What is change management?

Change management is the coordinated approach of applying systematic procedures to handle the human aspect of organizational change.

What is Change Management?

The change management process encompasses planning for change, executing it, and ensuring its permanence. The focus lies in navigating shifts in organizational effectiveness, methodologies, or technologies.

Part of change management involves adeptly handling resistance to change and minimizing disruptions to routine operations while steering towards a specific goal. The approach can differ based on the nature of change and the organizational level it impacts.

It recognizes that change can be a painful process that can have a far-reaching impact on the organization and the people who work for it.

Numerous change management models exist, each with shared fundamental elements. These include:

  • A clear understanding of the need for change. Why is the change necessary? What are the benefits of the change?
  • A plan for implementing the change. This plan should be comprehensive and detailed and consider all stakeholders’ needs.
  • Communication and engagement. Communicating digital change goals to all stakeholders and getting their buy-in is important. This will help to ensure that the change is successful.
  • Support for those affected by the change. Change can be disruptive, so supporting those affected by it is important. This support can take many forms, such as training, counseling, and peer support groups.
  • Monitoring and evaluation. It is important to monitor the change’s progress and evaluate its success. This will help to ensure that the change is on track and that it is meeting its objectives.

Change management models

Change management offers clear guidance by providing actionable steps to influence and support individuals during their transitions.

Despite its complexity and challenges, change management remains critical for organizations aiming to maintain competitiveness and success. A structured approach to navigating this process can enhance the likelihood of achieving desired outcomes.

Upon completing this comprehensive guide, you’ll gain insights into the benefits of change management processes for you and your organization. Discover the starting point for implementing holistic change management strategies to elevate your business operations and grasp the transformative power of effective change management and its role in fostering a thriving organizational environment.


What are the three types of change management?

Understanding the dynamics of change within an organization is crucial for business success. In this context, it’s particularly important to comprehend the three types of change management: developmental, transitional, and transformational.

Each type represents a different approach to implementing change, and knowing when to apply each can significantly enhance your organization’s adaptability and business resilience in the face of evolving technology landscapes.

The three types of change management:

  1. Developmental Change Management pertains to enhancing and optimizing existing processes, systems, or structures within an organization. It’s a form of continuous improvement, aiming to make incremental changes that drive efficiency and effectiveness.
  2. Transitional Change Management involves a shift from the current operational state to a completely new one. The end state is predetermined, and the organization must oversee the transition process to ensure minimal disruptions. This could involve implementing new technology, restructuring departments, or even managing mergers and acquisitions.
  3. Transformational Change Management: This denotes a radical, organization-wide change where the future state is uncertain. These adjustments are frequently made in reaction to external market disruptions or shifts in business strategy. They may entail thoroughly revamping company culture, business models, or market orientation.

Types of change management

What Are The Benefits Of The Change Management Process?

The primary objective of the change management process is to mitigate disruptions to critical operations when introducing new changes. Consider a scenario where a retail store or an office had to temporarily halt operations due to a system upgrade – this is a situation that effective change management aims to circumvent.

Change management essentially serves as a protective shield, ensuring that the essential wheels of your business keep turning even amidst significant transformations. It’s the strategy that allows you to implement new software, restructure your organization, or introduce new processes without causing a ripple in your day-to-day operations.

Change management benefits

Embracing change can be challenging, but it’s essential to business growth. The change management process provides a structured approach to implementing alterations in your organization, with numerous benefits.

Let’s delve into the benefits and understand why this process is a vital component for thriving in today’s dynamic business environment.

