If you are not familiar with change management as a concept, read on further in our guide to find out what change management is, how it works, and how it may benefit an organisation.
What is change management?
Change management is the systematic and structured approach to dealing with transition within an organisation. This transition may be related to a company’s goals, work processes, or technologies, but the basic purpose of change management remains the same: it implements strategies for effecting change, controlling change, and helping individuals within an organisation to adapt to the changes that are being made.
Experts have suggested that financial success depends on how well individuals embrace the change made within an organisation. It is also considered vital that the changes are made to be long-lasting. As such, it is considered critical to the success of the organisation as a whole that change is smoothly and successfully implemented when it is introduced.
How does change management work?
Understanding how change management works can be made easier by applying the concepts and tools used to specific areas and sectors of business. Below are examples of how change management works within project management, software development, and IT infrastructure:
Change management for project management
The role of change management within project management is significant, because each change request must be evaluated for its impact on the project. Project managers, or the senior executives in charge of change control within an organisation, must examine how change in one area of a project could affect other areas of the project. This should also inform them of the impact that specific change could have on the project as a whole.
It has been suggested that change control experts should particularly pay attention to:
- Scope; change requests should be evaluated to determine how they will impact the project scope.
- Schedule; change requests should be examined and assessed to determine how they will alter a project schedule.
- Costs; change requests must be examined and assessed to determine how they will affect the cost of a project. Typically, the largest expense involved in a project will be labour, so overages in completing project tasks can quickly change project costs.
- Quality; change requests must be assessed to determine how they will affect the quality of a project once it is complete. If the project schedule is accelerated to meet an earlier deadline, for example, quality may be affected if the work was rushed and defects have occurred.
- Human resources; change requests must be evaluated to determine if additional, or specialised, labour will be required to complete the project. When a project schedule changes, it is possible that key resources and individuals may be lost to other assignments.
- Communications; approved change requests must be communicated to the appropriate stakeholders at the appropriate time.
- Risk; change requests must be evaluated to determine what risks they pose to a project. It is possible that even minor changes may develop larger issues, potentially introducing logistical, financial, or security risks.
- Procurement; changes to the project may affect the procurement of materials and contract labour.
Once an incremental change has been introduced and approved, it will be the responsibility of the project manager to document the change in one of four standard change control systems. This ensures that all thoughts and insights have been captured and recorded with the change request. Changes that are not entered through a control system are labelled defects.
When a change request is declined, this should also be documented and kept as part of the project archives.
Change management for software development
In software development project management, change management strategies and tools assist developers in the management of changes to code and its associated documentation. It also enables chief information officers (CIOs) to keep projects on course and on schedule. Agile software development environments encourage changes that are made to satisfy requirements, or to adjust the user interface. Change should not be addressed in the middle of an iteration, however. Instead, changes are scheduled as stories or features for future iterations.
Version control software tools assist with documentation, preventing more than one person from making changes to the code at the same time. These tools have capabilities which allow them to track changes, meaning they can also negate duplicate changes where necessary.
Change management for IT infrastructure
Change management tools may also be used to track changes made to an organisation’s IT department’s hardware infrastructure. As with other types of change management, standardised methods and procedures ensure that the changes made to the infrastructure are all assessed, approved, documented, implemented, and systematically reviewed.
Changes made to hardware settings are also referred to as configuration management (CM). Technicians will use CM tools to review the entire collection of related systems and verify the effects that a change in one system has on other systems when it is implemented.
What are the principles of change management?
Successful change management relies on four core principles, each of which can be broken down into individual points of consideration. These principles are:
- Understanding Change
- Planning Change
- Implementing Change
- Communicating Change
In order to successfully promote the benefits of change, it is crucial for the person implementing it to understand it themselves. This involves consideration around:
- Why the organisation needs to change. What are the key objectives involved?
- What will the benefits of the change be for the business?
- How will it offer a positive impact for people?
- How will it affect the way that people work?
- What will individuals within the business need to do to successfully achieve the change?
The individual making the change may also find it beneficial to consider what the negative outcome of not making the change would be.
