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What is change management? Your introductory guide.

By: Leanne Armstrong

To keep pace in a rapid-fire business world, organizations of all types must direct and respond effectively to change.

Most organizational change has the potential to affect individuals across every department. So empowering your leads to manage change successfully is the best way to weather any new shift in direction.

Change management is more than an assortment of methods for staying agile as you deal with a company-wide restructuring. It’s also a proven strategy for managing process, product, and personnel adjustments at the ground level.

Change Management 101

Change management involves taking a systematic approach to change, and supporting team members during times of upheaval by encouraging input and feedback. There are many different types of change management, including:

  • Transformational change management
  • Transitional change management
  • Developmental change management

By taking a closer look at the question of what is change management, we’re about to discover how properly managing change in the workplace can help transform your organization.


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What is change management?

Despite the fact that change is often necessary for running a successful business, executing and managing change within an organization isn’t always easy.

As humans, we’re naturally resistant to new situations.

So a large part of change management revolves around preparing and supporting team members during times of upheaval by prioritizing input and feedback.

From a practical perspective, organizational change management involves taking a systematic approach to change in order to accomplish broad-scope goals like:

  • Reinventing or redirecting your company mission or culture
  • Adapting your business structure, technologies, or workflows to accommodate dynamic market and economic conditions
  • Carrying out continuous or one-off improvement projects

In every case, the overriding goal of change management is to map out new processes, design new products, or implement new strategies while minimizing negative outcomes.

Since organizational change is frequently a response to external business challenges, change management is essential for ensuring you get the best results from any action that may have far-reaching consequences for your business, your people, or your clientele.

What are the different types of change management?

Organizational change can often be big and complicated. And because there are distinct, complex theories surrounding the process, there are various approaches to organizational change management.

Whether your approach is mission, strategy, operations, or technology-based, however, the change you need to oversee will typically fall into one of three categories: transformational, transitional, or developmental.

1. Transformational change management

True transformational change within an organization is usually equal parts vision and strategy. It’s less about planning and managing a project with defined outputs, a linear trajectory, and an established timeline, in fact, and more about managing uncertainty over time as a company’s belief or value systems change.

Transformational change management may include taking an organization-wide approach to long-term objectives like:

  • Putting large cultural or strategic changes into effect (like an extreme rebranding, for example)
  • Adopting a fresh technological framework (like converting traditional business channels to a virtual network)
  • Redesigning product or service offerings in response to an unexpected competitor or a severe drop in revenue (this may involve a merger or acquisition)

Large-scale transformations can be proactive (as in outsourcing for growth) or reactive (as in downsizing to stay in business). But they usually lead to changes at the operational level that are transitional or developmental in nature.

2. Transitional change management

Transitional change involves replacing the way you do something with a completely new process. Transitional change management, therefore, usually includes dismantling some aspect of your current operations while your team transitions to a new system.

Examples of transitional change might include:

  • Adopting CRM software to meet increased customer management demands
  • Automating a formerly manual process (like receipt or invoice management, for example)
  • Creating a new product or service to replace an outdated model

Transitional change management tends to happen at the task planning or workflow level. So it often includes organized project management and the use of dedicated project planning tools.

3. Developmental change management

Unlike switching to something new, developmental change focuses on improving what your business is already doing. Developmental change management, therefore, usually includes upgrading internal skills or revamping existing procedures.

Examples of developmental change might include:

  • Optimizing a sales process
  • Improving the quality of a product or service
  • Speeding up the resolution of customer issues

Developmental change management is usually driven by continuous improvement. So it often includes process design improvement or advancing a team’s communication, brainstorming, or problem-solving skills.

How to management change in the workplace

As we’ve just seen, the nature of the adjustment you need to make within your organization will help determine your approach to managing change in the workplace.

But since any change will require communicating, implementing, and tracking your alterations or improvements, it’s wise to go in prepared by:

  • Determining the most appropriate format and platform for informing team members about changes before and as they unfold
  • Developing documentation or putting necessary training programs into effect
  • Recording your current operational performance so you can analyze the impact of any changes you make

Calculating your return on investment, for example, plays a key role in managing organizational change. Figuring out which KPIs will give you the information you need ensures you’ll be tracking and communicating the right results to stakeholders at the right time.

When it comes to specific techniques, meanwhile, many established models exist for managing change in the workplace. A good rule of thumb is to choose an approach that makes it easy to:

Define the change you need to make. Make sure your change process aligns expectations regarding scope management, timing, and impact.

Plan for change. Everyone involved should understand how changes will affect them and be given the navigational tools or information they need.

Execute the change. Keeping teams, managers, and departments aligned and efficient while changes take place is essential.

Make your change matter. The only way to benefit from a new or improved way of doing something is to track your performance post-implementation and make adjustments where necessary.

No matter which model for organizational change you adopt, you’ll get more value from it if you pair it with change management tools like strategy, project planning or problem-solving maps, and task or workflow management diagrams.

What is the impact of change management?

Remember: while you may have a clear vision of what needs to happen for organizational change to succeed, the impact of change management is often hindered by employee resistance or poor communication.

To get the outcome you need from any form of change you implement, it’s important to foster a sense of joint ownership:

  • Achieve management buy-in early to encourage wide-spread acceptance
  • Motivate team members and clients alike by “partnering” with them right from the get-go
  • Keep everyone involved in the loop by soliciting feedback on changes when and where it makes sense

While it’s true that organizational change doesn’t always happen as an isolated, departmental event, most individuals will look to their immediate managers for encouragement and direction. So make sure your entire leadership team is on board before you push forward with changes.

The more solid your change management plan – and the more organized your process for rolling it out – the more likely you are to engage team members in your strategy and achieve the results that you want.

Getting familiar with established change management techniques, and using business planning software like MindManager to ensure every plan, process, or project unfolds efficiently, is the best way to map your way to transformational success.

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