  • Minimized Disruptions: Whether minor or significant, change can disrupt daily operations if not managed correctly. Change management ensures a structured plan to guide the transition, thereby reducing downtime and ensuring that business operations continue seamlessly. It also identifies potential roadblocks and offers solutions to navigate them effectively.
  • Increased Employee Productivity and Morale: Employees often resist change due to fear of the unknown. However, an effective change management process involves employees right from the planning stage, making them feel valued. Clear communication about the reasons for change and how it will impact them can reduce anxiety, improve employee productivity, and increase their engagement with the process.
  • Reduced Risk: Change inherently carries risk, including the potential for lost productivity or failure to achieve desired outcomes. A well-structured change management process evaluates these risks ahead of time, putting measures in place to mitigate them. This proactive approach can greatly reduce the likelihood of change management barriers.
  • Improved Efficiency: The change management process allows organizations to review their current processes and identify areas for improvement. Organizations can significantly enhance their efficiency and productivity by implementing changes that streamline operations, eliminating redundancies, and improving workflows.
  • Better Adaptability: In today’s fast-paced business environment, adaptability is key to survival. Organizations with a strong change management process can more quickly and effectively adapt to new technologies, market trends, and regulatory changes. This adaptability can give them a significant competitive edge.
  • Enhanced Customer Experience: Disruptions can negatively impact the customer experience, leading to dissatisfied customers. With effective change management, disruptions are minimized, ensuring that the quality of customer service remains high throughout the transition. This can result in improved customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Greater Competitive Advantage: Companies that manage change effectively use agile methodologies that allow them to be more competitive. They are better equipped to meet customer demands, seize new opportunities, and stay ahead of competitors. They can react faster to market changes, seize new opportunities, and stay ahead of competitors. In this way, effective change management can provide a substantial competitive advantage.
  • Cost Savings: Unmanaged change can be costly due to lost productivity, errors, and rework. By managing change effectively, organizations can avoid these costs. Plus, the efficiency and productivity improvements resulting from well-managed change can lead to further cost savings in the long term.

Individual vs. Organizational Change Management

Change management models can be applied at both the individual and organizational levels. In a sense, the two are opposites, focusing on a top-down approach that prioritizes the entire organization and taking the bottom-up approach, which puts the individual employee first.

Both individual and organizational change management are valid approaches, but the ideal strategy would combine the two. Let’s examine their differences and what might cause you to lean either way.


Individual Change Management

Individual change management focuses on the people involved in the change process. It considers the mindset of those individuals and aims to provide them with support throughout the process. Recognizing that people instinctively resist change, whether intentionally or not, it seeks to educate and train individuals to increase their preparedness.

As employees often work in teams, applying concepts should be consistent for everyone. This means that personalization may not be as prominent in the initial stages as one might expect. Being overly specific or creating individualized plans can lead to micromanagement and unnecessarily complex strategies that are unlikely to be realistically implemented. Therefore, finding a balance is crucial when adopting this approach.

Organizational Change Management

Organizational change management is the top-down approach I mentioned before. It first looks at the change from the organization’s perspective, applying principles to create a framework for change within the entire organization.

While individual change management is often considered more flexible and less robotic, the alternative approach possesses its merits. By effectively communicating your vision to each department, you can ensure they remain aligned with your desired outcomes rather than solely fixating on the change itself. This fosters a more holistic approach to achieving your objectives.

It’s no use having gone to all the effort of adding a new computer application to speed up a process if the team using it implements it in such a way that it wastes as much time as it saves. The Organizational change management team monitors the big picture, what you want to get out of planned changes, and how you might achieve it.

Change Management Roles

Change management has different sides of it, depending on what role you have within an organization. With the ultimate goal being to keep things running smoothly and prevent any setbacks from change, you’ll need to think about change in different ways depending on where you stand.

Fortunately, most of the basic tenets of change management apply across all roles. Keep things running, minimize resistance, and don’t keep your team in the dark – these are all factors you’ll need to consider no matter who you are.

Change Management Roles

We’ve identified the most important change management roles so that you can adjust your mindset and approach accordingly when it comes to change:

  1. Change Sponsor: The Change Sponsor is a high-ranking executive who provides strategic direction and resources for the change initiative. They act as the driving force behind the change, using their influence to build consensus among other leaders. This role is critical in establishing the change effort’s legitimacy and addressing organizational resistance at the top level.
  2. Change Manager or Change Agent: The Change Manager, also known as a Change Agent, is the architect of the change process. Their responsibilities encompass designing the change management strategy, coordinating communications, orchestrating training programs, mitigating risks, and monitoring progress. They are pivotal in aligning the change initiative with organizational goals and ensuring its successful execution.
  3. Project Manager: The Project Manager is responsible for the tactical aspects of the change, such as implementing new systems or restructuring processes. They collaborate closely with the Change Manager to ensure that the technical aspects of the change align seamlessly with the people-oriented aspects. Their role is instrumental in translating the vision of the change into tangible actions.
  4. Change Advisory Board (CAB): The Change Advisory Board is a cross-functional team that assesses proposed changes based on their potential impact on different areas of the organization. The CAB ensures that all changes are evaluated from multiple perspectives, helping to avoid unintended consequences and optimize the benefits of the change.
  5. Change Management Team: The Change Management Team assists the Change Manager in executing the change management plan. This team plays a multifaceted role, including disseminating information, facilitating training sessions, providing coaching, and managing resistance. Their collective efforts help to foster a positive change environment and ease the transition.
  6. Stakeholders: Stakeholders are individuals or groups with a vested interest in the outcome of the change. They can include employees, managers, customers, suppliers, and even regulators. Stakeholders’ active participation, feedback, and adaptation to new ways of working are crucial for the change to take root and for the organization to reap its benefits.
  7. End-Users: End-users are the individuals who will be directly using the new processes, systems, or tools. Their understanding and adoption of the change are paramount to its success. Ensuring that end-users are well-equipped to operate in the changed environment is a key responsibility of the change management team.