Any plan of change made should be right for the organisation, and the way that change projects are managed can vary from business to business. The methodology one organisation may use may be particularly rigid, while others may use a more open and flexible approach. Generally speaking, an individual implementing changes should consider:
- Sponsorship; how will they secure, engage, and use high-level support and sponsorship of the change?
- Involvement; who is best positioned to help them design and implement the change? As examples, will an organisation require external expertise, or will it be possible to use internal resources and talent?
- Buy-in; change is made more effective when it has support from across the business. How will this be achieved?
- Impacts; what should success look like? How will the impact of the change that needs to be made be predicted and assessed? What aims and goals need to be achieved?
There are numerous strategies that can be used to put change into practice within an organisation. Examples of these will be discussed below under “models and methodologies for managing change”.
No matter which tools or strategies an individual decides upon to implement change within an organisation, there are some steps which should help them to implement the change in a positive way:
- Ensure that everyone involved with the changes understands why the changes need to be made, and what the changes will mean for them.
- Agree on success criteria for the changes that are going to be implemented, and ensure these are regularly measured and reported on.
- Appoint “change agents”, who will assist in putting new practices into place and can serve as role models for the new approach.
- Find ways to change the habits of individuals within an organisation, so that the new practice becomes the norm.
- Ensure that everyone is supported throughout the change process.
Communication often has the power to prevent change. The change that is to be implemented should, first and foremost, be clear and relevant so that individuals within an organisation understand what needs to be done and why. The change manager, or others in charge of change control within the business, will also need to ensure they are setting the right tone. This ensures that the correct emotional reaction is achieved.
Some experts suggest that intended changes should be linked to an organisation’s mission statement or vision statement. This assists individuals in seeing how the change will have a positive impact on the “bigger picture”, while providing them with a shared vision of the future.
It is also recommended that the individuals in charge of change management for a business practice good stakeholder management. This ensures that the right people receive the right message at the right time, to ensure the right support is achieved for the project.
Types of change management
While there are many different types of organisational change that change management can be applied to, there are three common types that are more likely to be encountered. These are Developmental, Transitional, and Transformational.
This is an organisational change that improves on previously established processes or procedures, meaning it builds on what a company is already doing. Examples of this may be increasing sales or quality, interpersonal communication, or team development and problem-solving efforts.
This is change that moves an organisation away from its current state to a new state in order to solve a problem, meaning that practices that already exist are replaced by something different. These practices may also be regarded as “new” by the individuals involved. Examples of this may be implementing a simple merger and acquisition or automating a task or process.
These changes are considered “radical”, as they fundamentally change the company culture and the operation of an organisation. The end result may not be known in transformational change, and for this reason it is often considered more unpredictable and risky than other forms. Examples of transformational change may be radical rebranding, or complex acquisitions.
Models and methodologies for managing change
Having a change management model or methodology to follow when implementing and managing said change should help to ensure its success. These can help managers to align the scope of proposed changes, with the digital and nondigital tools they have available.
Some of the most popular models and methodologies for managing change include:
Created by Prosci founder Jeff Hiatt, the ADKAR model consists of five sequential steps:
- Awareness (of the need for change)
- Desire (to participate in and support the change)
- Knowledge (of how to change)
- Ability (to implement desired skills and behaviours)
- Reinforcement (to ensure the change is sustained in the long term)
Bridges’ transition model
The model implemented by change consultant William Bridges focuses on how individuals adjust to change. This involves three individual stages:
- A stage for letting go
- A stage of uncertainty and confusion
- A stage for acceptanc
This model is sometimes compared to the Kübler-Ross model for the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance).
Kübler-Ross change management framework
This management framework, created by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and most often applied to the five stages of grief, can be applied to many experiences of change. Understanding the changes may allow a change manager to better address an employee’s response to organisational change:
- Denial; refusal to believe is a common reaction to information an individual does not want to hear.
- Anger; this is natural when an unwanted change is forced upon an individual.
- Bargaining; many people may try to push for a compromise to avoid having to accept change entirely.
- Depression; employees may enter a stage of depression if they are upset about the change.
- Acceptance; when employees realise there is no other option, they reach the stage of acceptance.
Change approaches using this model should be designed to address these potential feelings head-on, preventing employees from feeling the worst of them.
Satir change management methodology
Created by family therapist Virginia Satir, this model is based on trends observed in how families experience change. Like the Kübler-Ross model, this can also be applied to changes within business.
