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Getting the Change Process right using the Human Needs Model


Guest articles > Getting the Change Process right using the Human Needs Model


by: John Fillingham


If we can understand change in the context of the human needs theory (a refreshing interpretation - check out Anthony Robbins’ work) we can see that it collides with almost all the categories of human needs - Certainty (STABILITY, SECURITY) Uncertainty (VARIETY) Connections (RELATIONSHIPS) Significance (SELF ESTEEM) Growth (LEARNING, HAVING DIFFERENT EXPERIENCES) Contribution (GIVING BACK TO OTHERS, GIVING SELFLESSLY). So then, change impacts over 80% of the core human needs that drive our very human existence, is it any wonder we quiver to the knees when we hear the mighty rumble of change approaching.

Engaging people and the six needs

How then can we manage better the change process from an implementation position and also from a receiving position? It would be easy to say simply “engagement” in the process as the simple answer to this question, but in essence this is only part of the answer. Involvement becomes a bedrock of successful change management, but that if you think it stops there, then consider this – if the six needs have to be met though this process and more than supported, be lifted to new levels, then how can simple involvement solve all the issues? Every aspect needs to be built successfully into the pathway, each element considered and from a business perspective, this becomes crucial in its successful implementation and value adding activities.

Generating certainty

So how can this be achieved? Generating certainty is never easy – fixing crystal clear goals and concrete focused objectives has to be the first key part of these fundamental requirements. Deciding clearly laid out timetables and plans together, quantifying outcomes or milestones are also the foundations of certainty but remember - togetherness is the new value. Re-assurance and support resources come to the fore in this process, so create them if necessary to ensure there are almost independent advice mechanisms.

Emphasising the elements of continuity are useful in being able to accurately relate the complete picture through the transfer process of change to your new vision. It helps balance up the scales of sometimes a shocking difference in this brave new world.

Supporting uncertainty

This may seem like a strange bedfellow in the change process, but this is where the elements of excitement can enter stage right. Those parts yet to be defined, where cloud and uncertainty exist, therefore allow you to propose a version of interesting dilemmas. A dialogue of important shifts can then occur to alter this void of uncertainty towards something more secure, still with doubts and surprises, but with a positive spin. Together you can shape the future. Their future but based on focused objectives.

We must not forget this area becomes heightened in the change process. We must tread carefully when managing this particular aspect of change. Even for those of us who love and embrace change on a regular basis, whatever the size, large or small, if not handled correctly, it harasses us uncontrollably and turns our very being upside down and inside out until resolved.

Bolstering relationships

In most work environments and all other situations of course, change affects multiple people, therefore relationships forms a key factor in the process. Often forgotten, relationships and relationship dynamics creates either a supportive atmosphere or a potentially destructive one. So what can we do to support this area – acknowledge that these can be affected and ask everyone to be supportive to each other is the first part.

Consider the relationship aspects and how they will be affected by the change process. The interaction of personalities and changes in relationship connections results in fundamental shifts that are almost invisible in their presence but enormous in their impact. So take account of new relationships to be built, old ones that cause problems, designing teams for maximum effectiveness and harmony. It is essential to build in adequate time and resources for these things to take place.

Maintaining self esteem

The fourth area of significance, of maintaining self esteem, the need to feel unique that means every voice must be heard. In practical terms there must be vehicles present to allow this to happen. The process must be based on fairness principles and individuals must be treated as individuals as well as groups. Maintaining dignity and treating people in an adult like fashion is a key driver in creating respect for people during this adventure towards the future. Status and ego also feature in this category where change becomes a serious threat to the maintenance of such well crafted levels. How many times has credibility been lost and faith in the change process been destroyed by heavy handed approaches that forget the “togetherness” principle. Balance rushing to get things sorted with a in-depth, well thought through decision making processes.

Involving people in the process, giving them responsibility for certain aspects of the methodology could help in the engagement factor that increases support and moves doubters from a position of attack to defence of the change.

Opportunities for growth

Is it possible people can learn something through this process? Yes of course, they can learn something about themselves but more importantly by being involved and even given responsibility for tasks that gives them new confidence and prominence. By doing things differently, or having to do them differently, we learn, it’s as simple as that. However the benefits are often forgotten: new skills, new knowledge, new confidence – a growth opportunity for sure.

Selfless contribution

An interesting concept in the change process. Although considered by some not a high impact factor, this can be the time for a display of unbridled caring and support for those who may find the greatest difficulty. So going out of your way to help and step in where necessary to support those individuals going through a tough time is not only good for you but good for them. For those for whom this comes naturally, they can act as ideal support resources for those who need it.

For those who regularly give to the organisation over and above the call of duty, the change process may unwittingly wipe out their positivity. Their support, potentially outside of the recognition boundaries of your processes, can be quashed in an instant and seen as betrayal in a situation not unlike a war for survival. Be aware and ready to utilise this usually unwavering tower of strength.

The BIG Gaps in the process of change management

As we have travelled though the journey of the human needs model, we can see some clear gaps in the management of the change process highlighted by our own previous experiences we have mostly likely to have encountered. From a simple lack of involvement to the missed impact of relationships to the fallen opportunity to say what isn’t changing means the change process continues to get a raw deal in publicity terms…can you help it change? Build those 6 needs into all your change processes.


John Fillingham, MSc (Cantab), DipHR (Cantab), GMus, LCGI, LPNLP, MSNLP, Chartered FCIPD, FRSA is International Lead Trainer at 4SIGHT Training solutions,

If you want your training to really take off contact John at


Contributor: John Fillingham

Published here on: 14-Dec-08

Classification: Change management


MSWord: The philosophy of change and the human needs model.doc

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