Each of these roles is integral to the intricate machinery of change management. Together, they work towards minimizing disruptions, maximizing benefits, and ultimately, ensuring the successful implementation of change.

That being said, let’s dive into some of the more specific sides of change management and how key organizational roles can use it.

Change Management For Project Managers

As a project manager, you’re in charge of a team or department overseeing a project. Whether you’re managing the project for a client or upper management, there are several ways in which change might occur and that you might cope with it:


Sometimes, you’re unsure what will happen next within a project. Will the client choose option A or B? Will a certain process you’ve designed work or not? Anticipating changes that might come and roughly planning around them is key to project management, as it keeps the entire thing from grinding to a halt at the first sign of trouble.


Despite your best efforts, no one can account for everything. Unseen factors, unexpected outcomes, and more change will come that you didn’t expect to happen. Planning around that change is called reactive change management. It’s the least ideal of all approaches since the project, or parts of the project, will be halted when unexpected events happen, but it is absolutely necessary to get it right.

In some cases, you can also take an iterative approach to reactive change management. If something goes wrong, you can re-evaluate the process and tweak it as needed instead of completely abandoning the project for a new one.


Sometimes, changes don’t just come from inside your organization; they might be external factors like technological changes, the economy, or new regulations. This is where adaptive change management comes into play; it’s not just about anticipating changes but also responding to external forces and adapting appropriately.

For example, if a certain data protection law is imposed on your organization, you’d need to adjust all processes within the organization accordingly.


When introducing changes, you don’t always want to make changes all at once. Changing out a process or project factor completely overnight may be the fastest way to do things, but the impact on your project will be huge. By altering your project one small step at a time, you minimize these disruptions and keep your team on track.

If you’re simply looking to change the scope of a project rather than abandon it and start a new one, it’s likely that all work done up to this point is still relevant and can be tweaked to fit the new direction over time. Incremental change might take longer overall, but it’s much easier to deal with daily and will cause your team much fewer headaches.

Change Management For Software Developers

Change management in software development is much easier to track than in other fields since you’re looking at a tangible product that can be defined and documented over time.

In this field, change regularly comes, with technological limitations and client-requested alterations being all too common.

Software developers have a fortunate advantage when it comes to managing employees. The dynamic nature of software development makes it akin to scientific research rather than conventional product design. Consequently, your team is accustomed to change and requires minimal supervision when dealing with minor modifications.

This inherent adaptability ensures a smooth workflow and facilitates efficient progress. Generally, you can break down change management in software development into several steps that need to occur:

  • A team member or client creating requests for change
  • Reviewing said request for feasibility
  • Planning the change, specifically how the code would need to be altered
  • Testing the change to make sure that it works as intended
  • Proposing the change to either the client, manager, etc.
  • Implementing the change, effectively replacing the old code with the new
  • Checking that the new code doesn’t have any unforeseen consequences on your software as a whole
  • Finishing up the process once you’re satisfied bugs are minimal


If the code fails any checks, it is either re-done or the change proposal is simply scrapped.

In software development, change often arises unexpectedly, whether due to bugs, budget constraints, or issues with key performance indicators. Preparing for such changes is crucial in this field, as they can arise without warning.

change management in software development

Change Management For IT Infrastructure

In the realm of IT infrastructure, the impact of your work extends beyond yourself. While this holds true for many fields, it is particularly magnified in the IT industry. Ensuring the correct execution of your tasks carries a weighty significance.

The majority of departments within your organization rely on computer-based processes. When implementing changes, it is crucial to do so in a manner that minimizes disruption not only to your own department but also to others.