- Late Status Quo; where a company is when starting out.
- Resistance; the natural response that many individuals experience when change is first introduced.
- Chaos; when the change is first starting to be implemented and there is still confusion and resistance.
- Integration; the stage when productivity begins to level again, suggesting general acceptance of the change.
- New Status Quo; employees settle into a “new normal”.
IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL)
The ITIL framework offers detailed guidance for managing change in IT operations infrastructure. It is owned by Axelos, a joint venture between Capita and the UK Cabinet Office.
Kotter’s 8-step process for implementing change
This 8-step process was created by Harvard University professor John Kotter, and involves:
- Create a sense of urgency to motivate employees.
- Build a guiding coalition with leaders and change agents, with various skills and from various departments.
- Form a strategic vision and initiatives; this should be defined so it is known what is to be accomplished.
- Enlist a “volunteer army”; communicate with everyone involved in the change management process to ensure they are in agreement and understand their role.
- Enable action by removing barriers, and addressing anything which causes friction.
- Generate short-term wins by creating short-term goals that break your change management up into actionable steps.
- Sustain momentum throughout the implementation.
- Institute the change after the initial project is complete.
Lewin’s change management model
Psychologist Kurt Lewin created a framework which is also commonly known as “Unfreeze-Change-Refreeze”. This involves three steps, in which an organisation is made ready to accept change (it is “unfrozen”), the change is implemented and slowly embraced (it is “changed”), and the change is made permanent when employees have embraced a new way of working (it is “frozen” again).
Business consultants Tom Peters and Robert H. Waterman Jr (from McKinsey & Company) designed a model which looks holistically at seven factors which affect change:
- Shared values
- Strategy for change
- Structure of the company
- Systems and processes
- Style or manner of the work
- Staff involved in the process
- Skills these staff members have
This involves employing a particular mindset to encourage change within an organisation. However, rather than top-down change requests being issued by senior executives who will then expect employees to agree to these changes, the notion of the nudge theory is to “nudge” employees towards wanting the change themselves. Implementing this strategy will involve a manager thinking of a change they want to make from the point of view of their employees, before:
- Presenting it based on how it will benefit employees.
- Treating it as a recommendation rather than a command.
- Listening to feedback throughout the process.
What are the benefits of change management?
Implementing an effective change management strategy assists organisations in:
- Mitigating disruption
- Reducing costs
- Reducing time to implementation
- Driving innovation
- Improving morale
In addition to these, there are also some ways in which change management can add structure to IT and operations in particular:
- Improving documentation of enterprise systems.
- Achieving a greater alignment between the suggested change and what is eventually implemented.
- Getting a better starting point for automation initiatives.
- Obtaining a better understanding of why systems were made.
- Developing the ability to reverse-engineer changes made to existing business processes and infrastructure.
- Improving the ability to identify what can safely be eliminated or updated.
Why is change management needed within an organisation?
Experts would suggest many reasons that effective change management should be implemented within an organisation. Three primary reasons are:
Helping and encouraging individuals to implement change
The core of any business is its people, and a change will not be effective if individuals within an organisation do not make changes to the way they work. Any change implemented should be the cumulative impact of successful individual change, meaning that employees all start to do their jobs according to the changes you wish to implement.
It is a reminder not to ignore the “people side” of change
Poor management, or ignoring the “people side” of implementing a change presents many disadvantages:
- Productivity may decline on a larger scale for longer than necessary.
- Managers may be unwilling to devote time or resources needed to support the change.
- Key stakeholders may not attend meetings.
- Suppliers may begin to feel the impact and see disruption caused by the change.
- Customers feel the negative impact of a change which should have been invisible to them.
- Employee morale suffers, and divisions between “us” and “them” begin to emerge.
- Stress, confusion, and fatigue increase.
- Valued employees leave the organisation.
It is also possible that projects will suffer as a result of poor management, which may result in missed deadlines, budgets overrunning, necessary rework, and even abandonment. Consequences such as these will have a tangible impact on project health, as well as the organisation overall.
These can all be mitigated by deploying a structured approach to change management which includes employees.
