What Is Change Management?

Wow! What a question! What is change management? I'd say there's a long answer and a short answer to this question. If it's the short answer you want then you might want to start here with a definition.

If you feel you need more information then stay with me because we're going to look at the longer answer on this page. This page covers:

When people ask me 'what is change management' I like to ask why they feel change needs to be managed. Sure, there are many benefits of change management. 

But to answer why we need to manage change leads to some interesting challenges to our current thinking about 'what is change management'.

New sciences are changing the way we understand the world. This, in turn, changes our expectations of what change management should deliver and how we go about managing change.

How open we are to accepting this may well depend on our ability to manage personal change. More about this later.

Let's start with a definition...

Change management is a term used to refer to the introduction of new processes in an organisation, or the management of people who are experiencing change.

My interest is in how people manage change, within an organisation, and also in personal life. A useful definition I've found that answers 'what is change management?' 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

Definitions always sound a bit formal but this one works because it's not complicated, and it tells me that change is a planned process that occurs within a specific time period.

Transition describes the process that occurs within each of us when change happens. Anticipating the process of transition and any resistance that may occur along the way is key to change management.

It's always useful to compare definitions of change management. I recommend reading more definitions of change management so that you can select a definition that best fits your needs.

What is change management? I've done the research and put the best definitions of change management here...

The Change Management Process

Change management is usually guided by a strong change management model, a framework people can use to understand the process and what is expected of them.

But it is not enough to have a model.

How you go about change management is as important as what you do.

The way you go about managing a process of change is as important as the model you choose to guide the process and understand reactions.

If you are considering leading change your ability to communicate effectively and encourage people to accept changes is vital. You need to model positive attitudes towards change and reassure others.

Learning how to go about change management is important. But it is even more important to be aware of your attitudes towards others and your attitude towards change.

Understanding your feelings and how these affect your reactions, and learning to manage these, gives you and others confidence in your ability as a leader of change.

And it powerfully enables your ability to manage personal change.

What I have found is that other personal skills are important to the change management process. Skills such as emotional intelligence, active listening and effective communication.

These are some of the basic competencies that we need to lead change, and to cope with change in our own lives.

Central to the change management process in organisations is recognising when change is needed. Further steps include:

  • deciding who needs to implement the changes (whole organization or one department)
  • selecting a model or framework to guide the process
  • deciding who is responsible for implementing the changes
  • knowing your desired outcome.

Understanding the steps involved in the change management process will help you plan your change and choose a model to guide the process.

In addition, being familiar with the stages of change that people are likely to experience as they deal with the change process will help you to put their behaviour in context.

Effective Change Management

In my experience of change, especially in large organizations, staff always complain about the communication that flows from top management to staff. They say:

  • "We never get clear answers to our questions"
  • "We're like mushrooms! Fed manure and kept in the dark"
  • "Top management avoid us and send you instead! No offence, but you can't give us the answers we need"

Poor communication leads to zero trust. It's that simple.

Effective change management requires brilliant communication. Yes, it has to be managed, and information has to be given at the right time.

But it's a fine line. Get it wrong and the change process will quickly be on the rocks.

Communication is one part of effective change management. Give yourself an edge and find out more about effective change management.

What is change management? The challenge of change.

Much of what we know about management generally, and change management specifically, has been informed by a particular way of understanding and interpreting the world.

This worldview is a scientific one described by Isaac Newton more than three centuries ago. Science has a huge impact on the way we understand the world and influences all subjects, including medicine, psychology, and yes, management.

Trouble was, not everything could be explained by Newton's laws.

To understand this scientists were forced to think differently about what they were seeing. In the first half of the twentieth century scientists began revealing a world that could not be explained using previous views of reality. Known as quantum physics and chaos theory scientists saw a world in which chaos is natural.

It's already changing our thoughts about how the world works.

With this knowledge we're asking new questions. Questions like, in a world where everything changes constantly why are we trying to manage change so carefully? What would happen if we worked with forces of change instead of trying to manage it and control it?

This new thinking is fundamental to answering 'what is change management'.

Our answers cannot be the same as they were in the past and have led to new models and ways of working that value relationships and cooperation rather than command and control. Chaos and change are interconnected, and order exists naturally.

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