Change management

Change management (sometimes abbreviated as CM) is a collective term for all approaches to prepare, support, and help individuals, teams, and organizations in making organizational change. Drivers of change may include the ongoing evolution of technology, internal reviews of processes, crisis response, customer demand changes, competitive pressure, acquisitions and mergers, and organizational restructuring.[1] It includes methods that redirect or redefine the use of resources, business process, budget allocations, or other modes of operation that significantly change a company or organization. Organizational change management (OCM) considers the full organization and what needs to change,[2] while change management may be used solely to refer to how people and teams are affected by such organizational transition. It deals with many different disciplines, from behavioral and social sciences to information technology and business solutions.

In a project-management context, the term "change management" may be used as an alternative to change control processes wherein changes to the scope of a project are formally introduced and approved.[3][4]



Many change management models and processes are based with their roots in grief studies. As consultants saw a correlation between grieving from health-related issues and grieving among employees in an organization due to loss of jobs and departments, many early change models captured the full range of human emotions as employees mourned job-related transitions.[5]

In his work on diffusion of innovations, Everett Rogers posited that change must be understood in the context of time, communication channels, and its impact on all affected participants. Placing people at the core of change thinking was a fundamental contribution to developing the concept of change management. He proposed the descriptive Adopter groups of how people respond to change: Innovators, Early Adopters, Early Majority, Late Majority and Laggards.[6]


McKinsey & Company consultant Julien Phillips published a change management model in 1982 in the journal Human Resource Management.[7]

Robert Marshak has since credited the big six accounting and consulting firms with adopting the work of early organizational change pioneers, such as Daryl Conner and Don Harrison, thereby contributing to the legitimization of a whole change management industry when they branded their re-engineering services as change management in the 1980s.[8]


In his 1993 book, Managing at the Speed of Change, Daryl Conner coined the term 'burning platform' based on the 1988 North Sea Piper Alpha oil rig fire. He went on to found Conner Partners in 1994, focusing on the human performance and adoption techniques that would help ensure technology innovations were absorbed and adopted as best as possible.[9] The first State of the Change Management Industry report was published in the Consultants News in February 1995.[10]


Linda Ackerman Anderson states in Beyond Change Management that in the late 1980s and early 1990s, top leaders, growing dissatisfied with the failures of creating and implementing changes in a top-down fashion, created the role of the change leader to take responsibility for the human side of change.[11]


In Australia, change management is now recognised as a formal vocation through the work of Christina Dean with the Australian government in establishing national competency standards and academic programmes from diploma to masters level.[12]

In response to continuing reports of the failure of large-scale top-down plan-driven change programmes,[13] innovative change practitioners have been reporting success with applying Lean and Agile principles to the field of change management.[14][15]

The Association of Change Management Professionals (ACMP) announced a new certification to enhance the profession: Certified Change Management Professional (CCMP) in 2016.[16]


Organizational change management employs a structured approach to ensure that changes are documented and implemented smoothly and successfully to achieve lasting benefits.[citation needed]

Reasons for change

Globalization and constant innovation of technology result in a constantly evolving business environment. Phenomena such as social media and mobile adaptability have revolutionized business and the effect of this is an ever-increasing need for change, and therefore change management. The growth in technology also has a secondary effect of increasing the availability and therefore accountability of knowledge. Easily accessible information has resulted in unprecedented scrutiny from stockholders and the media and pressure on management. With the business environment experiencing so much change, organizations must then learn to become comfortable with change as well. Therefore, the ability to manage and adapt to organizational change is an essential ability required in the workplace today. However, major and rapid organizational change is profoundly difficult because the structure, culture, and routines of organizations often reflect a persistent and difficult-to-remove "imprint" of past periods, which are resistant to radical change even as the current environment of the organization changes rapidly.[17]

Due to the growth of technology, modern organizational change is largely motivated by exterior innovations rather than internal factors. When these developments occur, the organizations that adapt quickest create a competitive advantage for themselves, while the companies that refuse to change get left behind.[18] This can result in drastic profit and/or market share losses. Organizational change directly affects all departments and employees. The entire company must learn how to handle changes to the organization. The effectiveness of change management can have a strong positive or negative impact on employee morale.

