What is Change Management? Definition, Process, Objectives

  • Post last modified:2 August 2023
  • Reading time:19 mins read
  • Post category:Management

What is Change Management?

Change Management is a structured approach and set of processes that organizations use to smoothly transition from their current state to a desired future state. It involves planning, implementing, and controlling changes in a systematic way to minimize resistance and disruptions, while maximizing the adoption and success of the desired changes.

The main goal of Change Management is to help employees, stakeholders, and the entire organization embrace and adapt to changes effectively. It acknowledges that change is inevitable, and to remain competitive and relevant, organizations must be capable of adapting to evolving circumstances.

With the advent of globalization, technological advancement, and uncertainty of the business environment, change is of paramount importance for the growth of an organization in the long run. For example, an organization wishes to expand the scale of its production. This would not be possible until new machines and technologies are introduced in the organization. In such a case, technological change is a must for the organization to grow.

Apart from this, change may take place in an organization for many reasons like sudden changes in consumer preferences, rise in competition, economic fluctuations, etc. In this section, let us study change and change management in detail.

Definition of Change

A change can be defined as an alteration or modification to make something work better. Different philosophers have defined the change differently. The following are some definitions of change:

Change is not merely necessary to life. It is life

Alvin Toffler

As a society, we have been moving from old to the new. In addition, we are still in motion. Caught between eras, we experience turbulence.

John Naisbett

Change is concerned with making things different. Things must be different because they change constantly.

Stephen P. Robbins

In an organizational context, change refers to adjustments or modifications in processes, functions, strategies, or structure. An organization needs to adapt to change from time to time to meet ever-changing customer requirements, find out new ways of delivering customer service, introduce new products, explore new markets, etc.

Apart from this, adopting change helps organizations in:

  • Coping with the financial crisis.
  • Bridging performance gaps.
  • Utilizing its strengths and understanding its weaknesses.
  • Predicting possible threats and using untapped opportunities.

In an organization, change can take place in various areas, such as:

  • Mission, vision, and business strategy to achieve long-term goals.
  • Technology to achieve efficiency and reduce costs.
  • Human resources to maintain an efficient pool of employees.
  • Organizational structure to alter the authority-responsibility relationship.
  • Organizational culture alters the organization’s styles, values, and beliefs.

Change is unavoidable in any organization. However, if it is not managed well, it may have a serious impact on the organization’s performance. Therefore, it is essential for an organization to continuously find out ways to manage change. An efficient organization not only manages current changes but also looks forward to dealing with any future contingency.

Definition of Change Management

Change management can be defined as a systematic approach to defining and implementing procedures for dealing with change in an organization.

Change management is the process, tools, and techniques to manage the people side of the change process, to achieve the required outcomes and realize the change effectively within the individual, change agent, inner team, and wider system.

David P. Baker

Change Management Process

The change management process is a sequence of steps that a change management team needs to follow to adapt to change.

Let us discuss these steps in detail.

  • Identifying the forces demanding change: It involves identifying the situations, problems, or places where change is required in an organization.

  • Planning change: In this step, a change plan is designed for managing change. It involves finding out how the change would be imbibed in the organization and by whom.

  • Implementing change: In this step, change is executed in the organization. All the employees are trained or educated about the change.

  • Following up: It is the last step in which it is ensured that the implemented change provides the desired result. In case of deviation, remedial measures are taken.

Objectives of Change Management

Change can be predictable or unpredictable, complex or simple, and organization-wide or limited to a particular department. Irrespective of its type, it should be managed by organizations well on time to improve organizational efficiency. The following are the main objectives of change management:

  • To ensure that the desired results of a change are achieved.

  • To sustain organizational efficiency and productivity.

  • To assure that all employees in the organization are informed about the change to be implemented.

  • To establish a creative and flexible culture.

  • To reduce issues associated with implementing change.

  • To evaluate the exact cost associated with change implementation.

Forces of Change

The forces of change are the causes or reasons of change. In an organization, change can take place because of various internal and external causes. These causes are explained as follows:

  • Internal Forces: These are the forces that exist within an organization. These forces are under the control of the organization. For example, change in leadership, implementation of new technology, a decline in profitability, changes in employee profile and union actions, etc.

  • External Forces: These are the forces that are present outside the organization. These are beyond the control of the organization. For example, government policies, changes in the economy, competition, cost of raw materials, technological advancement, scarcity of labor, social pressures, legal requirements, etc.

Resistance to Change

though major changes are happening more frequently in organizations, human nature remains much the same. People always resist change because of many reasons. Employees resist change because of fears and risks associated with it. For instance, employees who are enjoying powerful positions in the organization might have a fear of losing those powers after a change is implemented.

Fears make employees psychologically uncomfortable with change.

Resistance is not an indication that something is wrong with what you are trying to change. It is an indication that something is happening.

James Hunt
  • Rational resistance: This type of resistance occurs when people do not have the proper knowledge or information about the change happening in the organization. This type of resistance decreases when people are provided with relevant information.

  • Emotional resistance: This is related to psychological problems of fear, anxiety, suspicion, and insecurity. This type of resistance is tackled by convincing employees about the positive outcomes of change.

