Get all the facts about the Change Management Process

With the benefits of the change management process knowledge under your hat, you can better define change management strategies and methodologies that make sense for your business.

The 'how to' for implementing change management models theories and strategies is clearer and easier.

My Presentation of the Change Management Process

That said, for me, the change management process is easier discussed than implemented because there are so many different possible approaches to go about achieving the same result.

There are so many that when I first began to write about the change management process I was concerned. How could I explain this most clearly and concisely because the process varies from situation to situation?

The result? Present my understanding and experience as I know it as a change management consultant.

Why? Because it is clear to me that understanding the change management process is an excellent starting point for leaders, managers and business people making sense of change management and business improvement. And it is very useful for putting all of the other knowledge I am providing here at my change management consultant website into perspective.

Introduction to the Change Management Process

Most simply stated, the change management process is the process we go through over a period time in moving from A to B. But this definition of the change management process, however correct, is far too simplistic.

Why? Regardless of what the situation may be, the change management process is at the core of all organizational change initiatives and business improvement programs. It might be relevant in somebody's job, a work group, a division, or an entire company. It may be a new strategy, a new product, or a new operating method, etc.

All, new initiatives, improvements, adjustments, etc in a business necessitate that they go through some organizational change process experience.

But trying to explain the change control process and why and how companies change is an occupation for management academics all over the world and explanations of why this happens is not what we are interested in here. In tune with the rest of my change management consultant website, I am keeping my explanation real and practical.

Making sense of the Change Management Process

The sequence of steps in the change management process can vary greatly and have varying levels difficulty to manage depending on what is changing and the type of change. So going forward, from the beginning let's agree together to accept the following points:

The change management process in any two circumstances will always be different depending on:

  • What initiated the change, i.e. what was the incentive for it, and

  • Where we are in the business cycle i.e. the reason that the incentive came about.

  • These points help determine the sequence of steps that will be the organizational change process in your business.

    Further, let's agree:

  • There are no pre established rules or obvious logical directions or ordered process of steps and phases. It comes back to the incentive and purpose for the change.

  • The change management process is not like a KPI that is a definite measure or an athletic track event where the path is clearly defined.

  • All we really know is there is a set of business considerations that we focus on when we set out on the change management process.

  • To get to our end point in the change management process:

  • We need to focus on what is necessary to achieve the reason why we are going through the change.

  • We need to focus on what is required to achieve our end goal.

  • We must remain focused and ensure we do not to get caught up in all the other things going on around us in the business. And we must not get caught up in the daily spin.

  • Important side note: organizations hiring consultants should be aware that the daily spin cycle is a favorite of consulting firms aiming to undertake long-term heavily resourced assignments. Rather organizations should focus on planned actions implemented daily by the consulting firm that move the organization closer towards the end goal.

    Going forward there are various aspects of work that need to be performed, milestones that have to be achieved, and depending on the situation, various components that need to be built into the process or obtained for the goal to be achieved. And there is a whole range of equally effective or organizationally efficient ways to do either of these things to achieve the end goal.

    So in making sense of the change management process let's view it as and a series of travels, a series of forward moving actions towards a goal or a purpose or a new function or so on.

    Additional essential agreeable points are:

  • The change management process occurs at various levels depending on what is being reviewed or analyzed for change. So understanding the change management process requires also that we must understand what level is being considered and further how the different levels within the organization interrelate with each other.

  • The change management process depends on what resources are used to undertake the change.

  • There is an absence of black and white orders and processes for how the organization may obtain the resources to make the achievement possible.

  • For many firms, from the outset they must recognize that the company is going to have limitations on the resources it can use and on the actions it can take with those resources. There will be existing constraints. They may be political or financial or legal but there will be constraints on resources and on how they can be used.

  • There may be conflicts within the organization, maybe conflicting goals and timelines, or competition for resources, so there is the additional requirement to balance the power and influence of the various types of stakeholders and this requires a balance between satisfying the needs of stakeholders and achieving the goal.

  • We can see from my explanation above that explaining the change management process is different from out-lining pre-defined change management strategies or change management theories or a set of pre-determined organizational change management methodologies. It is hands on in the circumstances of the time and touches on many facets of the business.

    Skills and Knowledge of the Change Management Process

    Change ProcessesStakeholdersBenchmarkingBrainstorming
    Organizational Change ProcessStakeholder AnalysisBenchmarkingWhat is Brainstorming
    Business Change Management ProcessNeeds of Stakeholders Benchmarking and Best PracticesBrainstorming Activities
    Change Request ProcessStakeholder DefinitionBenefits of BenchmarkingBrainstorming Diagram
    Kubler-RossStakeholder ModelBenchmarking DefinitionBrainstorming Examples
    Stakeholder TheoryBenchmarking ProcessesBrainstorming Games
    Benchmarking ResourcesBrainstorming Methods
    Benchmarking SystemBrainstorming Process
    Brainstorming Rules
    Brainstorming Techniques
    Brainstorming Tools

    Focusing on and Measuring the Change Management Process

    This is a critical point and is actually what much of discussion of the change management process touches on.

