Change Management

What is change management?

Change management involves a structured process to guide individuals, groups, and organizations from their current situation to a desired future state. This process consists of identifying changes’ effects, reducing potential risks, and maximizing benefits for stakeholders.

Effective change management involves a clear understanding of the drivers for change, a well-planned and executed implementation process, and a commitment to communication and stakeholder engagement. Change management aims to minimize disruption, guarantee the success of change efforts, and establish a culture of ongoing improvement.

In fact, approximately two-thirds of organizations encounter four major modifications within five years. And there is a systematic approach geared towards managing organizational change, which involves planning, executing, and monitoring organizational changes to minimize disruption and maximize benefits.

Change management enables organizations to smoothly transition from one state to another while maintaining the stability and productivity of their operations. A survey by the Institute of Management proved that organizations that invest in change management programs are six times more likely to implement changes successfully.


Why change management is important

Organizational existence comes with unavoidable alterations and iterations over time—at least for those focused on continuous improvement. Whether it is a result of internal factors, such as new technology or restructuring, or external factors, such as changes in the market or regulatory environment, organizations must effectively manage change to remain competitive and adapt to new challenges.

Change management is crucial for organizations because it provides a framework for managing change that reduces risk, ensures alignment with organizational goals, and maximizes benefits.

Making transitions during times of change can be challenging for organizations. Having a solid change management plan is crucial to ensure a smoother transition. A change management plan outlines a structured approach for implementing changes within the organization and helps ensure that the transition is as seamless as possible.

And a change management plan covers all aspects of planning. It has the objectives, timeline, roles and responsibilities, communication strategies, and risk mitigation measures. By having a clear roadmap for the change process, stakeholders can understand the change and its impact, which helps to manage resistance and minimize disruptions. This proactive approach ensures everyone is on the same page, leading to a smoother adoption of the change.

Goals of change management

Change management is a vital process for organizations looking to make successful transitions and maintain effective operations. Change management aims to plan, implement, and monitor changes in a structured and systematic manner, minimizing the risk of failure and ensuring a smoother transition.

One of the key benefits of a substantial change management strategy is that it can help organizations achieve their specific goals, such as reducing costs, increasing efficiency, and enhancing customer satisfaction. By proactively managing change, organizations can better control the outcome and achieve a positive impact on their business. This change can improve productivity, cost savings, and customer experience.

Change management is crucial in helping organizations stay competitive in today’s rapidly evolving business landscape. By enabling organizations to quickly and effectively adapt to changes in their environment, they can remain relevant and ahead of their competitors.

Effective change management allows organizations to respond to shifts in their industry, market, and customer needs, helping them maintain a competitive edge. This ability to adapt to change is essential for success in today’s business environment.

Types of change management

Change management encompasses various strategies for managing change within organizations. There are three types:

  1. Strategic Change
    Explains changes to an organization’s overall strategy and structure, such as mission, goals, and processes. This change is often necessary when an organization adapts to shifts in its external environment.
  2. Operational change
    It’s how work gets done within an organization, such as processes, systems, and job roles. Functional change helps organizations improve efficiency and enhance customer experience.
  3. Technological Change
    This involves introducing new technology into an organization, such as software and hardware. Technological change helps organizations stay competitive in the market.

Effective change management requires a well-planned approach considering an organization’s goals, culture, and resources. It can involve multiple changes simultaneously and requires a combination of different change management strategies.

Change management models

There are several different change management models that organizations can use to manage change; here are a few worthy of mention:

1. Lewin’s Change Management Model

Lewin’s change management model involves three stages: unfreezing, changing, and refreezing—which means “unfreezing” to recognize a change is needed; making the change and then creating an environment where those changes can take root or “refreeze” as part of your company’s foundation.

2. Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model

The model was originated by John Kotter, a Harvard Professor, in 1996 and described in his book “Leading Change.” This model includes eight stages: preparing for change, forming a vision, communicating the vision, giving others the power to implement the idea, achieving quick successes, solidifying gains and pushing for further change, establishing new practices as part of the organizational culture, and continuously improving.

3. Prosci’s ADKAR Model

Prosci’s ADKAR model involves five steps: Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement.

