Influencing people to change

by External23 Sep 2013

Change in an organisation never occurs without change in its people. Kevin Dwyer outlines how to achieve this elusive outcome and offers a free personalised report and consultation for those who take part in a change management survey.

To influence people to change an environment must be created where their capability to change and the value of the change and their ability to realise the value must be greater than the cost of change and the risk of change (Fig 1).

Influencing people to change



The Required Environment to Influence People to Change

Their capability

A person's capability consists of their knowledge, skills and behaviour.

Knowledge is easy to measure and relatively easy to improve. To be sure that your people have the knowledge required to change, test their knowledge. Then provide training that will increase their knowledge and then some experiences to cement the knowledge into their long term memory.

Skill is a bit more difficult. It is relatively easy to categorise the skills required. It is not as easy to design training and experiences that teach people a skill and give them enough practice to embed the skills into their daily work lives. Some people will not succeed with the new skill.

Behaviour is the most difficult of the three elements of capability. The old adage of poor recruitment, "Hire for knowledge and fire for behaviour", rings true because it is very difficult to change behaviour.

Theory of planned behaviour tells us that for people to change their behaviours they have to believe their friends and family will support them and they have the necessary level of control to enact the change.

To build people's beliefs in their capability to change, therefore, requires not only training and experiences to build new areas of knowledge and skills but also make sure that they are supported by their peers and superiors through any failures and are made to feel that they are controlling the pace of change.

Value of change

To be successful in influencing people to change we must ensure that we really understand what people value individually. We must address our communication to the things which enough people value to make the change inevitable. We must also recognise it is unlikely that we will satisfy every person's need for them to feel that the change is of value.

Asking people what they value can be difficult to measure. Values tend not to sit at the surface and simple questionnaires usually do not find out what people really value. If you want to know what your people value, use a professional to help you.

It is one thing to create value for people in change. It is quite another for them to be convinced they have the ability to realise that value. I think that is why so many organisations revert to money. It is very easy to realise the value if we use money.

We must demonstrate to people how they can personally access value created by change. For example, if we use elements of value such as career opportunities and personal growth, clear and accessible pathways must be mapped out. It must be clear to people how their career may be advanced. It must be clear how new skills and knowledge will benefit them, even if it is in terms of future job security.


Cost, like value, is personal. Cost can come in many guises, for example:

  • Giving up old habits
  • Giving up status as the best in a particular skill or knowledge area
  • Giving up a familial environment with colleagues and friends
  • Changing geographic location
  • Changing work location within an office
  • Changing working hours



We must work with our people not only to find what they value but also what they fear. We must have a clear plan to reduce the probability of events occurring and the consequence should they occur. We must communicate our plan to reduce the probability of specific events occurring in the language of our people. We must be unequivocal about what we will do if, even though it is unlikely, that an event occurs.


Change Factory has designed a survey looking at the factors that lead to change management project success…or failure. Factors include looking at leadership support, risk management, stakeholder management, training and experience in the actual project team.

By participating in our survey, any person involved in change management projects will help validate theories about what works and what doesn’t. A free personalised report will be presented to each participant, and we would be happy to provide benchmarking data. A free 30 minute consultation will be provided to any organisation filling in the survey and this time can be used to discuss any concerns they may have about future projects .

Click here to participate