Change management increases chances of success
Multiple studies have shown that effective change management has an impact on the probability of a project meeting its objectives. Prosci’s benchmarking studies, titled Best Practices in Change Management, revealed that 93% of participants with excellent change management met or exceeded objectives. Conversely, only 15% of those with poor change management met or exceeded objectives.
Projects with excellent change management were six times more likely to meet objectives than those with poor change management implemented. However, it was also discovered that even poor change management being implemented ensured better success than not applying change management at all. There was even a direct correlation shown between change management and staying on both schedule and budget.
What are the challenges associated with change management?
Businesses looking to implement change management will often face a number of challenges on the way to ensuring its success. Not only will the manager require a thorough understanding of the organisational culture, the process also requires an accurate accounting of the systems, applications, and employees that will be affected by a change.
Additional challenges associated with change management include:
- Resource management; managing the physical, financial, human, informational, and intangible assets and resources that contribute to an organisation’s strategic plan will become increasingly difficult when implementing change.
- Resistance; executives and employees who are most affected by a change may be resistant to it.
- Communication; often, companies will fail to communicate change initiatives consistently or include employees in the process.
- New technology; the application of new technology can disrupt an employee’s, or even an entire department’s, workflow.
- Multiple points of view; success factors will differ between individuals, based on their roles within their organisation, as well as incentives.
- Scheduling; it can be complicated to decide whether the change should be short term or long term, as well as clearly defining the milestones that will need to be reached.
Overcoming resistance to change
The challenge which often presents the most difficulties is employees’ resistance to change, which is to be expected as it is not possible to control an individual’s feelings. As the success of the change relies on individual acceptance and employees changing the way they work to accommodate it, it is still vital that employee feelings are taken into account in a way that helps to mitigate resistance:
- The aim of the change should be clarified, and it should be explained how the change will benefit others.
- Objections should be listened to, and managers should find ways to address problems.
- Managers should build consensus, rather than shutting down those who object.
- Feedback should be viewed as a guide of how changes could be made, rather than as an obstacle to change.
- Success should be celebrated at the end, once the change has been implemented.
- This may help to alleviate future resistance against further changes.
- Managers should be willing to revert changes when they do not meet their desired goals.
Roles in change management
The role most closely associated with change management is the change management practitioner, or change manager. This individual is considered the “designer” of an organisation’s change management strategy, while also supporting, encouraging, and equipping senior leaders and managers so that they are in the best position to fulfil their unique roles. This then enables them to perform their roles effectively.
During times of change, how effective managers and senior leaders are in the roles they’ve been given will determine how successful the change is.
Change management tools
Both digital and nondigital tools can be utilised to assist individuals in control of change management, whether they are carrying out research, analysis, organisation tasks, or implementing the changes themselves. In a small business, tools will usually consist of spreadsheets and various charts (including flowcharts).
Larger organisations, on the other hand, may utilise software suites to maintain their change logs digitally, providing stakeholders with an integrated, holistic view of changes and the effects they are having.
Popular software applications that assist with change management include:
- ChangeGear (Serviceaide); this is change management support for DevOps and ITIL automation, as well as business roles.
- ChangeScout (Deloitte); this is a Cloud-based organisational change management application for evaluating sea changes and incremental changes.
- eChangeManager (Giva); this is a Cloud-based, standalone IT change management application.
- Freshservice (Freshworks); this is an online ITIL change management solution. It features workflow customisation capabilities and gamification features.
- Remedy Change Management 9 (BMC Software); this assists managers in the planning, tracking, and delivering of successful changes that are compliant with ITIL and Control Objectives for Information and Related Technologies (COBIT).
Best practices for managing change
To reduce the chances of a change failing to be accepted and implemented, there are some practices that can be implemented beforehand. These help to ensure that the changes made are well-received and have a positive impact on an organisation as whole. These best practices include:
- Instilling a work culture which is receptive to change.
- Ensuring managers are transparent about upcoming changes or shifts.
- Keeping communication open and ensuring employees feel empowered and valued enough to share how they are feeling.
- Recruiting help to implement changes if necessary (this assistance may come in the form of a new project manager or consultant).
- Finding the best way for the organisation to monitor change by establishing good reporting software and putting systems in place as soon as possible.
Work with us on Change
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