What Is a Change Management Process and How Does It Work?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published May 22, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Most businesses implement regular changes to stay current within the industry. Having a process for implementing these changes can help employees adopt them more efficiently. Learning more about the process of change management can help you to implement it in the workplace. In this article, we discuss what a change management process is, describe the different types of change management, explain how to implement the process successfully, and explore the benefits of having an established process.

What is a change management process?

A change management process is a collection of activities intended to support groups, organizations, and individuals during business transitions. These transitions include changes to business models, technologies, or procedures. When businesses change the way they function, the success of the change is reliant on how well its members adopt the new practices. While it's primarily a way to support the human element in the process, change management also involves reallocating resources and assisting with the implementation of new technologies. When businesses identify a need for change management, they may organize a team or hire a consultant to oversee the process.

The principles of change management are:

  • Implementation

  • Collaboration and communication

  • Organization

  • Goal identification

Related: Promoting Collaboration in the Workplace: All You Need to Know

Types of change management

Change typically occurs at different levels within an organization. The three common types of change management are:

Individual change management

Individual change management focuses on helping employees adopt the change effectively. It's typically integrated with organizational change management, and it helps improve the chances that the change may be successful. Individuals typically need the following five pieces of information to adopt changes successfully:

  • Awareness of the need for the change

  • Desire to support and adopt the change

  • Knowledge on how to implement the change

  • Ability to implement the skills or behaviours required for the change

  • Reinforcement to sustain the change permanently

Organizational change management

Organizational change management can occur once the management team addresses individual change. For example, a business may adjust certain procedures or company policies to reflect these changes. Organizational change is typically adaptive or transformational. Adaptive changes are small changes that occur gradually, such as hiring new employees to address an increase in demand. Transformational changes are typically larger, such as launching a new product line.

Enterprise change management

Enterprise change management addresses changes that impact the entire company. Organizational changes typically focus on one department, whereas enterprise changes are more significant. An example of an enterprise change is when a new owner purchases a company and makes various changes to reflect their preferences.

How to establish a change management process

Below are six steps to effective organizational change management:

1. Identify goals

Establishing why changes are necessary within a company is typically the first step to identifying the project goals. Organizations implement changes when the processes they use no longer offer the desired results. Gathering relevant data can help establish why an existing model is no longer successful. This may be more apparent in some instances than in others. For example, machinery breakdown may be a more obvious indicator than customer service ratings. Data can come in the form of customer surveys, financial statements, or other sources. Competitor information can also explain how other businesses accomplish the same goals.

After gathering data and clarifying the issue, the change management team can brainstorm possible solutions and choose the one that best fits the company's business model. Using the SMART method ensures the company sets goals that are:

  • Specific: Specific goals clarify exactly what a company aims to achieve and how it can get there.

  • Measurable: Measurable goals give companies an idea of how they're progressing towards their target.

  • Attainable: When goals are attainable, they typically boost morale and energize the project team.

  • Relevant: Relevant goals can offer solutions to the issue that the change aims to resolve.

  • Time-bound: Deadlines add urgency to projects and ensure teams can complete them within a reasonable timeframe.

Here are a few examples of change management goals that a business might implement:

  • establishing simpler business processes over six months by focusing on the ones that add the most value

  • reducing workplace incidents by 100% within a year by implementing and training employees on new, fail-safe procedures

  • repositioning the company to appeal to younger audiences by updating the business model and training employees on new procedures

Related: SMART Goals: Objectives for Your Career

2. Determine how the change may impact the organization

Most implemented changes impact an organization in some way. Determining the scope of that impact can help everyone in the team prepare more effectively. This may involve speaking with leaders within an organization. Companies may conduct interviews or meet with stakeholders to ask them how they see the change affecting the organization.

Businesses can also look at similar changes that they've made in the past and the impact that they had. For example, a company may decide to downsize again after already downsizing in the past by merging two departments. Analyzing data collected after the original downsizing, such as employee retention rates or the company's income and expenses, can help to determine the impact this change may have on the company again.

3. Assemble a change management team

The size of an organization and the scope of the project determine the number of members in a change team. A larger, multifaceted team increases the overall complexity of the project, so it's important for a change management leader to thoroughly understand the project's scale. The team may consist of leaders who understand how the organization functions and can effectively communicate what the change is and why it's needed. They typically have the job expertise needed for the planning and implementation stages.

A change management team may include the following members:

  • A sponsor: A sponsor is a high-level member of the organization, such as an executive officer. They are usually an avid supporter of the change and are willing and able to communicate it to other executive members and stakeholders effectively.

  • A project manager: The project manager is the leader of the change team and the overall project. They recruit key members and keep the project on schedule.

  • Change team leadership: The change team leadership includes individuals suited to the type of change. For example, it could include an appointed financial analyst to track budgeting and resources and someone who is proficient in information technology.

  • Change team members: Change team members are those who carry out general tasks related to the change and assist with the transition. They may be people who answer employee concerns or undertake training sessions.

Change membership teams are typically fluid, and members of the team may leave or join as the project grows and approaches its deadline.

Related: How to Become a Project Manager (With Salary Expectations)

4. Develop a strategy

Developing a step-by-step strategy to implement changes can help ensure employees adopt them. This strategy may include information about goals, communication plans, and potential solutions to challenges that may arise. It may also include information about what steps employees can take to adopt the change, such as additional training. Using the SMART goals model can help to formulate a detailed strategy.

Related: What Is Strategic Planning? (With Benefits)

5. Implement the plan

After developing a strategy, the change management team can begin to implement the plan. It may be helpful to start with the easiest objectives first to ease employees into the change and boost the change management team's confidence. For example, the team could write and distribute a newsletter describing the change. Starting with one task at a time allows the change management team to receive feedback on each stage of the change implementation and adjust future tasks accordingly.

6. Perform a post-transition review

After implementing the plan, it's important to review how successfully employees adopted the change. Here are some examples of measures that can indicate a successful transition:

  • Customer retention rates increase

  • Social media engagement increases

  • Work-related incidents decrease

  • Sales and revenue increase

What are the benefits of change management?

Understanding the benefits of change management can help a company decide if they require an established change management process. An effective process can help a company:

  • Implement change easily without it impacting day-to-day operations

  • Anticipate challenges ahead of time and develop effective solutions

  • Implement change quicker by following established processes

  • Increase the chance of success and return on investment

  • Meet industry and customer demands more effectively

  • Offer support to employees and inform them of why the change is important

  • Improve trust and collaboration among employees

  • Reduce any concerns related to change

  • Improve communication among employees

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