In this short crash course, you’ll learn change management basics – what it is, why it matters, and how to get started.
Change management is essential to effectively enact change.
This is true regardless of the company size, industry, or product.
A structured, well-designed approach to change management can ensure that organizational changes succeed.
Let’s start by defining change management.
Change Management Basics: What It Is and Why It Matters
Change management is the process of managing organizational transitions, transformations, and changes.
Typically, organizational change management is people-focused.
Change leaders and change management professionals take a systematic approach to:
- Analyzing organizational problems
- Proposing solutions
- Enabling change
- Executing and managing change initiatives
- Evaluating, assessing, and reviewing these change programs
Change management is a complicated discipline, with many moving parts.
It involves people, business processes, data, organizational strategy, and much more.
This complexity is necessary because change itself is complicated.
Management of change processes helps organizations:
- Increase the success rates of change programs
- Decrease waste and unnecessary costs
- Reduce errors
- Improve results
Among other things.
As we will discuss below, this discipline is becoming more important than ever in today’s ever-transforming marketplace.
The Change Management Process
Change is a solution to a business problem.
The nature of the business problem can vary greatly.
Here are a few examples:
- Adoption of new software to increase employee productivity
- Renovating the company culture due to a merger or acquisition
- Restructuring departments or personnel due to budget cuts
There are countless unique examples of organizational changes.
And although each situation is unique, the underlying process of change does not change.
This basic process, as defined by change management pioneer Kurt Lewin, involves three stages.
- Unfreeze – This is the first stage of a change process, which “loosens up” the organization, prepares people for change, and pointing towards the goal
- Change – This stage involves executing the change program itself, which takes time and can involve a number of obstacles
- Freeze – Finally, it is necessary to make the change permanent, by reinforcing the change, dealing with residual obstacles, and evaluating the program itself
One strong point of this model is its simplicity.
However, since its creation, other change models have been developed.
Change models such as these are used widely in the industry, because they:
- Offer a step-by-step framework to follow
- Are based on significant research and experience
- Mitigate risks and prevent mistakes
- Get results
However, the change process is only one ingredient – the other is the change professional.
What Makes a Good Change Management Professional
There are many parties involved in any change initiative, such as:
- Change managers
- Change leaders
- Change advocates or change champions
- HR professionals
- Executive sponsors
- Frontline employees
To coordinate all of these parties successfully, change managers must have strong communication skills.
Although communication is perhaps the top skill requirement, it is not the only one.
Effective change management requires:
- The ability to manage people
- Data and analytics
The last requirement mentioned here has rarely been emphasized in change management coursework.
However, in recent years, data has become more and more important.
Digital tools can offer insight and they can significantly improve the results of change initiatives.
The more a change professional can use such tools, the better they will perform.
How to Get Started
There are several ways to get involved in change management.
While some business professionals have the role thrust upon them, others seek it out.
If you are interested in becoming a change management specialist, there are a few places to start:
- Change management courses. These courses specialize in organizational change, offering theoretical and practical course work. Students can obtain full academic degrees, change management certifications, or simply focus on the course itself.
- Websites, blogs, and online resources. There are many change management resources available on the world wide web. These blogs often include modern information about change management. They can be excellent sources of information, but they do not offer practical training.
- Consultants, coaches, and mentors. Another option is to hire a specialist. A third party can help with training, implementation, and evaluation, which is especially useful for organizations that need immediate, real-world action.
The resource you choose, of course, should be dictated by your needs.
If your organization has a pressing need to implement successful change, then hiring a consultancy may be the best bet.
If, however, you just wish to explore the topic on your own, then browsing change management resources should suffice.
Where to Go Next
For more information about change management, be sure to visit this blog’s main page.
You will find information on a wide variety of change management topics, including:
- Change management best practices
- Tips, techniques, and tactics
- Change models and frameworks
- Change leadership
- Digital change management and digital transformation
You will also find links to the resources mentioned above, such as change management certification programs, blogs, academic journals, and consultancies.
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.