s for Success, in which Dan Roberts argued that successful CIOs have to manage four components to achieve success in change management. This was a helpful summary of the things that are needed to successfully drive a change through the organization, but I think that it would have been better with one more C, and that one has to come first.


The four Cs in Dan Robert’s article were:

  1. Commitment. Which he describes as being bound emotionally and intellectually to a course of action. Dan offers helpful advice on how to help staff become committed to supporting the change.
  2. Community. Including the roles of change leader, change agents and change advocates, sometimes formalized as a change management office.
  3. Clarity. Helping people to see why they should change, as well as what change is needed.
  4. Communication. Dan talks about the need for two-way communication, but focusses mainly on the need to get people to listen.

I enjoyed reading Dan’s article and it included lots of great advice.


The additional C that I would add to Dan’s list is Context. The context for a change includes two related areas.


  • Organizational context. What is the overall mission and vision of the organization, how does the change support these and how does it fit with other changes that are happening?

    It is not enough to embark on a single change and drive it through the organization. We need to look deeper into the context to make sure that we are making the right changes to the right things for the right reasons, and that all of the changes we make over a period of time work together to achieve something important.

    Before we ask the people who work for us to become committed to something, to form a community, to see why they should change and to communicate with us about the change, we need to make sure that the change is correct for the context. We don’t just want commitment to this one change; we want commitment to the entire vision and mission of the organization, which this change should be helping to deliver.


  • Personal context. Context also includes an understanding of what the change means personally to the CIO, and how their behavior affects the success of the change.

    Mahatma Gandhi summarized the personal aspects of change management when he said “You must be the change you want to see in the world” and “An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.” A great leader doesn’t just describe the change they want others to make; they change themselves and motivate others to follow them.

    Understanding the personal context for the change, and ensuring that the culture and behavior of the CIO support the change, not in words but in deeds, is essential to success.


If you want to succeed in change management, then don’t forget the context. Follow the five Cs of change management.


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Joe Albano PhD | ‎07-31-2012 07:49 PM

Thanks for another insightful post Stuart.


I think that your post illustrates some very important points:


  • First, change does not occur in a vacuum. There are other projects and programs that are operating in your organization and external forces (e.g., the rapidly changing marketplace and regulatory environments) will have a significant impact on change. Monitoring and developing appropriate responses to these contextual challenges should be part of a well though out risk management plan.


  • Second, I think that many leaders under estimate the impact of the change on them. Many leaders like to think that “business is business” or that there is “nothing personal” in business changes. However, changes often mean giving up some activity that you enjoy and taking on activities that you are not expert in yet. I find that leaders spend insufficient time working through the impact of the change on themselves.


  • Finally, there is the challenge of rationalizing the organizational change context. Far too often duplicate and or conflicting change programs are launched because of poor communications, the lack of a unified PMO, or other concerns. This wastes resources, sends confusing messages throughout the organization, and reinforces the perception that organizational change is a “flavor of the week” fad, rather than an ongoing commitment to improving the organization. 
Stuart_Rance ‎07-31-2012 09:40 PM - edited ‎08-02-2012 04:03 PM



Thank you for your insightful comments, you put this better than I ever could. Thank you also for the private message you sent me with the link to your blog article Insanity 2.0, which has some great thoughts on personal context for change.


JoshuaBrusse | ‎08-02-2012 04:50 PM

Thanks for your blog.


The “Cs” for MOC has been described many times and in many different ways. Although I agree with the 4 C’s from Dan Roberts (Commitment, Community, Clarity and Communication) and your additional one (Context) I intent to talk about a few more such as:

1)      Dealing with Culture, bad culture to be precise such as resistance the “Not Invented Here” syndrome and current destructive beliefs, attitude, behavior

2)      Capabilities as such avoiding that insufficient knowledge of business strategy exist, that stakeholders maintain “business as usual” because of a lack of skill, not knowing where to start. It also deals with the risks of losing Champions

3)      Conformance and as such deals with the risk of circumvention, denial of involvement, the ‘Do nothing’, cynicism, Apathy or even worse sabotaging the change


I also would say that communication isn’t enough…it should be communication and engagement. Communication is just informing / telling / making people aware and – while that is good – we also expect action thus we need to engage them to stimulate that action.


It is all very much related ofcourse and we’re all addressing the same point (as also mentioned by Joe Albano)…take managing people through organizational change serious…whatever method you follow make sure you have covered off the fundamental elements that ultimately assure that new or change competencies have been internalized.

Stuart_Rance | ‎08-02-2012 05:25 PM



I think you are right to emphasise that the key thing is to treat Management of Change as a serious and important aspect of how to manage the organization.


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I help clients use service management to create business value for themselves and their customers. I am a senior ITIL examiner and I have wr...

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