What is change management in the corporate world?
Just as importantly – why does it matter?
We’ll answer these questions by exploring:
- What change management does and how it works
- The benefits of change management
- How change management started
- What the future looks like for today’s fast-paced business world
Let’s start by understanding the practice of change management.
What Is Change Management in the Corporate World?
Change management is the business discipline devoted to managing, conducting, administering, and executing organizational change projects.
Organizational changes can include:
- Digital transformation programs
- Changes to corporate culture
- Mergers and acquisitions
Among many others.
How Does Change Management Work?
Change management is traditionally a human-centered practice.
It focuses on:
- Building awareness of the need to change
- Communicating the benefits of change
- Motivating and inspiring employees
- Providing the skills and knowledge necessary for executing change, through employee onboarding, training, and education
- Overcoming barriers to change
Though change management is human-centered, it is becoming more and more technology-fueled.
Though technology trends have yet to catch on in mainstream change management, that is set to change … especially as these trends continue to deliver outsized ROI.
But before we explore the technology side of change, let’s look at the history of this field.
Where Did Change Management Come From?
Change management ideas began appearing in the early 1900s.
The cultural anthropologist Arnold Van Gennep defined a 3-stage change process while studying rites of passage.
This process was built upon by Kurt Lewin, credited as the forefather of social psychology.
His ideas include:
- Force Field Analysis – This diagram maps out the forces required for social changes to take place. Helping forces push change forward, while hindering forces obstruct change.
- Leadership Climates – Lewin identified three leadership climates in organizations: authoritarian, democratic, and laissez-faire. These climates affect work conditions, productivity, and worker emotions.
- Change Process – The most well-known of Lewin’s contributions is often called the Lewin change model, or something similar. This is a 3-stage model describe the group dynamics of change: unfreezing of the status quo, transitioning to a new stage, and freezing of the new paradigm.
Over the years, his ideas were further developed by professionals such as:
- Richard Beckhard – He helped create the field of organization development and define some of its core tenets.
- John Kotter – In the 1990s, Kotter developed an authoritative work on change management, as well as an 8-stage change management framework.
- Jeff Hiatt – Jeff Hiatt founded Prosci and created the ADKAR framework, one of the most popular change models in use today. It effects change in 5 stages: awareness, desire, knowledge, action, and reinforcement.
This history of change management is certainly oversimplified.
But it provides context and explains how corporate change became what it is today.
Change Management in the Digital Age
The latest technology trends in change management include:
- Using data to analyze results and gain insights. Change management metrics, KPIs, employee metrics, and change outcomes can all be analyzed with data technology. A data-driven approach greatly enhances results and improves efficiency.
- Maximize results through software tools, such as digital adoption platforms and training software. Onboarding and training time can be slashed with digital adoption solutions, such as WalkMe. By offering in-app learning and contextualized micro-lessons, platforms such as WalkMe dramatically improve engagement and productivity.
- Implement predictive modeling, AI, automation, and other cutting-edge techniques. Modern technology can help change managers predict team synergy, predict project outcomes, automate change management workflows, and more.
The application of digital technology to change management promises immense benefits.
In the years to come, we can expect to see more advances in technology-driven change management.
Though such developments will continue transforming this discipline, we shouldn’t expect it to lose its focus on people.
After all, organizations are composed of employees. Without workers, there will be nothing to change.
Change Management and the Future of Work
What does the future hold for corporate change management?
Today’s biggest trends are being fueled by technology:
- Digital Adoption – New software is released daily, opening up new growth opportunities while increasing competitive pressure from adopters. Technology adoption and digital adoption have become the norm in this landscape.
- Digital Transformation – Digital transformation involves the adoption of technology, as well as the adoption of new ideas, new cultural norms, new digital strategies, and new digital workflows.
- The Digital Skills Gap – Because digital transformation and adoption are so prevalent, today’s enterprises must deal with a widening digital skills gap. Closing this gap, via training, reskilling, and upskilling, has become paramount for many companies.
In all likelihood, the future of change management will see a greater emphasis on technology, training, and upskilling.
The fundamental building blocks of change – people, group dynamics, and psychology – will not change.
However, we have already seen technology fuel massive digital shifts in every area of business.
In the coming years and decades, we can expect change management to find innovative ways to apply these technologies to enhance its core practices.
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.