The Change Management Charter

…the starting point of any effective change effort is a clearly defined business problem. By helping people develop a shared diagnosis of what is wrong in an organization and what can and must be improved, a general manager mobilizes the initial commitment that is necessary to begin the change process.

Harvard Business Review. HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Change Management (including featured article ‘Leading Change,‘ by John P. Kotter) . Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.

The Change Management Charter

The most important and most overlooked part of planning any change initiative is the charter. Get at least this section of the change methodology correct and you are most of the way to a successful and less painful change project. A well-designed change management methodology will consist of at least these seven items – the last one, an after-action review, is not on the charter but is part of the collection of tools:

  • Problem Statement
  • Deliverables
  • Change Drivers
  • Change Risks / Countermeasures
  • Scope Parameters
  • Stakeholders

Get the charter right and the rest of the plan will come together. This is because the charter, when completed, is a reflection and evidence of a deep dive to grasp the current condition, understand the risks both operationally and culturally, and consideration of the human element in change management.

The Problem Statement

This is the hardest part of any change – to define the problem and communicate it in a way that will ensure buy-in and alignment from upper management, peers, and team members. In fact, most change initiatives fail at this step. This is where most of the work should take place. The information gathered and entered into the charter will feed into the rest of the key tools of your change management methodology.

Take the time, put in the work, and use data – good data. One thing that helps is to use specifics. Similar to describing a target with S.M.A.R.T. goal discipline, use the 5W’s and 1 H to write out the problem – Who, What, Why, Where, When, and How. A well researched and data-supported problem statement will get your audience into solution-finding before they are even aware that they have gone there.


So let us assume that your problem statement is solid. There is agreement on the problem and everyone wants to move forward. The question now is what or how will your idea fix the problem?

Here is where you want to define four elements that will be delivered through the change initiative

  • Benefit Description – what will the benefit be – how is it linked to the problem?
  • Recipient – who will be impacted by the benefit?
  • Metric – how will the benefit be measured to validate the proposals?
  • Target – after we agree on a way to validate the improvements what defines success? What will the target of the benefit be?

Change Drivers / Current State Issues – Change Goals & Objectives

These two sections describe the current state of the process that needs to be changed and the corresponding target state or “objective.” Using the word “driver” denotes the specific actions taking place that are causing the unwanted condition to exist. It is important that a goal or objective is directly linked to a driver or a specific issue. This will ensure that all the necessary issues have been discovered and a plan exists to correct or improve them.

Change Risks / Countermeasures

All change carries risks, operationally and culturally. This is where you make sure that proper risk analysis has been completed with countermeasures to address each one. This step, after the problem statement, is the most often missed and the one where the consequence is the greatest. Every risk with associated stakeholders needs to be addressed. Along with that is the risk of doing nothing.

There are plenty of sources available for performing risk analysis. Whichever is chosen, make sure you dive deep and select countermeasures to mitigate the risk to acceptable levels.

Scope Parameters

This often missed step is the silent killer. It seems unnecessary until the work sessions begin to take place. As you recruit your multi-disciplinary teams to work on the solutions the participants usually begin adding solutions to address all the problems. You will hear statements like “well, the question then becomes….” or “if we going to (insert solution here), we might as well do this (insert another idea) while we are here.”

If you are looking to extend the completion date of your initiative, this is the way to do it. Allow add-ons to the list and you will never get done.

Define the parameters to your change initiative and stick to them. You will often refer to them as your team works its way through the change process. Define what is in-scope and what is out-of-scope.


Have you ever arrived at your roll-out date, training event, or kick-off only to hear feedback from people that they are unaware of the change and don’t understand why it is happening? That is a good indication that a proper stakeholder analysis was not completed (as well as a communication plan but that will be covered in a later post).

In this crucial step, you will list the people affected by the proposed change. Similar to a RACI chart, this will help to develop a communication plan to eliminate or at least reduce the shock or impact the change will have on the people in your organization.

If you haven’t yet downloaded a PDF of a template you can do so here. In it, you will see that when you are listing the stakeholders, you will also try to estimate the impact and influence they will have on the success of the change. Those with high influence will need to be approached differently than those with low influence. They will need to be on board. This is the group mentioned by John Kotter as the “guiding coalition.” Those who measure high on the impact scale will need more attention to the “why” behind the change and the “how” of the level of disruption it may cause.


Have you been tasked with making an organizational or team change? Let this charter be your first step to successful change implementation.

I’d love to hear back about your experience with both challenging and successful change initiatives. Feel free to drop me an email or comment below.

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