Change management in IT comes in three types, according to the ITIL framework:

  • Standard changes: These are low-risk, common pre-approved changes that have already gone through risk management. Standard changes follow a well-defined, quick, and easy process, for instance, swapping out a broken component or creating a new database.
  • Normal changes: These are similarly routine as standard changes a lot of the time but don’t have a pre-approved process. Whether unexpected or simply because they can’t be anticipated, normal changes tend to be once-off rather than repeatable. Upgrading a computer to work on the next version of Windows would be an example of a normal change.
  • Emergency changes: This is where things become challenging. Emergency changes do not follow a pre-approved process as they occur due to unexpected errors or threats that require immediate attention. They also have a shorter timescale compared to normal changes because they often result in crashes or significant errors within databases. Examples of this type of change include a server outage or an emergency patch.

The categorization of changes during fall is typically self-explanatory, although there can be some overlaps.

It is possible to encounter errors during system upgrades that may warrant classification as emergency changes or similar. In general, it is advisable to maintain a flexible approach and to consider risk assessments when implementing anything other than standard changes.

Change management in IT

Implementing Change: Delivering New Employee Models

It’s very rare for anyone to work in a vacuum anymore.

The age of looking down from the ivory tower is gone – teamwork and collaboration are the names of the game. This applies anywhere from the smallest teams to the level of corporations – you can’t expect to thrive if your workforce stagnates.

Whether it’s contracting outside help or adding additional members, you need to constantly update if you want to be the cream of the crop.

That being said, any kind of improvement to your workforce is, by definition, a change. Thus, change management should be used when approaching and engaging this concept.

Implementing Change Management

Access To Evolving Skills

In the age of technology, skills are constantly evolving and changing when new software releases come into play or new features become available. Even jobs that you might think of as wholly divorced from higher technology, such as farming or mining, can take advantage of the internet for weather predictions, figuring out what conditions are taking place in the upcoming days and the precautions they’ll need to implement.

Training employees on non-existent software is impossible. Moreover, skills that are currently overlooked in the field may be disregarded by your team. It is crucial to stay informed about new releases, features, and advancements in your technology, ensuring your team remains current. Initially perceived as a quirk, such features may become essential, requiring effective change management to determine the boundaries.

Consider the contrast between mechanical checkouts and barcode scanning ones. Initially, some may have dismissed barcode scanning as a passing trend. After all, why invest in implementing a new system when a skilled cashier can operate a mechanical checkout just as efficiently?

However, with the benefit of hindsight, we now recognize their indispensability in any modern store. Organizations that fail to embrace this technology risk falling behind in the competitive landscape.


As mentioned previously, working together is key in today’s day and age. However, a lot of people have trouble with this concept, preferring to work alone and on their own little section of your organization. This isn’t always feasible, especially when organizations collaborate with others.

The issue comes to light when you consider that everything is interconnected. Take the example of software development – you can write a piece of code that perfectly follows your own organization’s standards. Still, if you’re working with another organization, it must fit theirs too. 

Fail to communicate or collaborate successfully, and you’ll probably end up with code that’s not worth the pixels it’s written with.

Change management is key to collaboration for many reasons, the foremost one being that collaboration takes different approaches each time. You might be the project lead on one occasion and take a back seat on another. You’ve successfully reduced confusion and possible misunderstandings by keeping your team up to date and knowing exactly what is going on.

Building The Talent Pool

Of course, not all of your work can be done inside your organization. No matter how big you are, there’s always something that will crop up that you don’t have an expert in or want a second opinion on. A talent pool is a list of outside talent you have previously worked with and can potentially contact to join you temporarily or permanently.

A talent acquisition strategy should be in place for recruiting new staff, which includes a change management process. This ensures that your recruiting team is aware of the changes taking place in the industry and can find the right candidates to fill any gaps you may have.

Change management applies here just as much as in any other place in your organization. Adding new people into an existing workflow is disruptive, especially if your team members have to change how they do things to account for the new factor. There’s an entire industry based around employee onboarding, but very few seem to consider the existing ones too.

The Binding Principles Of Managing Change

Change management is simple in theory. You manage change by taking into account the factors involved. Change management principles are relatively straightforward, as they’re the four steps you need to take to create a successful change management strategy.

The steps, accompanied by introspective questions, are presented in sequential order:

  • Understanding: Why do you need the change? What do you hope to get out of it? How will it affect your organization on the individual and the whole?
  • Planning: How do you plan to implement the change? What obstacles can you see that might affect your plan? Who is best placed to supervise the change?
  • Implementing: What are the success criteria? What change management model will you be using?
  • Communicating: Are your employees fully aware of the necessity for change? Are they on board with it or resisting? Are stakeholders satisfied with the change?

