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Good read: The people side of change management

Lately, I've been delving into the ins and outs of 'Change in organizations'. Experience has taught me a few solid lessons I'll take with me to future endeavors:

  • change management does not require difficult or complex steps
  • a well-thought process and involved sponsors are key factors to a successful adoption
  • implementing a solution that is "the right one" is secondary to the messages that drive it

I found a great book that presents a framework for change management, with tangible examples and in an easy to read fashion:

Change management: the people side of change - JM. Hiatt & TJ. Creasy

The following is a summary of the key concepts I found useful and a gathering of links that can help you quickly get up and running with the framework.



The authors walk you through foundational concepts of change adoption and the key drivers of successful change implementations. The start with the ‘5 tenets of change’, follow with high-level change management principles and close off with an overview of the different levels change management can be applied to and how.

The whole book is sprinkled with concepts brought from the ADKAR model (free guides available following the link) and how to bring it to life: the change management process/framework.


⛩ Summary structure

This summary will be split into the following sections:

  • the 5 tenets of change

  • ADKAR model overview

  • change management process

  • adoption of change for individuals

  • changing organizations


🌱 The 5 tenets of change

Solid foundations as to why change won’t come for free and needs shepherd:

  1. We change for a reason

    • a future state can be envisioned that is different from today

    • the change will help us achieve a specific and desired outcome

  2. Organizational change requires individual change

    • ultimately, change results from people adopting new skills and demonstrating new capabilities

  3. Organizational outcomes are the collective result of individual change

    • without the engagement of each employee who must do his or her job differently as a result of the change, we lack tangible benefits from the change

  4. Change management is an enabling process/framework for managing the people side of change

    • failing to lead the people side of change results in lower utilization, a slower speed of adoption, poorer proficiency, … less benefit from the change

  5. We apply change management to reach the benefits and desired outcomes of change

These are the what and why of change management and help establish the value proposition for change management inside an organization.

♻️ ADKAR model overview

Change is a process. As such, it can be broken down into discrete periods of time or states of change. Leaders can then adapt their strategies based on where they are in the change process. The ADKAR model characterizes the process in five key steps:

  • Awareness of the need to change

    • nature of change and the why behind it

  • Desire to participate in and support the change

    • personal choice to embrace change and commit to moving forward

  • Knowledge about how to change

    • education and training on how to change and be effective at it

  • Ability to implement new skills and behaviors

    • demonstrated proficiency with new tools, processes and job roles

  • Reinforcement to keep the change in place

    • rewards, recognition, compensation or other performance management activities that sustain the change for that person

🛠 Change management process

Foundation concepts

  • Change agents must be conscious of both a sender’s meaning and a receiver’s interpretation

    • perspective always plays a role in communication

    • leaders must not only ensure communications are clear but also listen to employees to understand how the message has been received

  • Employee resistance is the norm, not the exception. Expect some employees to never support the change

  • Visible and active sponsorship is not only desirable but necessary for success

    • sponsor’s participation should be active and visible, ensuring a coalition of sponsorship between key business leaders and communicating directly with employees about why the change is needed

    • early sponsorship settlement eases resourcing, funding and timely roadblock removals

  • The “right answer” is not enough to implement change successfully and does little to mitigate resistance

    • the top-ranked reasons for change resistance are:

      • lack of awareness of the need to change

      • impact on current job role

      • organizations past performance with change

      • lack of visible support from managers

      • job loss

    • None of these are related to the “rightness” of the solution!

    • employees seek answers to questions like:

      • Why are we changing this in the first place?

      • What is wrong with how things are done today?

      • Why is this change happening right now?

      • Are senior leaders truly committed to this change?

  • Employees go through the change process (ADKAR) in stages and go through these stages as individuals

To put these concepts into practice, two management approaches are necessary: the employee’s perspective and the organization’s perspective.

👫 Adoption of change for individuals - individual change management



Train the organization’s line managers to correctly leverage the tools and processes that will support employees through their personal transitions through change.

This book focuses on the use of the ADKAR model as a tool to:

  • enable timely and helpful communication

  • a diagnostic tool

  • a corrective action tool


The main pillars that help drive individual change are assessments and individual coaching. Understanding where someone is at in the change adoption process and catering to the individual’s particular needs will go a long way. You can leverage these worksheets to run an individual's assessment and offer guidance as to where to place your focus as change-leader. With them, you can:

  • collect data

  • find root-causes to change aversion

  • determine corrective actions

For more information on how to apply ADKAR, visit this link.

