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Case For Change


Professor John Kotter explains the importance of gaining others’ support in order to create real institutional change: “Buy-in is critical to making any large organisational change happen. Unless you win support for your ideas, from people at all levels of your organisation, big ideas never seem to take hold or have the impact you want. Our research has shown that 70% of all organisational change efforts fail, and one reason for this is executives simply don’t get enough buy-in, from enough people, for their initiatives and ideas.”




Creating a compelling case for change

The importance of creating a clear vision

How to create a compelling case for change

Communicating your vision, case for change and rationale



Making a clear and compelling case for change is crucial in order to help people move from the current state to the new desired future state. People need to understand why the change is needed, the risks associated with not changing and the benefits of changing, for the individual and the University. Without a clear vision, there is limited chance of getting buy-in from those impacted by the change and therefore a greater chance of change failure.

Creating a compelling case for change

A clear and compelling case for change should be developed at the start of you change initiative or project, at the scoping stage. The case for change should form part of your proposal and business case, for large scale change. For all changes, you should clearly set out the change itself, the reasons for the change and why it is necessary at this time.

The case for change should be communicated throughout the change process to help people understand and accept the reasons for it. Activities carried out during the change process should directly contribute to the change initiative's vision, aims and objectives and should be regularly measured and evaluated against these, to ensure the right actions are taken. Use the Change Management Checklist throughout the change process to help you consider the case for change when you reach important milestones, decisions and people-focused activities. 

Creating a shared vision

Buy-in, commitment, and ownership is directly related to an individual's level of involvement.  For lasting change, your key stakeholders must be actively involved in both developing and operationalising the vision. Impacted people can provide valuable insight and input during your options assessment, helping you to evaluate each option in terms of desirability, feasibility and viability. It is important to involve your stakeholders from the start, to help them engage with the change and help you reach the right solution and achieve the best results. 

Questions to answer:

  • What will the changes look and feel like in the future?

  • Why are the desired changes better than the way things are now?

  • What catalyst is making the changes important or urgent compared to other priorities?

  • What is driving the change?

  • What makes these changes motivating at an individual, team, and University level?

  • How do the changes align to our University's overall strategy and purpose?

It is particularly important to get input from colleagues who are initiating, leading and sponsoring the proposed change when answering these questions. The change team should agree on the vision, aims and objectives of the change initiative before work is carried out to develop the change plan.

The importance of creating a clear vision

Psychologist Kurt Lewin describes the process of individual change in his three-step model* and highlights the importance of creating a clear and defined vision and need for change at the beginning of the change process, to help people let go of current ways of working and accept change.

Psychologist Kurt Lewin's three-step model

*Effective Change Manager's Handbook (ECMH)1C2.1, P.36-38

UNFREEZE - Existing habits and mindsets are broken down

  • Define the current situation. The more collaborative this process can be, the more effective it is. People will be more committed to a picture they have defined.
  • Create a vision of the desired end state. The richer, fuller and more attractive this can be - and the more people who contribute - the better.
  • Identify people that will help to drive and resist change, increasing the driving forces and decreasing the resisting forces. 


  • Disconfirmation: Creating the belief that the current position is not sustainable, that it is not working anymore.
  • Creation of the belief that failure to change will result in negative consequences for the individual and University.
  • Creation of support and training so people feel safe enough to learn effectively through support and encouragement.

Practical Tips

  • Make sure your vision, drivers and case for change are clear and compelling.
  • Use your stakeholder analysis and assessment to identify key people across the University who can help you to communicate the vision and need for change.
  • Emphasise the 'why' and contextualise the need for change to help individuals understand why the change is necessary and what is means for them.
  • Make sure you have the right people and plans in place to support specific teams and individuals, so they feel safe enough to try something new and step away from current ways of working.

How to create a compelling case for change

Here's how to create a compelling case for change in four easy steps:

  1. Explain why change is needed in a clear, concise way.
  2. Provide evidence to justify the need for change.
  3. Identify available solutions.
  4. Assess the potential solutions and select the preferred one.

  Helpful Tips

  • Test you statement about why change is needed to confirm whether it is easily understood by different stakeholders.
  • Explore solutions with your stakeholders. DON'T focus on one solution and fit your plans around it. Be open to alternative solutions and actively listen to others. 
  • Make sure the solution addresses the problem or opportunity.
  • Communicate your vision and case for change throughout the change lifecycle to remind people why the change is necessary.
  • Evaluate your solution regularly throughout the change lifecycle to make sure it still addresses the problem or opportunity. Don't be afraid to pause or stop work. 

Communicating your vision

Once you have selected the best way forward, you should communicate your vision, case for change and rationale to all of the relevant stakeholders, at the start of the change process, and throughout the change lifecycle. It's easy to forget why change is happening and how it came about, so communicate clearly and often. It's important to plan ahead and schedule engagement and communication activities into your timeline, particularly at points where new concepts, processes and ways of working are being introduced.



Assessing your options and selecting the best way forward: Options Assessment Tool 

Prosci ADKAR Model - How to build awareness and understanding of the need for change: Practical tools and tips

APMG International Article: 'The Stakeholder and making a case for change'