Definition Of Change Management

If you're looking for a single definition of change management you're going to get frustrated. It just doesn't exist!

What you will find are a wide variety of definitions that define change and change management.

At best, they're short and easy to understand. At worst they're complicated in-depth academic definitions.

You'd have to read a lot of information to find a change management definition that meets your needs. I know because I've done it!

To save you time I've added the best of what I've found on this page. As you read you'll see that definitions emphasise different aspects of change management but they all make similar points in different ways.

Why are there so many definitions?

The reason for so many definitions of change management is that 'change management' is a term used to describe change at both the individual and organisational level.

For example, the term Change Management is used to describe:

  1. The task of managing change;
  2. An area of professional practice;
  3. A body of knowledge (consisting of models, methods, techniques, and other tools); and
  4. A control mechanism (consisting of requirements, standards, processes and procedures).
    Nickols, F (2010). Change Management 101: A Primer
    (.pdf document: 526.24KB)

Change Management is also used to describe the process of following change in computerised systems, logging best practices or system upgrades, for example.

My focus on this page is to define change management as it relates to people's experience and the organizational process.

My favorite definition...

A useful definition of change management that I use is:

'the coordination of a structured period of transition from situation A to situation B in order to achieve lasting change within an organization'.
(BNET Business Dictionary)

There may be a better change management definition out there but I use this one because it fits with my KISS principle - you know, Keep It Short and Simple.

That helps me remember it, and it makes sense when you read it. You don't have to read it five times and then nod your head knowingly even though you don't get it. It just makes sense.

The best definitions I've found...

To help you in your search for a definition of change management here are others I've found to be useful:

The systematic approach and application of knowledge, tools and resources to deal with change. Change management means defining and adopting corporate strategies, structures, procedures and technologies to deal with changes in external conditions and the business environment.
SHRM Glossary of Human Resources Terms,

Change management is the process, tools and techniques to manage the people-side of business change to achieve the required business outcome, and to realize that business change effectively within the social infrastructure of the workplace.
Change Management Learning Center

Change Management: activities involved in (1) defining and instilling new values, attitudes, norms, and behaviors within an organization that support new ways of doing work and overcome resistance to change; (2) building consensus among customers and stakeholders on specific changes designed to better meet their needs; and (3) planning, testing, and implementing all aspects of the transition from one organizational structure or business process to another.

...a systematic approach to dealing with change, both from the perspective of an organization and on the individual level...proactively addressing adapting to change, controlling change, and effecting change.
Case Western Reserve University

Change management is a systematic approach to dealing with change, both from the perspective of an organization and on the individual level.

Prosci's definition of change managementProsci's definition of change management

Find a definition of change management

The organized, systematic application of the knowledge, tools, and resources needed to effect change in the people who will be impacted by it.
Lamarsh Global

The systematic management of a new business model integration into an organization and the ability to adapt this change into the organization so that the transformation enhances the organizational relationships with all its constituents.

Change Management: the process, tools and techniques to manage the people-side of change processes, to achieve the required outcomes, and to realize the change effectively within individuals, teams, and the wider systems.

Change management is a structured approach to transitioning individuals, teams, and organizations from a current state to a desired future state. The current definition of Change Management includes both organizational change management processes and individual change management models, which together are used to manage the people side of change.

Minimizing resistance to organizational change through involvement of key players and stakeholders.

Change management is a style of management that aims to encourage organizations and individuals to deal effectively with the changes taking place in their work.
English Collins Dictionary

As you search for a definition of change management be aware of the different contexts in which the term is used so that you find a change management definition that fits your needs.

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