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  • Sarah Stone

How project managers can drive change by better understanding social behaviour.

Updated: Nov 15



Most projects involve introducing and driving some form of change. So as Project Managers, we must develop the ability to support teams adapt and transition successfully through change in order to achieve the benefits the project set out to accomplish.


Let's talk change

But before we do, it's important we understand our objective, which is not to manage the change, rather to support people and teams transition through change successfully.  

  • Change - is situational and can be thought of as something that happens to people

  • Transition - is psychological and involves the inner self-redefinition and reorientation that people have to go through

Now we know we're asking people to redefine their inner sense of self, it helps explain why change is so hard, and why we need to get good at it!

Start by getting better at influencing groups


Rolling out change often involves influencing large groups, which means understanding what drives social behaviour. The SCARF model published in 2008 by David Rock, explains people are wired to interact in a way that minimises threats and maximises rewards in relation to 5 key areas:

  • Status – the relative importance to others.

  • Certainty – the ability to predict future.

  • Autonomy – the sense of control over events.

  • Relatedness – the sense of safety with others.

  • Fairness – the perception of fair exchanges.

Watch the video below to learn more about the SCARF model and how it might relate to you, your team or project.



Key learnings:

  • A positive emotion or reward creates a stimulates driving people to act.

  • Punishment or negative emotion causes a threat stimulus leading to avoidance.

Think of a recent situation (at work or home) where you felt a negative emotion when interacting with someone else:

  • How did you respond? 

  • If it have been handled in a more positive way, would you have responded differently?

Looking to develop your team to support them better respond to and lead change?


Our Building Change Resilience 4 hour training course gives project managers and leaders the foundational skills to identify emotional triggers, implement coping strategies and develop a well-being plan to implement when returning to the workplace.


Using a discussion-based facilitation method, participants will have the opportunity to share their experience, concerns and insight to better prepare and lead their teams through change events.


Keep a look out for the next in the series and if you have any suggestions, topics of interest or something you feel might help others - please get in touch!

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