    That is, we can measure of view anything now, and then measure it again later over any set of company dimensions, KPI's (Key Performance Indicators), etc and if the results are different in some way it has changed.

    If we review what happened in the time between the two measures we can review the change management process for that particular thing.

    The point here is that most business improvement and change management efforts focus on the difference, they focus on the gain or the improvement, how did it happen, what occurred for us to move from A to B, what are the outcomes and consequences of it, positive, negative or the same, etc.

    However when we are considering and focusing on the change management process, we have to try to minimize the focus on the differences and the two measuring end points. We should focus mostly on the actual process of change itself. We cannot get fixated on measuring points, and get caught up in the habits of daily progress reporting.

    For example; when reviewing the change management process and developing our own internal strategies for managing change we would focus on, is the process planned or unplanned, incremental or radical and is this a recurring change or an unprecedented event for the business. So from this focus we can develop change management strategies for our business that are going to be successful for us given our situation.

    With this understanding some examples of changes that we can develop best practice change management approaches for, to help us guarantee successful organizational change, include:

  • Change to people, recruitment, lay-offs and the allocation of human resources among departments.
  • Changes in operations strategy, daily working duties, and operations management tools.
  • Changes in company structure, organization decision making, formalization of rules, monitoring and control systems and the status or power among positions.

  • Changes in the functions (organization or subunit) strategies, goals, products or services.
  • Changes in boundaries bought about by mergers, acquisitions, divestment of business units and joint ventures.
  • Change in the relationship among organization levels, increases or decreases in resource dependence, work flows, communication, cooperation and culture.
  • Changes in performance, including effectiveness (degree of output), efficiency (cost per unit of output) and employee morale, and job satisfaction and working life.
  • Changes in the business environment, uncertainty and complexity.

  • Planned or Unplanned Change Management Process

    Is the change planned or unplanned? The change management process planned or unplanned can take either or a combination of:

    1. A top down, deliberate, possibly company wide, specific target approach; or

    2. A bottom up approach using a range of different teamwork and operations management tools to help individual participants make decisions themselves, solve operations management problems, and overcome resistance to change and resolve conflicts, etc to fulfill the role needed to implement a change.

    The approach to the change management process tends to be different whether top down or bottom up and depending on if it change is planned or unplanned.

    Incremental or Radical Change Management Process

    Is the change going to be incremental or radical?

    A very stable and most predictable way to change is when the change management process is incremental. It is the little bit-by-bit changes which are urging and driving and directing the thing being changed into a direction towards the goal. In a sense we are changing to the way we want to be whilst we maintain it as it is.

    This is very different to a radical change. Within the change management process when changes are radical we have the aim or goal but because the change is so radical we cannot make exacting predictions.

    With a radical change new organizational things or activities are developed and created along the way. And then they stop and new things or activities are developed and created and so on. We are leaving that first point and not able to prescribe or predict exactly where we are going to end. There is a non-continuing cycle of unpredictable change management activities and events.

    Let me expand on this with an example to combine the two.

    Take a change management process made up of small incremental changes with a continuing focus in one small focal part of the organization. It could be achieved without having any effect on any part of the wider organization. So even though this is happening inside the company the broader company remains the same, and possible unaware.

    However, the process would be significantly different if it were going to radically effect the whole organization. However by undertaking radical changes in planned incremental steps we can ensure the company remains stable.

    Unprecedented vs. Routine Changes

    Is the change unprecedented or a routine change?

    Occasionally companies experience unprecedented changes for which no established routines or procedures exist. They include many planned (as well as unplanned) changes in company creation, innovation, turnaround, reengineering, organizational culture change management transformations, mergers, divestures, or any other issue the organization may not have experienced previously.

    The processes through which these unprecedented changes unfold are far more complex and unpredictable than routine changes because they require developing and implementing new ways of doing things, while routine changes involve using tried and tested internal routines.

    Unprecedented changes require the creative side of the company people, organizational innovation, and possibly new material resources. Whereas routine changes involve the reproduction of existing resources or processes and are business as usual.

    Complexity of the Change Management Process into Manageable Bits for Making Sense of Change Management

    To reduce the complexity of the change going forward regardless of the type of changes, companies typically break down the process into manageable chucks.

