Virtually every organization will undergo a change or transition at some point to scale and remain viable. It might be driven by merging with another company, growing a department, or changing the trajectory of your company to evolve.

Unfortunately, organizational transition can be quite intimidating to adapt for the employees who find themselves negatively impacted. Thus, as a manager supervising the organizational change or guiding important to know how and what you should expect.

What is Change Management?

Change management, at a project level or an organizational level, is an enabling framework that manages the people's side of change.

An organizational change fundamentally refers to an action in which a corporation alters a major and prominent component of its - such as its infrastructure, culture, and underlying internal processes.

And organizational change management is a method that can guide an organizational transition to a successful resolution.

It can vary depending on the type of change you're pertaining to. For example, according to Dr. Kotter, organization change management can be initiated and integrated through eight phases:

  • Creating a sense of urgency
  • Building a guiding coalition
  • Forming a strategic perspective
  • Enlist leaders who can volunteer for the change
  • Removing barriers related to the transition
  • Celebrating short-term and long-term goals
  • Sustaining acceleration regarding the change
  • Instituting change within your organization

The Five Principles of Change Management

The effort required to execute a sustainable change initiative and accomplish the objectives successfully is often underestimated by organizations.

Like migrating to a new enterprise platform, the failure to lead the project across stakeholders might potentially impact the operational success eventually.

Hence, investing early with a well-defined and clear plan will certainly help you support sustainable change in your corporation. And the same is true for change management.

A successful change, in general, requires a people-centric approach and covering a set of five principles, -

1: Situational Awareness

Before you begin working with your change management plan, it’s important to understand the current situation of your organization. Ask yourself -

  • Is your company ready to undergo the entire change process?
  • Will your employees accept how you want to execute the change?

You can get these answers through the following types of diagnostics -

  • External diagnostics involves talking to the personal and professional networks of the business to identify ideas from everywhere. It will let you know how your decision will affect the external segments of your business.
  • Internal diagnostics involves conducting focus groups and surveys to uncover not only pain points but also the strengths of the organization.

2: Sharing Ownership

Sharing ownership is all about keeping everyone in the loop of the change to get their support and keep them engaged during the change. Communicating with clarity and consistency to engage throughout all organization levels reduces misinterpretation and strengthens the support for change to happen.

Shared or collective visioning is about conversing with everyone about your plan and co-creating the future together. Besides using organization wide surveys, focus group discussions help to deep dive into specific areas for better insights.

3: Relational Intelligence

Foster a spirit of belonging is crucial especially when teams are disbanded or new teams are formed during and organization change. Some handy ideas that leaders can use to build team bonds is to apply these principles:-

  • Engage in difficult conversations by focusing on the problem, not the person
  • Adopt an inclusive approach in problem solving and spurring alternative views beyond the tried and tested
  • Situationally different personalities and group dynamics to determine what leadership style works best to galvanize a team

4: Measure What Matters

Establishing the right metrics will help you coach and direct the behavior of your employees to lead to the desired outcomes. In this case, it’s crucial to consider three aspects when you’re deciding what you want to measure for change implementation -

  • Re-defines metrics and help the see the relevance of the new indicators from their job value perspectives
  • Constantly invite feedback to identify the relevant skills needed to develop new capabilities to achieve the goals
  • Agree from the onset how you and your team will monitor key milestones and stay adaptive to deliver on the outcomes

Expect resistance when new targets and performance measures are introduced but see this as a feedback to provide leadership support to help them success. Assure employees that you are setting them up for success, not failure.

5: Sustaining the Change Momentum

The acid test of experiencing change success lies in the visible transformation experienced throughout the organization. Here are 5 ways to create a cadence and embed the continuity of transformation, throughout the change journey:

  • Coaching at all levels of the organization
  • Celebrating quick wins within and across teams
  • Continuously communicating with feedback and feedforward
  • Learn how to manage resistance productively
  • Invest in developing a culture of teamwork and camaraderie


Levels of Change Management

According to Prosci, change management in an organization usually occurs on three different levels, including - individual level, initiative or project level, and enterprise. Each of these are interrelated, but they generally emphasize on different aspects.

1: The ‘Individual’ Level

The change in your organization always begins at the individual level. In order to manage it effectively, you ‘ll need to understand how an employee is experiencing the change and whether they need support or not. Be intentional with your approach by asking the following questions: 

  • What kind of messages do people want to hear?
  • When should you send the messages and to whom?
  • When is the ideal time to teach someone a new skill?
  • How might we coach people to adopt a new behavior?
  • How do you sustain the change and achieve results?

Managing individual change can be done through the ADKAR model developed by Prosci. You can find more about it in the ‘What are the Change Management Tools’ written below.

2: The ‘Project’ Level

At the next level, groups tend to follow a structured change in the management process.

