Difference Between Organizational and Individual Change Management

How does individual change management vary from organizational change management? The answer to this is a bit two-headed, as the logistical aspects are vastly different, but the human element is very similar, but on a different scale.

But I’m getting ahead of myself here. I need to first point out that individual change management does not necessarily mean that only one person is being involved in change, and it isn’t always mutually exclusive from organizational change management either. So, I’ve just made this more confusing, haven’t I? Eh. Let’s take a look at what I actually mean here, and compare the two, and it’ll all make sense, I promise.

So, first of all, let’s address organizational change management as a definition. In an organizational system, you’re operating changes on an entire organization or group as a singular entity. This calls for a logistical mindset not unlike organizational learning, and in fact, involves similar practices during any training phases.

It also requires a bit of an agile mindset, even if you’re not going entirely agile with your methodology, bringing in people to assist, from within said organization, appointing project and team leaders and the whole shebang, especially if an organization is quite large and the changes complex. While a one-on-one aspect to approaching people in that scenario is still very much a part of things, it’s impossible for that kind of interfacing to actually sustain the entire process over something so large and diverse.

On the other side of the coin, individual change is handling one or more people in a one-on-one, and not handling the sum as a single unit. This individual change concept breaks down quickly with larger groups or diverse groups, hence organizational change being more widely used for larger scenarios.

However, with individual change, specific departments of like minded people with similar or identical skill sets and responsibilities, all of whom are being brought into the same new set of changes, and thus affected in the same way, can be handled in this more direct approach. It’s not unlike comparing organizational learning to traditional direct group learning of the class room.

However, as I said, sometimes these also overlap, with organizational change being applied to a larger structure, but specific subsets within it being handled through their angle of the change in an individual change scenario. Along with this, the ultimate dealing with the people that make up the organization still calls for small use of individual change, obviously.

However, I did say that the human element really isn’t a lot different, and this is true. The same hurdle exists for both of these environments, and that’s the human tendency to oppose changes to routine and removal of comfort zones.

This is the biggest hurdle in change management in general, it doesn’t matter if it’s organizational or individual. The thing that deviates is how difficult it is to deal with, often being more annoying in organizational change management than individual change management. But, as you can see, the biggest differences are just mainly in if you see the sum of the parts, or all the parts individually. Both work, it just depends on how much is on your plate is all. Not so confusing now, is it?

Christopher Smith
Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.
Christopher Smith on sabtwitterChristopher Smith on sablinkedinChristopher Smith on sabgoogleChristopher Smith on sabfacebook