4. The McKinsey 7-S Change Management Model

The McKinsey 7-S model, outlined in the book “In Search of Excellence” by Peters and Waterman, focuses on coordination rather than structure. It highlights interconnected factors that influence a company’s ability to change. The McKinsey 7-S model breaks down into two categories: Hard Elements and Soft Elements.

Hard elements:

  • Strategy: this is the plan for competitiveness and success in the market.
  • Structure: the company’s organization, such as business units and reporting hierarchy.
  • Systems: are the processes and technologies employees use to complete their tasks.

Soft elements:

  • Shared values: the company’s core values and work ethics shape its corporate culture.
  • Style: refers to the leadership approach in managing the company and employees.
  • Staff: the company’s workforce.
  • Skills: this is the employees’ collective knowledge and proficiency.

5. Nudge theory

The Nudge theory is a behavioral approach to decision-making that aims to influence people’s choices through subtle and indirect suggestions rather than through coercion or strict rules.

Other effective models are the Kübler-Ross change curve, Satir change management model, PDSA cycle, Bridges’ transition change management model, Kaizen change management model, Lamarsh change management model, John fisher change management model, and Maurer’s three levels of resistance and change model.

Benefits of change management

Change management provides many benefits to organizations when appropriately tailored toward their goals. Here are seven key benefits:

  1. Improved business processes
    Change management helps organizations identify areas where processes can be streamlined and made more efficient, leading to improved overall performance.
  2. Increased employee engagement
    By involving employees in the change process and keeping them informed, change management can help raise their motivation and engagement.
  3. Better adaptability
    Change management helps organizations respond more effectively to changing circumstances and adapt to new realities, increasing their resilience and competitiveness.
  4. Improved communication
    Effective change management requires clear and open corporate communication, which can improve relationships and trust within the organization.
  5. Enhanced decision-making
    Change management provides a structured approach to decision-making, ensuring that decisions are based on accurate and complete information.
  6. Willingness to embrace change
    Change management can help mitigate resistance to change by involving stakeholders, communicating transparently, and addressing concerns promptly.
  7. Better risk management
    By considering potential risks and consequences of change, change management can help organizations make informed decisions and minimize negative impacts.

Successful change management can foster a culture of ongoing improvement within organizations, allowing them to stay flexible and ready to adjust to future changes.

Challenges of change management

Change management can also present several challenges, including;

  1. Resistance to change
    One of the critical challenges in managing change is overcoming resistance to it, both internally and from external parties.
  2. Communication
    Effective communication is vital to successful change management, but it can be challenging to ensure everyone involved is on the same page and understands the change.
  3. Lack of resources
    Change management initiatives often require significant resources, including time, money, and personnel, which may be limited.
  4. Uncertainty and ambiguity
    Change can bring luck and ambiguity, and it can be challenging to manage the emotions and reactions of employees and stakeholders during this time.
  5. Maintaining momentum
    Change is often a slow and incremental process, and it can be challenging to maintain momentum and keep everyone focused and engaged.
  6. Culture
    An organization’s culture can significantly influence its ability to implement change effectively. Change management initiatives must consider the organization’s existing norms, values, and beliefs.
  7. Misaligned goals
    Change initiatives need to be aligned with the goals and objectives of different departments, which can lead to resistance and reduce the chances of success.
  8. Technical challenges
    Technical changes, such as implementing new software or systems, can bring challenges, including compatibility issues and data migration.

Overcoming these challenges requires a thorough assessment before addressing them one after the other such as effective planning, communication, and execution, as well as a deep understanding of the needs and motivations of all stakeholders involved in the change.

How to implement change management

To effectively manage change, here are seven strategic tips for organizations to stay ahead and avoid failure during this process:

  • Involve employees early
    Involve them in the change process from the beginning to help them understand the reasons for the change and get their input.
  • Communicate openly and frequently
    Keep employees informed about the change and its meaning, using clear and concise language.
  • Address resistance head-on
    Anticipate potential resistance and address it head-on by involving employees in the change process or by addressing their concerns directly.
  • Make a plan
    Develop a clear and actionable plan for the change, including specific steps, timelines, and responsibilities.
  • Provide support
    Provide support for employees during the change, including training, resources, and tools to help them adjust
  • Celebrate success
    Celebrate successes along the way to help maintain momentum and keep everyone motivated.
  • Continuously evaluate and adjust
    To constantly assess the change and adjust your plan as needed to ensure it remains practical and relevant.