    The breakdown considers stakeholder analysis, benchmarking and best practices, brainstorming techniques for idea generation, goal setting time management plans, leadership training exercises and operations management training such as training of the qualities of a good supervisor, techniques for effective communication, strategies for managing resistance to change and awareness of the involved team members managing personal change, decision making steps and so on.

    Because changes within a company must have a purpose that people within the company have taken it on to achieve, companies should develop a vision to reach the goal. They should monitor movements and their progression towards achieving it by using regular action review meetings with a combining top-down and bottom-up style, KPI's, project management dashboards and dashboard metrics, and so on.


    From many variables I have explained above, we can summarize the change management process into a repeating cycle of:

    1. Forming a goal.
    2. Taking implementation action towards achieving it.
    3. Then evaluating performance.
    4. Modifying either the actions or the goal depending on what has been learnt.

    We can see from the above explanation that managing change management involves managing this cycle of variation, selection and retention. And it can be either incremental or radical change but it will not fundamentally change the change management process itself.

    Additional things that will affect the change management process for your organization include:

    1. If the change is natural and logical or if institutional rules exist that are forcing and regulating the process.

    2. If the desired goal has been constructed by all stakeholders and a consensus has emerged on the means and resources to reach the goal.

    3. If there are conflicting parties and an aggressor party is are sufficiently powerful and can choose to either engage the opposition party through direct confrontation, bargaining, or supporting mutual adjustment.

    4. When there are multiple parties competing for the same limited scarce resources.

    Important note: What I have tried to do above is to layout the change management process in a way that helps you establish an understanding and a degree of analysis and detail that is necessary for you in your own organization. It is not a case of one process fits all. We must aim to determine our companies need for change in line with the business strategy, the business structure, and the people.

    We then from that point develop the most practicle approach for the business.

    Further detailed Information on the Change Management Processes

    Undertake an organizational change process similar to the John Kotter change management model.

    Implementing the 'A-B-C-D' business change management process that is great for SME's and business units driving internal change.

    Implementing organizational change and the change request process businesses undertake to decide to implement change.

    Managing personal change from mechanically doing something to commitment. The human change model from un-comfort to comfort. The behavioral change process.

    Emphasize with people and the 'Elisabeth Kubler-Ross stages of grief'. A process that people may experience when dealing with change that has a negative outcome for them.

    Determine and develop your organizations change management methodologies. What type of management operating system will your organization implement to develop a culture in which change is continually embraced? What change management tools will you use to get started and use on a regular basis.

    Establish the need for change management on an ongoing basis by reviewing KPI key performance indicators, doing internal benchmarking and stakeholder analysis.

    Determine the type of change management strategy for your organization in consideration of company size, time frame, resistance to change, in house skills, dollar value, resources availability, etc.

    Develop the change management plan that is supported by management to succeed, including the desired outcomes, operational teams, coaching requirements, the project management steps and the project management metrics, measuring and reporting, etc.

    Hire an internal change agent or external Change Management Consultant / Change Management Specialist with the skills to work with all involved through both through the change management process and the content of what is being changed.

    Prepare for managing resistance to change with staff involvement and responsibility in the development and implementation of change management activities.

    Establish techniques for effective communication in the workplace by identifying communication barriers, developing a communication model and coaching communication skill builders whenever necessary.

    Define the difference between leadership and management and the effective leadership styles and good leadership skills for successful organizational change.

    Create your change management policy template to identify and control all procedures and risks associated with a change. To best facilitate your organizational change process and to achieve sustainable results faster.

    Begin the change management process, the action phase of using various operations management tools, gaining broad consensus, implementing changes and improvements, and managing the change and transition.

    Audit your change management model for effectiveness and sustainability. Review the goals of the change management process against the outcomes, the deliverables, the physical 'as was' against the 'as is', and the efficiency and effectiveness of the new business systems and processes, carry out skills audits, and identify additional areas for continued change.

    Skills and Knowledge of the Change Management Process

    Change ProcessesStakeholdersBenchmarkingBrainstorming
    Organizational Change ProcessStakeholder AnalysisBenchmarkingWhat is Brainstorming
    Business Change Management ProcessNeeds of Stakeholders Benchmarking and Best PracticesBrainstorming Activities
    Change Request ProcessStakeholder DefinitionBenefits of BenchmarkingBrainstorming Diagram
    Kubler-RossStakeholder ModelBenchmarking DefinitionBrainstorming Examples
    Stakeholder TheoryBenchmarking ProcessesBrainstorming Games
    Benchmarking ResourcesBrainstorming Methods
    Benchmarking SystemBrainstorming Process
    Brainstorming Rules
    Brainstorming Techniques
    Brainstorming Tools

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