January 16, 2018


Project management advice, tips, tools and recommended resources for existing and aspiring project managers.

Maslow Theory of Motivation as the basis for Change Management

By Stephen Warrilow Maslow theory of motivation

The Maslow Theory of Motivation also known as “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs” model was developed in 1954. Starting from the premise that each human being is motivated by needs that are inborn, presumably as a result of evolution, here is the hierarchy in ascending order:

(1) Physiological needs

These are the very basic needs such as air, water, food, sleep, sex, etc. When these are not satisfied we may feel sickness, irritation, pain, discomfort, etc. These feelings motivate us to alleviate them as soon as possible to establish homeostasis. Once they are alleviated, we may think about other things.

(2) Safety needs

These have to do with establishing stability and consistency in a chaotic world. These needs are mostly psychological in nature. We need the security of a home and family.

(3) Love and needs of belonging

Humans have (in varying degrees of intensity) a strong desire to affiliate by joining groups such as societies, clubs, professional associations, churches and religious groups etc. There is a universal need to feel love and acceptance by others.

(4) Self-Esteem needs

There are essentially two types of esteem needs: self-esteem resulting from competence or mastery of a task; and the esteem and good opinion of other people.

(5) The need for self-actualisation

Maslow theory of motivation proposes that people who have all their “lower order” needs met progress towards the fulfilment their potential. Typically this can include the pursuit of knowledge, peace, aesthetic experiences, self-fulfilment, oneness with God, etc. So ultimately this is all to do with the desire for self transcendence.

A paradigm shift that forms the basis for good leadership and successful change management

The Maslow theory of motivation brought a new face to the study of human behaviour. Maslow was inspired by greatness in the minds of others, and his own special contribution to the field of motivational psychology led to the creation of the concept of Humanistic Psychology. This is based on belief that humans are not simply blindly reacting to situations, but trying to accomplish something greater.

It also forms the basis of much current understanding of what constitutes good leadership and forms a major foundation of prevailing models and theories of successful change management. Maslow theory of motivation emphasise and remind those of us involved in leading and managing change of the complexity and multi-faceted nature of human needs and motivational drives. Aligned with that is people’s transcendent needs and aspirations as well as the more prosaic needs of survival and love.

About the author:

Stephen Warrilow, based in Bristol, England, works with companies across the UK providing specialist support to directors delivery significant change initiatives. Stephen has 25 years cross sector experience with 100+ companies in mid range corporate, larger SME and corporate environments. Take advantage of his 7 FREE “How to Do It” downloads that will take you through all of the key stages of “How to manage change” – and show you how to manage change successfully.

NOTE: I was fortunate to discover the work and writings of Stephen Warrilow at end of 2009. It was apparent that his extensive Change Management knowledge and experience would add value to my project management blog. It will equip readers with knowledge and skills to manage change successfully.

Enjoy the Change Management articles that Stephen Warrilow has given permission to share with you. I trust that you will find great value and I encourage you to download Stephen’s free material to implement in your own change projects.


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  1. Nice to see the Maslow. You might also be interested in his “Theory Z” at Maslow.ORG. Have you experienced the two types?

  2. In Theory Z it is interesting how you differentiate between Transcenders and self-actualizers. In our post-modern society I think we may find many more self-actualizers than actual transcenders.


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