Skip to main content

Volunteering at Scouts is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing at Scouts. Read more

Discover what this means

Managing change

The aim of this is to describe how change can be managed, and the work involved, distributed.

There are a lot of theories about managing change – particularly in large organisations.

There are two theories that might help you through a period of change.

One places more emphasis on systems and processes, whilst the other places more emphasis on the people involved.

The model for the Association

The change management model is described in five steps. Some of these steps may overlap which is fine as long as you are clear about where your project is heading.

For each of these steps in the change management process, the following sections describe what should be achieved.

Commitment to change 

There have always been changes in our Movement – at some times more than at others. The commitment, support and encouragement of those involved is crucial.

Those leading groups of people will need to show that they are committed to the change. Their behaviour and what they say must show this commitment.

Most changes will have some limits – perhaps because of the number of people, resources or money that you have available. Everyone needs to know about the limits and accept them.

Everyone involved must be committed to the change. This means that everyone must be kept informed and encouraged to participate. This includes Administrators, Leaders, Helpers, and Commissioners if appropriate.

Ensure that everyone knows why the changes are taking place. Remember to communicate this often, both before and during the change process.

Everyone should be encouraged to contribute to decisions that need to be made. All contributions should be considered and people informed of the outcome.

Where do you want to be?

In this step, you should consider where you would like to end up after the process of change.

There will be many issues that will shape your view of where you want to be. There may be external constraints (such as the overarching aims of the Movement); external enablers (such as grants to help development); local factors (such as Area/County and District development plans); and resource implications (such as the money and the people required).

Describe what you want to achieve in simple and measurable terms (you will need to know when you’ve achieved it!). There may be overall objectives giving the broad view and detailed objectives to further define these.

The objectives will need to be put into an order of priority so that you know what is most important to tackle first. As with any plan, it's best not to get sidetracked into putting a lot of time and effort into an item that you consider to be low priority.

Ask the people involved locally or parents what they think should happen in the future taking into account the fixed limits. Include as many people as possible and ensure that you tell them the outcome.

Where are you now?

This step looks at what you are doing at the moment. It's sometimes easy to assume that we know what is going on rather than checking that it is indeed true. You may find that there is less work to do than you imagined and you may identify examples of good practice to share.

Collect data/facts

Find out what is going on – this is a simple audit that should involve a lot of people.

Collect views throughout the organisation

It's important that lots of people have a chance to tell you what they think about how they are doing things at the moment.

Having decided where you want to be and knowing where you are now, it is time to decide what you are going to do about it!

Identify methods from many people - Ensure that as many people as possible are asked to identify the methods for implementing the changes.

Develop options - Once you have some options for methods make sure that the practical ones are developed.

Choose methods - From the range of methods that are now available, involve the people who will have to implement these in making the choice.

Plan - Generate a plan to put the changes into practice. Ensure that the plan is clear and timed.

Implement - Put the plan into action. Make sure that everyone knows what the plan is first. Publicise it as widely as possible.

Monitor - Carefully track the implementation of the changes to ensure that the plan is achieving its objectives.

Adapt - Be prepared to alter the plan if it is not quite working out as you had hoped. Be flexible.

Allocate tasks - Ensure that people know what is expected of them and by when.

Select a project manager - For a large change process, it will be helpful to have someone who can meet people and drive the process on.

Explain the facts - Ensure that everyone knows the facts – the reasons for the change and what you're going to do.

Deal with resistance - Many people don’t like change. You must accept this and ensure that you plan to address it.

Focus on people

Someone will need to take an overall view of the change process and promotes the change to everyone involved. The main aspects of the role are:

Talk positively about the change, encourage those who are working on change and acknowledge progress towards change

Tell people about why the change is necessary, the plan itself, the end point of the plan, and what has been achieved so far. Resist the temptation to use hype or spin instead of facts.

Check progress against the plan.

Ideally a second person should manage and drive the change. The main aspects of this role are:

Talk positively about the change, encourage those who are working on change and acknowledge progress towards change.

Have a clear understanding of the changes that are taking place – what and why – and spread the word.

Provide the first line advice and support.

Create, implement and monitor the plan. Solve problems and act as a “trouble shooter”.

The resources may be finance, people, materials or time.

Take opportunities at meetings, at events, and in newsletters. 

It may be appropriate to gather a small team to help. This team should have clearly defined job descriptions.

