What is Change Management?

In the coming weeks,
our Wednesday Blog will be dedicated to discussing
Change Management. 
We’ll be helping you answer questions such as:

●      How can my organization implement change management?

●      How will we deal with some common problems we may encounter during the process?

●      How can we help employees adjust to these changes successfully?

But first, what is Change Management?

Change management refers to how we approach transitioning individuals in an organization while adopting changes to better that organization. If we’re steering a ship and need to change direction, we need to be sure everyone is on board and aware of the new course the ship will take.

People often bristle or shy away when just the word “change” is mentioned in an organization, so we must find a way to reduce the stress that can accompany these adjustments. Employees in an organization will need guidance and support to make these changes successful.

The History of Change Management

Is this a new idea?

Obviously, change itself is not new to organizations, but how we see change and adjust to it have become more complex. Over the past 100+ years, we have learned about how people cope with change and then learned how to apply it to help make changes within organizations more successful.

Early Research

Scholars have looked at how individuals cope with change since at least the early 20th century. Most, if not all, seem to agree that there are stages individuals go through when facing and making changes. The names of these stages vary, but they center around three main ideas:

●      Before change

●      Making the change

●      After change

All information gathered and presented at this point really centered around how individuals themselves experience change in general, not really yet applying it to adjustments within organizations.

Change Management Introduced

This idea of guiding individuals through the process of change in an organization emerged in the 1990s. Businesses began to recognize that employees needed support and encouragement during what can be a very high-stress period of time in an organization. Prior to this, focus was on what changes needed to be made within a company and not necessarily on how these changes could affect the people and culture of that company.

One early success story in the realm of change management is G.E. They recognized the need for major changes within the company in the 80s and 90s to keep up with what was going on in the world.  Under the leadership of Jack Welch, who recognized that there is a human side of change, G.E. made successful adjustments within the company and even began consulting with other companies to assist in their change management as well.

Also in the 90s, articles and books that centered on the idea of change management were published. These included Managing at the Speed of Change by Daryl Conner and Changing the Way We Change by Jeanenne LaMarsh. These works and others like them helped leadership in organizations recognize that change needed to be more guided if it was to be successful.

Another well-known development during this time period is the publication of the best-selling book Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson. Johnson tells the story of four beings in a maze looking for cheese and the difference in how they see the cheese as it relates to themselves. The idea is that change will occur no matter what.  It’s how people see that change and react to it that makes a difference.

Change Management Today

Today, we have a more structured and formalized understanding of change management. As businesses began to recognize more and more the need to involve employees in changes made within the organization, processes on how to best do this were developed. Change management has become its own discipline with its own professional organizations.

Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts
— Arnold Bennett

Whether we see change as a blessing or a curse, it is a necessity. Businesses need to face change head-on if they want to survive - and even thrive. Our fast-paced world is constantly changing and so must organizations.  Helping individuals within the organization recognize this and work towards it is essential to change management.

As we get ready to take a more in-depth look at change management in the coming weeks, step back and take a look at where your business or organization is.  Are there changes that need to be made to ensure its success?