Whilst almost every type of change happens on an individual basis, most project teams would focus on the change impacting the team as a whole.

The crucial 3 prong approach for project level change management comprises the following areas:

  • Identifying the groups of employees who has to adapt to a change
  • Understanding how the changes are going to affect the entire team
  • Creating a customized plan for the change and supporting it till the end

3: The ‘Enterprise’ Level

The enterprise level of change management primarily focuses on managing the competency or an area of core capability. Although maintaining the proficiency of your organization can’t be achieved instantly, you can accelerate the process by -

  • Consistently applying change management to various initiatives
  • Embedding change management into structures, roles, and processes
  • Training everyone to help them learn the important skills to adopt to the change

Organization who also integrate the Agile approach into their change strategy seeks to be nimble and adaptive. This, in turn, can help them respond to abrupt market changes, adopt technologies, embrace marketing and strategic changes, without affecting their productivity.

Humanizing Your Change Management Strategy

Being able to manage change, especially at an organizational level, is vital. Yet, when tried, around 70% of the change projects failed in their endeavor.

While communication can definitely be an issue here, most cases of failure happen due to following an inflexible and rigid strategy. 

People generally don’t like to change. Now, you throw in an accommodating change structure in front of them, it will be impossible for you to get their absolute support.

Failing to identify resistance and resolving it can be another reason behind failing. So, it’ll be important for you to humanize your change management strategy so that you are ready for every possible obstacle in your way.

Why Should You Care About It?

The employees are the cornerstone of any organization. Hence, reframing the change initiative from the organizational and the people perspectives increases the probability of success for everyone vested. 

Helping your people become ready for the change ahead can reduce avoidable resistance as their understanding of the case for change and the value for their career can help increase their desire to adopt and adapt.

Apart from that, it can also help them -

  • Understanding the reason behind the change
  • Trying to accept it and
  • Attempting to adapt to the entire process

Here's how you can humanize your change management strategy:

  • Focus on the purpose of the change and communicate it with your employees during and till the end of the transition period
  • Show the opportunities for change through visualization while encouraging training and experimentation
  • Talk about the plan for your project with everyone and ask them to offer their input, as it will make them feel more valued to the company

How to Implement a Change Management Plan?

Creating a change management plan will be essential for managing the core change process and helps you have control over your projects, and resources. It can also minimize the overall impact of the change on your business, customers, employees, and other stakeholders.

Creating a change management plan is done through three different steps, including -

1: Prepare Your Organization for the Change

In the preparation stage, the manager of your organization focuses on recognizing the need for change. 

When the employees are aware of the justification at an organization level, further communications and engagement are needed to motivate them to see the value at a personal and job level. 

The leader of the team manager in charge becomes pivotal to understanding the fears and doubts. With empathy, leaders who are open to their feedback will find the inputs helpful to alleviate their fears and doubts.

2: Create a Vision and Plan

When it comes to executing a major organizational change, having a vision regarding the end result and how it’s going to benefit everyone is important. 

Conversely, creating a plan will ensure that you‘re working in a structured format to complete the change implementation successfully. It might also quicken the entire process. Furthermore, it can also help you use your time more efficiently and avoid resource wastage.

The plan must entail the following -

  • A set of strategic goals
  • KPIs, or key performance indicators
  • The project management team and stakeholders
  • The scope of the initiative

3: Integrate the Change Internally

Once you have a concrete plan in place and have communicated it with your team, it’s time to start implementing it internally. Here, ‘internally’ means within the organization.

You can start by applying the change in a single sector of your organization and observe the response and reception how your employees are reacting. Adopting a systems thinking when considering the following elements critical to making change workable across people, performance and processes.The three elements are as follows:

  • The structure of the company
  • Employee behaviors
  • Processes, systems, and organizational strategies

Try to empower your employees, in order to get adapted to the change, by conducting various training sessions. This way, they’ll get more skillful and adapt to a technical change quickly.

Unavoidable Challenges in Change Management

Consider both hard and soft factors when assessing the challenges of change management, t. The soft factors relate to the motivation, culture, morale and the other metrics that aren’t visible.

The hard factors are about the technical systems, structures and tools that support the modus operandi, operating principles and workflow of the organization. Both hard and soft factors work together and hence challenges are unavoidable. 

1: Ineffective Communication 

Communication, and the lack of it, causes rumors and misinformation that spreads like wildfire. Effective communications focuses on providing information helpful for all to understand the what and why of the change journey.

In some cases, a change management strategy can also fizzle out due to not talking or communicating enough after an initiative has been announced. For example, even if you have announced something in a staff meeting, you should still reinforce the message through an organizational email. 

Following up through an one-on-one meeting with key stakeholders and leaders of the company can also be quite beneficial for you.