Resistance to change

There will often be resistance to change. It may happen for many reasons. It is important to recognise this and to plan to deal with it.

The main reasons for resisting change include:

People may see no need to change – they may think that the current situation is fine or that the proposed change will not work.

Some may resist the change simply because it wasn't their idea or because they have no interest in change.

It's often easier to stay with the current situation. Change can mean upsetting the routine and losing a sense of security.

The gains to be made by change may not be clear. In some cases, only the problems may be apparent.

Some may see only the change itself rather than the benefits of the change.

People may feel challenged, threatened, and perhaps a sense of loss if current relationships and teams are changed. Some may fear a loss of status.

There may be no trust in the people who are making the change.

There may have been previous mistakes. They may feel that there are other motives for making the changes.

People may feel that they are not influencing the direction or outcomes of the change and that no one is listening to their views.

The amount of work involved in the change may be daunting. There are many other reasons for resisting change. It's important to think about how individuals will view the change.

Dealing with resistance

If we start by accepting that there will be resistance to almost any change, the need to deal with this resistance is clear.

Accept that whatever you do, however good your communication and preparation, there will still be resistance to change.

  • Predict the possible reasons for resistance to the change and plan how you will address them – these might include people feeling that they will lose their position, influence, authority or group of friends. When you present the plan, reference and address these issues directly.
  • Once the change process has started, identify the real areas of resistance. You need to tackle people individually and address concerns.

It will help others to accept change others support the change by:

  • Encouraging everyone to take part from the start of the change process.
  • Keeping people fully informed and involving people in decision-making that directly affects them.
  • Meeting people and talking about the change process.
  • Using a positive attitude to the changes in everything that is said and done.

No matter how hard you work at the change process, accept that you will lose some people along the way. If people in roles of power and influence do not support the change, you will need to consider if they should continue in those roles.

Motivating people

Many of the ideas that are discussed in this paper will motivate people and reduce de-motivation. In addition it may help to consider the following.

  • Using motivation theories to identify what motivates people (particularly as individuals).
  • Providing clear job descriptions that take into account people’s goals and aspirations.
  • Rewarding people who embrace the changes – don’t forget simply to tell them that they are doing a good job!

Focus on systems

The systems used to plan effectively will be very important. The Scout Association already uses some techniques that will be useful. This section gives a few points to consider when planning.

Understand what needs to happen. Some parts of  the plan may depend on other parts. The use of diagrams may help you to see the bigger picture.

You can’t do it all at once. Break down the plan into smaller, more manageable chunks and set objectives for each. Using the systematic planning tool – NAOMIE – will help.

Set priorities. Give a priority to each objective.

Consider how urgent as well as how important each objective is.

Monitor and review progress. Decide how you will monitor and review the progress of the project – both the overview and the smaller tasks.

Be prepared to tackle something more than once. Learn as you go along and be prepared to take two steps forward and one step back occasionally.

Be flexible. Identify areas where there is flexibility – this may be in timescales or areas in which people can influence the change process.

Build in contingency. Change is bound to take longer than you anticipate and it will cost more than you plan for.

Be prepared for a dip in performance. When change is first made, performance drops as people struggle with the new system and ideas. Eventually performance will improve. Some people give up at the first sign of difficulty and want to go back to the original system. Confidence and re-assurance will be crucial at this point.

Identify resources. The resources may be people, money, materials or time. Resources should be allocated to the tasks in the plan. Look for ways to combine the tasks to make the best use of the resources.

Stay on track. Whilst the plan is being implemented keep referring back to the plan itself, the outcome of the “where do you want to be” step and the Change Champion to ensure that you are still on track.

Communicate. Identify the communication systems you can use to bring about the changes – e.g. to consult, to explain the nature of the changes. Make sure that you use the most appropriate systems and adapt them to meet your needs.

People issues. Consider the people issues mentioned in this paper and don’t forget to include them in the plan.



  • Remember change is a process not an end in itself. If you focus change on an event that is all it will be, just an event.
  • Select priorities for change rather than try to do everything at once.
  • Involve people from all levels at every stage of design and implementation.
  • Publish early success to build momentum and support.
  • Expect it to take longer that you anticipate.


  • Underestimate the cost of change: build in costing for communication, training and materials.
  • Expect to be able to control all factors. Plan your response to factors you can’t change.
  • Deliver spin or hype but do deal in facts.