The Four C’s of Change Management: Choice, Conviction, Commitment, and Compassion

March 20, 2012 Comments
The Four C’s of Change Management: Choice, Conviction, Commitment, and Compassion

After spending a week at SXSWI for the first time, I met a lot of folks in a range of roles and companies including:

  1. Large enterprises responsible for transforming their business practices and workforce to adopt social business.
  2. Digital agencies and social business consulting firms trying to get their clients to adopt social media programs and new mindsets
  3. Social Media software vendors trying to train their clients to more fully adopt the software the client has purchased
  4. Startups seeking to scale their businesses and sell their software or services

To me, one resounding theme, especially with the onset of Spring, is that Change is in the air.

Organizations and their employees may or may not want to become a social business, but the impetus for change, whether externally or internally driven, is getting stronger. In my years in organizational change management consulting, I often heard the phrase “People (or Organizations) change when the pain of staying the same is worse than the pain of change.” Another common question asked is “What’s the burning platform?” that will make executives take action.


Change is a Choice. It’s that simple. Going through with the change, whether in your personal life, or in your organization, is tough. It may not always feel like a Choice, especially when the change is driven from an external source, such as a new CEO who has a new set of directives and style.

As we’ve seen in my last post about the Change Curve, people follow a predictable process on the change journey, and each step along that journey requires a Choice to continue moving forward. Deciding to be part of the Change is also a Choice: there are benefits and consequences to either participating in the change or resisting the change.


Once you or your leadership have decided, “Ouch, this burning platform is about to explode, I better make some changes,” then you need to have the Conviction to see it through to success. Having that Conviction, or that belief that change is possible is very powerful. In practical terms, your belief in the possibility of change may take the form of a vision of change or a roadmap of transformation (“as is” vs. “to be” state), a project plan, or a motivating speech to call the staff to action.

Another complementary technique to consider is solution-focused guided imagery, an approach long used by Sports Psychologists and Athletic Trainers to help athletes win in competitive situations or overcome barriers to success known as “the yips.” You can encourage your staff to imagine what a successful change would look like, or practice this yourself. Either way, having a positive focus and belief that your organization can successfully change will go a long way.


Whether you are embarking on a personal change such as trying to lose weight, or a Social Business adoption program such as retraining your workforce on social business skills, or rolling out a new internal collaboration system, transformative Change is actually composed of many small steps that require Commitment.

This is the place, in my opinion, where Change frequently breaks down. Change often takes time, especially large organizational transformations such as incorporating social business practices into core business processes. People can experience “change fatigue” along the way, executives may get frustrated that adoption or performance results aren’t where they should be, and the list goes on, etc.


It’s at this point, where we need to show Compassion towards ourselves and ideally, executives can take this opportunity to show Compassion towards their staff. Showing Compassion doesn’t mean excusing poor results or throwing in the towel. What it does mean is acknowledging that Change can be difficult for some, validating the challenging nature of change, and reaffirming that each step of the way requires Commitment, and re-Commitment on the part of the entire team of staff and executives.

We can think of the change journey as a series of Choices and small steps requiring micro-Commitments. When things don’t go according to plan, have some Compassion for yourself or your teammates. And recall that Conviction and belief in the possibility to Change that got you started on the change journey in the first place. That’s the real Magic in the C’s of Change.

As always, I welcome your thoughts, reactions, and any additional C’s you may think. Follow me on Twitter @jennifer_dubow.

Image: StockFresh Change

  • Amber Naslund

    Hi Jennifer –

    Really well done breaking down a complex thing into some very clear concepts. I can’t think of a “C” word for this, but I think a really important element in managing change is flexibility, or the ability to improvise a bit as the change takes hold. 

    Sometimes, as more people adapt or the processes themselves take shape, you realize things that you didn’t count on at the beginning of the process. Being willing to stay the course with the overall vision while adapting how you get there along the way can be important to maintaining that momentum and morale that’s all too critical.

    Thanks again for the post, sharing it presently.


    • Michael Brito

      Hello. I will be traveling from Tuesday, March 20th to Thursday, March 22nd with limited access to email. I will respond to your inquiry when I return. If urgent, please call/text my mobile.
      Thank you!


    • Jennifer Dubow

      HI Amber. Thank you for the thoughtful reply. I agree that people need to be flexible as curve balls come down the road and also not get complacent when things take longer than expected. Sometimes people get really set on the original plan without realizing that some of that activity could be a sunk cost and it’s better to adapt and be flexible as you say. I look forward to continuing our dialogue.

      • Michael Brito

        Hello. I will be traveling from Tuesday, March 20th to Thursday, March 22nd with limited access to email. I will respond to your inquiry when I return. If urgent, please call/text my mobile.
        Thank you!


  • Beth M. Wood

    Jennifer – I agree with Amber. And am trying to think of a “c” word for flexibility!  Regardless, flexibility is key.  Change is both exciting and painful – and it’s important to get everyone on board – the decision makers must be able to bring out this excitement in their staff and push through the set backs to keep everyone’s eyes on the prize. 

    • Jennifer D. Dubow

      Hi Beth. Thank you for the comment. I agree that the leaders of change need to keep that drumbeat of excitement and enthusiam alive and of course, keep their  “composure” when things don’t go as planned. Thought I’d throw in a “c” word – haha!

  • Fahad Shahab

    Great post. I really like you added compassion in the list. As this is missing most of the time when someone is executing Change.

  • Anthony J. Garcia

    Excellent post, spot on. If I were to add another C, it would have to be Confusion. 

    Your 4th C – Compassion acknowledges the friction that comes with change but as it’s own element, Confusion is an important agent in the change management process.
    I look at an organization that benefits from change management as one that presently exists in a state of uncertainty. The confusion of the To-Be state and getting there is akin to your burning platform, or catalyst, for change. However, applied change management strategies introduces a new form of confusion as new ties between people, new technologies and new processes are put in place. Both forms of confusion can say a lot about one’s strategy; resolving the original confusion can gauge effectiveness, eliminating the new confusion reflects endurance. It’s a perspective I believe helps with seeing the change from both sides of the table.

    • Jennifer D. Dubow

      HI Anthony. Thanks for your comment! Yes, confusion and sometimes adding a little chaos into the system can help generate buzz and compel people to take action. However, in our program, we are working to reduce confusion with a coordinated approach using a Program Management Office at the global and regional levels, and more streamlined sets of meetings, communications, and consistent management system. So, hopefully we’ll keep the confusion as a little “c” and prevent it from becoming a big “C.”

  • Pam Yamamoto Ireland

    Loved this blogpost, Jen!  Thanks for reminding all of us about the basics on how to cope with change.  Lots of changes going on in my department so this really helped!

    • Jennifer D. Dubow

      Thanks Pam for reading it and commenting. If you’re able to share some of your observations on what’s worked well in your department and what could have been done differently, it can really benefit readers.

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