Inadequate communication, especially at an organizational level, can result in utter confusion and chaos. Due to not understanding the reason behind the change, most people will try to resist it, which might result in a strategic failure. 

Therefore, it is important to come ready with the impact on the roles and responsibilities of people impacted by the change.

2: Setting Unrealistic Expectations

When beginning with a change initiative, many people tend to push everything a little too fast and hard at first. However, rushing through a change can lead to mistakes or might remove the opportunity to respond aptly to the changing events/

Additionally, moving too quickly through a change may also burn out your employees. The pressure to do too much in a short span of time can come in two phases -

  • Rapid change in the operational department is needed to stay competitive in the market. Waiting too much to launch a product can affect your chance to be the connoisseur in your industry.
  • Many executives often ignore how much time it might take to implement a change or how expensive the entire process can be. Sometimes, they also tend to overestimate the end result quite a lot.

3: Resistant Attitude and Culture

When you are implementing a change, it'll be common to see people resisting it. After all, when a change is occurring, almost everyone starts pondering about how their livelihood will be affected after that. And that’s why they tend to question it.

You have to consider it carefully, though. Make sure to talk to each and every one and enquire about how you can help them. Listening to their problems, understanding the reasons behind it and solving all of them can be quite beneficial on both parties’ ends too.

Overcoming The Change Management Challenge

Communicating isn’t the only issue that may arise during an organizational change implementation. Employee resistance might occur even when everyone knows why you are bringing in the change. That’s because some of them might not like the idea to get away from their known working ecosystem while others may find the change to be non-beneficial for their personal cause.

Due to this reason, it’s best to learn about the reason behind the resistance before taking steps against it. Here are the other solutions that can participate in this case too:

1: Putting Your People (Not the Process) First

It will make everyone believe that you're not only thinking about the organization but about the employees too. Hence, when the transition is still ongoing, make sure to reward everyone whenever you reach a goal - be it a short-term or a long-term one.

2: Leveraging a Proper Communication Channel

Always have more than one communication channel at your disposal. So, even if one of them breaks down, you will always have another one to follow up with. Make sure that all of your channels can be used without making too much preparation.

Top Three Change Management Models

The change management models offer various guidelines to help an organization get through the steps of a change by improving their planning sequence. 

They can also ensure that your organization’s workflow is intact, even when you’re still implementing the change.

1: ADKAR Model

The ADKAR model developed by Prosci is employed as a coaching tool to ensure that people are involved in a process and have trust in the organizational change.

It allows leaders and the people with the responsibility of change management to create a structured plan of activities to drive both individual and organizational change.

ADKAR stands for -

  • A (Awareness): In this stage, you'll need to communicate clearly with your employees about the change. In addition to this, you should also share why you consider the change to be important.
  • D (Desire): It’s all about inspiring desire amongst your people (motivate). This might prompt them to support the change and play their part naturally in the transition.
  • K (Knowledge): Train your employees to improve their skill set and adapt to the change and motivate them. And it'll be done through coaching programs, job aids, tutorials, checklists, etc.
  • A (Ability): Focus on helping your employees even further and improving their capabilities through evaluations and feedback. It’ll help them work efficiently with the system and ensure that their productivity isn’t going down.
  • R (Reinforcement): Reinforce the organizational changes and ensure that your employees don't go back to their old ways. Giving rewards and incentives might be helpful in this aspect too.

2: Lewin's Change Model

The Lewin’s Change Model can develop a way to illustrate how an employee may react when they are facing a change. It tries to take care of how a person thinks and help them understand the change’s core benefits in a structured manner.

  • The first step of Lewin’s Change Model is all about preparing the corporation to believe that change is necessary. It involves breaking down the current status quo prior to developing a new way of operating. So, in this stage, it’s important to focus on planning the change and find out its pros and cons.
  • After the dilemma created in the previous stage (unfreeze), the second phase (change) will try to resolve that uncertainty. To accept the change, people must understand how it may benefit them. Due to this reason, it will be important for you to communicate with them and clear their confusions.
  • The final stage (refreeze) tries to institutionalize and internalize the changes accordingly. It means that changes are being used all the time and they are being incorporated in your everyday business. This stage will bring in a new sense of stability and make employees feel confident and comfortable.

3: Kotter's 8-Step Change Model

Kotter’s 8-step model is specifically designed to assist leaders implement organizational and project-based change successfully. The cornerstone of this model is mostly about creating an urgency to make the change happen in eight steps. Here is what it may include -

  • Creating a sense of urgency regarding the project
  • Building a proper guiding coalition
  • Forming a strategic vision regarding the change 
  • Communicate the said vision to your audience and clarify their confusion
  • Remove the obstacles that create roadblocks and slow down the process 
  • Create short-term goals and offer rewards to everyone upon completion 
  • Keep up with the “change momentum” through the entire process
  • Maintain the changes even after the initial implementation is complete