Change management steps

If you encounter difficulties in either of the latter two stages, return to the planning stages and reassess your situation. There’s no shame in admitting that you can’t consider every factor involved and plans sometimes go through several iterations before completion.


Change Management & Digital Transformation

Embracing the intersection of change management and digital transformation is the pivotal key to driving successful business evolution. This confluence of technology and human elements creates a robust framework for a future-ready organization.

The initial point of convergence is in organizational alignment. Digital transformation is not merely about integrating new technologies but also aligning them with overarching business goals. Change management is crucial in ensuring this alignment and preparing the organization, its processes, and its people for the impending technological ecosystem.

During a digital shift, the established habits of employees can make change daunting, often causing significant resistance. This challenge highlights another intersection between change management and digital transformation. Effective strategies like empathetic communication, comprehensive training, and constant support can help organizations lessen this resistance. These tactics also encourage acceptance and speed up the adoption of new digital practices.

Next, adaptability emerges as a critical intersection point. Given that digital transformation often involves trial and error, organizations must be adaptable. Here, change management provides a valuable framework, enabling organizations to adjust their strategies based on real-time feedback and evolving market dynamics.

Risk management forms another shared ground between digital transformation and change management. Both involve a degree of risk, from technical glitches to employee pushback. Organizations can anticipate, prepare for, and mitigate these risks by incorporating change management principles into digital transformation initiatives, ensuring a smoother transition.

Lastly, the intersection manifests in measuring success. Both realms require clear metrics to assess progress and outcomes. Change management assists in defining these success parameters, tracking progress, and making necessary adjustments to the digital transformation strategy.

Change Management & Digital Adoption

Change management and digital adoption are inherently connected as they both aim to enhance business operations and outcomes by transitioning to new methods or technologies.

When a business introduces new digital tools, it’s not just about the technology; it’s also about the people who will use it. The tool itself may be highly efficient and potentially transformative, but the benefits cannot be realized if employees resist using it. This is where change management comes in. It aims to ease this transition, addressing employee concerns and resistance, ensuring understanding of the new tools, and facilitating their effective use.

Change management strategies, such as communication, employee training, and support, drive digital adoption. Clear communication about why the change is happening, the benefits, and how to use the new tools can reduce resistance and increase buy-in. Training ensures employees have the skills to use the latest tools effectively, while ongoing support helps address any issues or challenges during the transition.

In turn, successful digital adoption can reinforce change management efforts. As employees begin to see the benefits of the new digital tools – such as increased efficiency or ease of tasks – this can create a positive feedback loop, encouraging further adoption and openness to future changes.

What’s Next For Change Management?

The future of change management is poised to be deeply entwined with the ongoing digital revolution.

As digital transformation accelerates, change management transitions from being a singular project to an ongoing process. Organizations are expected to be adaptable, flexible, and primed to embrace change as a constant. This paradigm shift towards continuous change management necessitates a different mindset where readiness for change becomes a core competency ingrained within an organization’s culture and operational fabric.

People remain pivotal in driving successful change. While technology can facilitate change, it’s ultimately the people who implement it. Future strategies in change management will underscore the significance of the human element – comprehending employee needs, addressing resistance, and cultivating engagement. The communication narrative will extend beyond just sharing information about the changes; it will involve explaining the rationale behind the changes, the benefits they offer, and the adaptation path.

Change management is set to become increasingly data-driven. As organizations enhance their capabilities in capturing and analyzing data, they can harness these insights to drive decision-making and measure the impact of their change initiatives more accurately. This allows for developing more targeted and effective change strategies, ensuring resources are utilized optimally and efforts are directed where they yield the greatest impact.

Resilience is also expected to become a focal point in change management. Recent events have underscored the importance of responding and adapting to unforeseen changes. Resilience isn’t merely about recovering from change; it involves learning, growing, and strengthening through the process.

To conclude, the future of change management is about embracing continuous change, prioritizing the human element, leveraging data, and fostering resilience. Businesses that can navigate these trends effectively will be well-positioned to thrive amidst future changes, whatever they may be.

As a discipline and industry, change management will continue to evolve in tandem with these trends, shaping and being shaped by them in a dynamic exchange.


Updated: November 09, 2023

Join the industry leaders in digital adoption