Resistance can occur because of various reasons, which are as follows:

  • Lack of capabilities: Employees may doubt that their capabilities for contributing to the needed change are not sufficient. Thus, they resist change.

  • Lack of incentives: Employees feel that the change will not offer them enough incentives. They feel they have to work more for the same pay.

  • Fear of technological upgradation: This is the fear of unemployment among people. They feel that machines can replace them.

  • Fear of salary reduction: It is a fear of getting less pay after a change. If the change is done for a better style of working, it might result in reducing working hours, which would result in a pay reduction.

  • The uselessness of skills: Sometimes people fear that their present skills would get obsolete at any time and they further fear that they will not be able to master new skills. This fear becomes one of the major reasons for people to resist change.

  • Habit/comfort: Some employees just want to continue the way they are at present and any kind of change is not accepted by them. For instance, an employee does not want to shift to the other branch of the same organization because of comfort.

  • Ego-defensiveness: Sometimes people’s ego becomes a reason for resistance wherein a superior discards the ideas of subordinates.

Managing Resistance to Change

People are always reluctant to embrace change. They may resist change by showing various symptoms, such as poor performance, disinterest in the work, increased absenteeism, shutdowns, and strikes. No organization can implement change successfully without the consent of employees. Therefore, it is important for organizations to manage resistance to change. Organizations use various ways to manage resistance to change. Some of them are as follows:

  • Facilitation: Managers/leaders should facilitate change by working with employees and helping them to adapt to change easily.

  • Education: Managers/leaders should make employees aware of the reasons for change, the benefits of the change to be implemented, the skills required to implement the change, etc.

  • Involvement: Managers/ leaders should involve employees in planning and implementing change by asking for their valuable suggestions and ideas.

  • Negotiation: Managers/leaders should always have a discussion with employees for reaching a mutual agreement to change.

  • Training programs: People should be well-trained to implement the change. Regular meetings, communication, team-building, and coaching should be arranged so that employees can accept the change easily.

Change Management and Organisational Development

The two terms change management and organizational development are always confused with each other. However, there are certain similarities and differences between the two. Before understanding the similarities and differences, let us define these concepts.

  • Change management: It is a systematic process of dealing with change.

  • Organizational development: It is an approach to enhance organizational effectiveness using behavioral science knowledge.

Similarities Between Change Management And Organisational Development

  • Both change management and organizational development lay emphasis on improving the performance and efficiency of an organization.

  • Both involve a sequential order of planned actions and a set of processes.

  • Both rely on effective leadership to be implemented successfully.

Differences Between Change Management And Organisational Development

  • Change management can take place at individual and group levels, whereas organizational development focuses on the forces that impact the organization as a whole.

  • Successful change transforms the way an organization thinks and works. On the other hand, organizational development helps in stimulating change within the organization and managing it effectively.

  • Change management focuses on cost, quality, and stringent schedules, while organizational development emphasizes behavioral science values, human potential, participation, and transfer of skills.

  • Change management specifically deals with the issues rose in an organization, while organizational development involves detailed diagnosis to find out the underlying causes of the presenting problem.

Role of Leaders in Change Management

Change management nowadays has become one of the most prominent areas of concern for an organization. In an organization, change takes place at three levels, namely individual, group, and organizational. At every level, it is the responsibility of leaders to manage people and encourage them to work towards the change to be implemented by the organization. Change cannot be implemented without leadership efforts.

Leaders are known as Champions of Change- as it is the top management of any organization who keeps the process of change going on and maintain the operational reliability of the organization.

Nadler & Nadler

In an organization, people always like to follow the path of superiors who inspire them. Thus, it is important for leaders to become role models and to be willing to accept the change first. Then only, leaders would be able to inspire others to embrace change. Leaders should create a sense of urgency for change and show their commitment to implementing the change successfully.

Change is a planned activity that requires priorities, timelines, and responsibilities. Thus, leaders need to delegate a certain degree of decision-making authority to employees so that the change can be implemented successfully. Leaders can manage change effectively if they have a clear vision as well as a set of skills and capabilities.

As per Ajaiyi, a change leader should have the following capabilities:

  • Superhuman determination to make change happen
  • Persistence
  • Stamina
  • Sufficient mandate that stems from personal change
  • First-rate intelligence

Leaders play a vital role in transforming a traditional organization into a learning organization. They are called the promoter of change or change agents for modern organizations.

The change is a planned activity and leaders are the change agents. The change process is the responsibility of both leaders and employees. Leaders should adopt an appropriate leadership style for attracting teams and adapting them to change. The leadership style should be customized as per the behavior of employees in a particular organization. The success of change management depends on the way the leader leads their team and stimulates them towards the change process.

Article Source
  • Hannagan, T., & Bennett, R. (1995). Management (1st ed.). London: Pitman.

  • McFarland, D. (1974). Management: principles and practices (1st ed.). New York: Macmillan.

  • Pugh, D., & Mayle, D. (2009). Change management (1st ed.). Los Angeles: SAGE.

  • Aom.org, (2014). Organization Development and Change. Retrieved 4 August 2023, from http://aom.org/Divisions-and-Interest-Groups/Organization-Development-and-Change/Organization-Development-and-Change.aspx

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