Change models

There are several models of change management:

John Kotter's 8-Step Process for Leading Change
Dr. John P. Kotter, a pioneer of change management, invented the 8-Step Process for Leading Change

Dr. John P. Kotter, the Konosuke Matsushita Professor of Leadership, Emeritus, at the Harvard Business School, invented the 8-Step Process for Leading Change.[19] It consists of eight stages:

  • Create a Sense of Urgency
  • Build a Guiding Coalition
  • Form a Strategic Vision and Initiatives
  • Enlist a Volunteer Army
  • Enable Action by Removing Barriers
  • Generate Short-Term Wins
  • Sustain Acceleration
  • Institute Change
Change Management Foundation and Model

The Change Management Foundation is shaped like a pyramid with project management managing technical aspects and people implementing change at the base and leadership setting the direction at the top. The Change Management Model consists of four stages:

  • Determine Need for Change
  • Prepare & Plan for Change
  • Implement the Change
  • Sustain the Change
The Prosci ADKAR Model

The Prosci ADKAR Model is an individual change framework created by Jeff Hiatt. ADKAR is an acronym that represents the five building blocks of successful change for an individual:

  • Awareness of the need for change
  • Desire to participate and support in the change
  • Knowledge of what to do during and after the change
  • Ability to realize or implement the change as required
  • Reinforcement to ensure the results of a change continue[20][21]

The ADKAR Model is prescriptive and goal-oriented, each milestone must be achieved to define success. It uses a 1 - 5 scale to determine how strongly an individual meets the requirements of each milestone. If a person scores a three or below, that specific step must be addressed before moving forward, Prosci defines this as a barrier point.[22]

The Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle, and choosing which changes to implement

The Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) Cycle created by W. Edwards Deming

The Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle, created by W. Edwards Deming, is a management method to improve business method for control and continuous improvement of choosing which changes to implement. When determining which of the latest techniques or innovations to adopt, there are four major factors to be considered:

  • Levels, goals, and strategies
  • Measurement system
  • Sequence of steps
  • Implementation and organizational changes

Managing the change process

Change management involves collaboration between all employees, from entry-level to top-management

Although there are many types of organizational changes, the critical aspect is a company's ability to win the buy-in of their organization's employees on the change. Effectively managing organizational change is a four-step process:[23]

  • Recognizing the changes in the broader business environment
  • Developing the necessary adjustments for their company's needs
  • Training their employees on the appropriate changes[24]
  • Winning the support of the employees with the persuasiveness of the appropriate adjustments

As a multi-disciplinary practice that has evolved as a result of scholarly research, organizational change management should begin with a systematic diagnosis of the current situation in order to determine both the need for change and the capability to change. The objectives, content, and process of change should all be specified as part of a change management plan. Change management processes should include creative marketing to enable communication between changing audiences, as well as deep social understanding about leadership styles and group dynamics. As a visible track on transformation projects, organizational change management aligns groups' expectations, integrates teams, and manages employee training. It makes use of performance metrics, such as financial results, operational efficiency, leadership commitment, communication effectiveness, and the perceived need for change in order to design appropriate strategies, resolve troubled change projects, and avoid change failures.[citation needed]

Factors of successful change management

Successful change management is more likely to occur if the following are included:

  • Define measurable stakeholder aims and create a business case for their achievement (which should be continuously updated)
  • Monitor assumptions, risks, dependencies, costs, return on investment, dis-benefits and cultural issues
  • Effective communication that informs various stakeholders of the reasons for the change (why?), the benefits of successful implementation (what is in it for us, and you) as well as the details of the change (when? where? who is involved? how much will it cost? etc.)
  • Devise an effective education, training and/or skills upgrading scheme for the organization
  • Counter resistance from the employees of companies and align them to overall strategic direction of the organization
  • Provide personal counselling (if required) to alleviate any change-related fears
  • Monitoring implementation and fine-tuning as and when required[citation needed]

Reasons for failure

Research across many different lists of reasons[25] has resulted in the following - organizations:

  • Don’t get the sponsor right
  • Start on a solution before the underlying problem [that requires the change] is fully understood
  • Don’t spend time on systematically analysing the people and styles that are involved
  • Jump to a solution to the problem(s)
  • Don’t validate the proposed solutions
  • Don’t plan for certainty
  • Don’t communicate what is happening and why
  • Don’t define measurable outcomes and way-points
  • Don’t put strong governance in place, particularly around dependencies
  • Don’t deal properly with Risk and Contingency


Change management is faced with the fundamental difficulties of integration and navigation, and human factors. Change management must also take into account the human aspect where emotions and how they are handled play a significant role in implementing change successfully.


Traditionally, organizational development (OD) departments overlooked the role of infrastructure and the possibility of carrying out change through technology. Now, managers almost exclusively focus on the structural and technical components of change.[26] Alignment and integration between strategic, social, and technical components requires collaboration between people with different skill-sets.


Managing change over time, referred to as navigation, requires continuous adaptation. It requires managing projects over time against a changing context, from interorganizational factors to marketplace volatility. It also requires a balance in bureaucratic organizations between top-down and bottom-up management, ensuring employee empowerment and flexibility.[26]

Human factors

One of the major factors which hinders the change management process is people's natural tendency for inertia. Just as in Newton's first law of motion, people are resistant to change in organizations because it can be uncomfortable. The notion of doing things this way, because 'this is the way we have always done them', can be particularly hard to overcome.[27] Furthermore, in cases where a company has seen declining fortunes, for a manager or executive to view themselves as a key part of the problem can be very humbling. This issue can be exacerbated in countries where "saving face" plays a large role in inter-personal relations.

