Training Yourself as a Change Practitioner


From time to time, people ask me for a reading list or how to get education as an organizational change practitioner or consultant. There isn't really a complete organizational change management training available to my knowledge, but you can get the key elements from various books, videos, online courses, and certification programs.

The Foundation of Change Management Training

Organizational change management is about getting people to adopt new behaviors. So, the first activity in change management training is to get basic understanding of how a change is adopted individually and then propagated across a population.

Get a Strong Foundation. The foundational work is undoubtedly the Diffusion of Innovations by Everett Rogers. This work underpins almost all modern thinking on how change management works. While it is a bit theoretical, this is a must read.

Rogers describes a change process based mainly on peer-influence and the position of a given stakeholder relative to the adoption status of others. That is, there are several groups of adopters, and in a sense each looks to the previous group to see if they have adopted. This works in a general way, but on closer inspection this influence plays out in a more subtle way.

Test Yourself! If you feel confident that you understand the concepts in Diffusion of Innovations, try to change a small school by using this free simulation. I warn you it can be an addictive game! Internalize the basic concepts here, even if they seem a bit counter-intuitive.

Break the Belief in Rational Decision Making. What makes the field of organizational change fascinating is how people behave. Sometimes, they behave in ways they are not aware of. For many insights on the non-rational nature of human decision making, see Robert Cialdini's work, such as Influence: Science and Practice (5th Edition). Another good book covering similar ground is Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change, Second Edition.

Another important dimension to this is the emotional response to change. Probably the most well-known book in this area is William Bridges' Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change

Now, I am not saying all human behavior in non-rational. Far from it, but one has to firmly dispel the notion that all it takes for change is a management directive and a clear, logical vision. For another useful perspective on how people change, see my post on Howard Gardner's book Changing Minds.

The Process of Change Management

There is a flow or process of change management that involves creating ideas about the future, mobilizing the organization, and dealing with concerns stakeholders might have. A classic work in this area is Daryl Conner's Managing At the Speed of Change.


The ability to consult is an important skill for a change practitioner.  This involves not only the practice of establishing clear contracts, both formal and informal, as well as doing assessments, making proposals, and delivering the work.

Probably one of the most influential and well-done works in this area is Peter Block's Flawless Consulting: A Guide to Getting Your Expertise Used.

Another great work that  discusses the consulting approach is Mick Cope's The Seven Cs of Consulting: The definitive guide to the consulting process (2nd Edition)


In the context of creating an organizational change, there are many different methods that are appropriate in the right situation. It is good to have them in your repetoire.

Mobilizing change agents. To wield the kind of influence called for in Diffusion of Innovations, it is often valuable to mobilize a network of change agents. The best guide to doing this is Leandro Herrero's Viral Change.

Whole group change.  One school of thought for accelerating change is to essentially get the whole organization together at once in a giant forum. These forums sometimes reach over 1000 people in number. While a whole-organization change might not happen quite that easily, the approach of facilitating the room and engaging people has many uses. The seminal work on this is Robert Jacobs' Real-Time Strategic Change: How to Involve an Entire Organization in Fast and Far-Reaching Change.

Dealing with covert processes. Much of the resistance that happens in an organization is not overt. Rather it is covert in the sense it is not openly discussed or is even subconscious for the participants. Robert Marsh's book Covert Processes at Work : Managing the Five Hidden Dimensions of Organizational Change provides a system of methods for dealing with that kind of situation.