👨🏻‍🏫 Communication tips

When facing an individual with low levels of change comfort in one of their states, you can leverage the following example questions to guide the conversation and gain insights:

  • Awareness: Do you understand the business reasons for making this change? Do you agree?

  • Desire: Do you want this change to happen? Would you prefer keeping things the way they are? What would cause you to want this change to happen?

  • Knowledge: Do you know how to adopt <the_change> and the required skills to support the change?

  • Ability: Have you done this before? Do you feel capable or are in need of guided training?

  • Reinforcement: Are you receiving the necessary support to sustain this change?


🏋️‍♀️ Changing organizations - organizational change management


The most effective change management process consists of three phases, including:

  1. Preparing for change

  2. Managing change

  3. Reinforcing change



Avoid fire-fighting. Prepare upfront!

The process proposed is simple and holds up to the notion that when you come prepared you are ready to succeed. It breaks down into three well-defined phases. Here is a quick dive into each of them.

👁‍🗨 Phase 1 - Preparing for change

This is when you:

  1. Define your change management strategy

  2. Prepare your team of change-drivers

  3. Develop your sponsorship model

You’ll find yourself assessing the scope of change: How big is the change? How many people are affected? Is it gradual or radical?

You’ll also asses the readiness of your organization: How much change is already going on? What values support this shift? What type of resistance can be expected?

Finally, you’ll need to acquire the correct resources and assess the strengths of the team that will drive change, together with the sponsor coalition that will back the implementation. Taking the first steps to enable your sponsors to effectively lead the process will be key.

🔩 Phase 2 - Managing change

At this point in time you will:

  1. Develop change management plans

    • Communication: be sure to share the right message at the right time. Eg. Early-stage messages should be crisp and to the point, avoiding message cluttering.

      • Transmit the rationale for the change and the need that drives it

      • Transmit the envisioned endstate of the organization: objectives, scope, size, …

      • Be clear about who is impacted

      • How - when - who - what

    • Coaching: Front-line supervisors must support the sponsor’s vision as they will lead the individual change management plans (explained in the previous section)

    • Training

    • Sponsor roadmaps: Business leaders and executives play a key role in change as sponsorship is been consistently pointed out as the most important factor for change success

      • Sponsorship involves active and visible participation throughout the process. Do not confuse involvement with basic support

    • Resistance management: here is where front-line managers play a key role, identifying, understanding and managing resistance throughout the organization

  2. Take action and implement plans: pulling it all together

🤝 Phase 3 - Reinforcing change


Ensure ownership of the change is transferred from the change management team to the organization.

During the final phase you will:

  1. Collect and analyze feedback: listen and watch to see if the new processes, tools, … are being correctly used.

  2. Diagnose gaps and manage resistance: with data on your side, analyze the root cause for any resistance and define corrective action plans.

  3. Implement corrective actions and celebrate successes: early win celebrations are key. Try to not overlook sharing achievements with employees

🌲 Closing words

Managing the people side of change, whether on a large company-wide consolidation project or with a very small change project, does not require difficult or complete steps. What is required is the application of a thoughtful process for managing the change that is customized for the size and complexity of each project.


Derived bibliography

  • Employee’s survival guide to change - Jeffrey M. Hiatt


Tim Keyes Atlassian Team Jan 13, 2020

Hi @Fernando Bordallo ,

Thank you for posting.  The emojis and the picture definitely do a great job of breaking up the article.  I think the knowledge portion of ADKAR is an interesting concept.  Our Jira Align customers are typically in some stage of their Agile transformation and it is exciting to watch them evolve.  Organizations that increase the knowledge of their individuals through Scrum and SAFe training seem to be more open to some of the changes of a scaled agile framework.  

Like Fernando Bordallo likes this

🤔thought-provoking. In your experience, what factors of a Scrum trained (or scaled agile) organization help with openness?

Like Tim Keyes likes this
Tim Keyes Atlassian Team Jan 15, 2020

I believe that the vertical and horizontal nesting of teams within the hierarchy can lead to increased communication and transparency. In Scrum at Scale ( there are vertical and horizontal layers of scrum teams and scrum of scrums.  I feel like individuals are more open and willing to share among a team of peers.  Scrum at scale can build teams of peers (scrum masters) at all levels of an enterprise.

Like Fernando Bordallo likes this

I see your point. And can imagine that it would ease the flow of communication across the enterprise. Maybe ease how messages came across. I wonder, could this be applied in companies spread across multiple countries/time-zones? I guess the scrum of scrums would be harder to engage, but still possible.

Like Tim Keyes likes this


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