To assist with this, a number of models have been developed which help identify their readiness for change and then to recommend the steps through which they could move. A common example is ADKAR, an acronym which stands for Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability and Reinforcement.[28] This model was developed by researcher and entrepreneur Jeff Hiatt in 1996 and first published in a white paper entitled The Perfect Change in 1999.[29] Hiatt explained that the process of becoming ready for change is sequential, starting from the current level of each individual,[30] and none of the five steps could be avoided: "they cannot be skipped or reordered".[31]

As an academic discipline

The University of New South Wales offers a Graduate Certificate in Change Management (GCCM)

As change management becomes more necessary in the business cycle of organizations, it is beginning to be taught as its own academic discipline at universities. There are a growing number of universities with research units dedicated to the study of organizational change.

See also


  1. Hucmi
  2. "Home". International Organizational Change Management Institute. Retrieved 2015-12-08.
  3. Filicetti, John (August 20, 2007). "Project Management Dictionary". PM Hut. Retrieved November 16, 2009.
  4. Levin, Ginger (2012). "Embrace and Exploit Change as a Program Manager: Guidelines for Success". Project Management Institute. Archived from the original on September 30, 2013. Retrieved August 10, 2013.
  5. Welbourne, Theresa M. "Change Management Needs a Change".
  6. Rogers, Everett (16 August 2003). Diffusion of Innovations, 5th Edition. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-0-7432-5823-4.
  7. Phillips, Julien R. (1983). "Enhancing the effectiveness of organizational change management". Human Resource Management. 22 (1–2): 183–99. doi:10.1002/hrm.3930220125.
  8. Marshak, Robert J. (2005). "Contemporary Challenges to the Philosophy and Practice of Organization Development". In Bradford, David L.; Burke, W. Warner (eds.). Reinventing Organization Development: New Approaches to Change in Organizations. pp. 19–42. ISBN 978-0-7879-8159-4.
  9. Conner, Daryl (August 15, 2012). "The Real Story of the Burning Platform".
  10. Whelehan, S. (1995), "Capturing a Moving Target: Change Management", Consultants News
  11. Anderson, D.; Anderson, L. A. (2001), Beyond Change Management: Advanced Strategies for Today's Transformational Leaders, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass / Pfeiffer, ISBN 9780470891131, retrieved 2011-12-21
  12. Dean, Christina (2009). RIMER Managing Successful Change. Australia: Uniforte Pty Ltd.
  13. "Build a change platform, not a change program". McKinsey and Associates. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  14. Anderson, Jeff (2013). The Lean Change Method: Managing Agile Organizational Transformation Using Kanban, Kotter, and Lean Startup Thinking. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
  15. Little, Jason (2014). Lean Change Management: Innovative Practices For Managing Organizational Change. Happy Melly Express.
  16. "ACMP's Certified Change Management Professional programme". The Association of Change Management Professionals. Retrieved 20 November 2015.
  17. Marquis, Christopher; Tilcsik, András (2013). "Imprinting: Toward A Multilevel Theory". Academy of Management Annals: 193–243. SSRN 2198954.
  18. Skelsey, Dan (29 July 2013). "Why Do People In Business Resist Change?". Project Laneway. Retrieved 8 February 2015.
  19. Editorial Team, Mind Tools (18 February 2016). "Kotter's 8-Step Change Model". Mind Tools. Retrieved 18 February 2016.
  20. "The Prosci ADKAR Model: Why it Works".
  21. "The Prosci ADKAR Model". Prosci Tim Talks.
  22. "Individual Barriers to Change and What to do About Them".
  23. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-05-01. Retrieved 2016-03-25.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  24. Apress
  25. Wherrett, Rob (2020-02-29). "10 Reasons Why Business Transformations Fail". Retrieved March 30, 2020.
  26. Duffy, Julius. "Organizational Management" (PDF). Google Books.
  27. "Of Newton and Ostriches or; what Ive learned from a change management project". Salo Impera-Strategy consulting-business strategy-Malaysia-Singapore. Archived from the original on 2016-08-20. Retrieved 2016-07-13.
  28. Hiatt, J. M. (2006), ADKAR: a model for change in Business, Government and our Community, Prosci Learning Center
  29. Creasey, T., ADKAR, Core to the People Side of Change, Prosci, accessed 27 August 2019
  30. Bennett, John L.; Bush, Mary Wayne (2013). Coaching for Change. Routledge. p. 172. ISBN 9781136496011.
  31. Hiatt, J., The Essence of ADKAR: a model for individual change management, Prosci 2006