Best time to apply change management

Organizational change management is necessary when a company needs to alter one or more of its core processes to enhance effectiveness.

Examples of situations that commonly call for change management include:

  • Adoption of new technology to streamline operations
  • Updating processes or policies to increase efficiency
  • Introduction of a new product or service offering
  • Change in leadership and management.
  • Implementation of new work culture programs
  • Combination or acquisition of companies
  • Unforeseen crises stemming from economic or socio-political issues

In essence, change management comes handy whenever a company needs to change its operations and requires its employees to perform their duties differently.

How to build a change management plan

Building a change management plan involves the following steps:

  1. Assess the current state
    Assess the current situation, including the business and people processes, systems and technologies, and organizational culture, to identify areas for improvement.
  2. Define the desired outcome
    Clearly define the desired end-state of the change, including specific goals, benefits, and desired results.
  3. Identify stakeholders
    Identify all stakeholders impacted by the change and their level of influence and interest in it.
  4. Develop a risk management plan
    Identify potential risks associated with the change, assess the impact of each threat, and develop strategies to mitigate them.
  5. Create a communication plan
    Develop a communication plan that outlines how change management will communicate to stakeholders, the timeline for communication, and the information itself.
  6. Develop a training plan
    Develop a training plan that outlines the type of training required, the timeline for training, and the resources necessary to deliver the training.
  7. Implement the change
    Execute the change management plan, including communicating, training stakeholders, and implementing the change.
  8. Monitor and evaluate
    Continuously monitor the progress of the change and assess its impact, making any necessary adjustments to ensure the change gets implemented successfully.
  9. Reinforce and sustain
    Reinforce the Change by embedding it into the organization’s processes, systems, and culture, and sustain the change by continuously monitoring and evaluating its impact.

Change management tools and technologies

Several tools and technologies can help organizations manage change more effectively. These include:

  • Change management software: This software provides a centralized platform for managing change, including tracking progress, communicating with stakeholders, and monitoring results. A few examples are ProSci ADKAR, Clarizen, CA PPM, ServiceNow, Planview, BMC Remedy, Microsoft Dynamics 365, and CollabNet VersionOne.
  • Project management software: Project management software such as Asana and Trello can manage the change process, including defining objectives, tracking progress, and monitoring results.
  • Collaboration tools: Collaboration tools, such as Slack, team messaging apps, and project management software helps, communicate and coordinate with stakeholders and teams during the change process.
  • Change management templates: Templates and best practices for change management can help organizations implement change more effectively by providing a framework for the change process.

Examples of change management in action

Here are some real-life examples of change management in action:

Coca-Cola’s Shift to Healthy Beverages: In response to changing consumer demands, Coca-Cola significantly shifted its product offerings to include healthier options. This plan required a change in their supply chain, marketing strategies, and overall business model. The company’s change management processes allowed it to transition and grow as a beverage industry leader successfully.

The merger between Exxon and Mobil: The merger between Exxon and Mobil in 1999 was one of the largest corporate mergers in history. The two companies used change management strategies to align their organizational cultures and business processes to ensure a smooth integration. This action plan helped the newly formed ExxonMobil achieve its increased efficiency and profitability goals.

Microsoft’s Rebranding Efforts: In 2014, Microsoft underwent a significant rebranding effort to align its image with its expanding product offerings. The company used change management processes to ensure its employees, customers, and partners were all on the same page during the transition. The rebranding was a success, and Microsoft is now widely recognized as a leader in technology innovation.

Healthcare Reform in the United States: The Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, represented a significant change effort in the US healthcare system. The law necessitated substantial business changes for healthcare providers, insurance companies, and patients. Effective change management was critical for a smooth transition and successful implementation of the new legislation.

Organizational Restructuring at General Motors: In response to the global financial crisis of 2009, General Motors underwent a major corporate restructuring. The company utilized change management strategies to reorganize its operations, cut costs, and enhance its competitiveness. The restructuring was successful, and today, General Motors is one of the world’s most profitable automotive companies.


Change management is critical for organizations seeking to succeed during complex priority shifts. The process provides a roadmap for shifts in consumer demands, mergers, or restructuring efforts, resulting in improved efficiency, competitiveness, and alignment with market changes.

To succeed in change management, build a plan, communicate clearly to meet stakeholder expectations, and be prepared for resistance.

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