What is the Change Management Approach?

What is the Change Management Approach?

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Syed Aquib Ur
Syed Aquib Ur Rahman
Assistant Manager
Updated on Feb 15, 2024 18:14 IST

Change is constant for organisations and change management is a learnable skill set that allows leaders to smoothly facilitate transitions, overcome barriers and gain employee buy-in to drive successful outcomes. Investing in developing expertise in this area through quality courses yields valuable dividends.

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The most basic explanation of change management or CM is that it facilitates an organisational change successfully from beginning to end. This includes planning and executing the actions through proven techniques to achieve a positive outcome.

Change management is effective when both employees and management adopt it together. Here, strong leadership, effective decision-making, and teamwork are necessary.  

Change management is not limited to restructuring the role hierarchy as and when top-level management guides. The purpose can also be meeting the market’s demands or staying ahead of the competition. 

Put simply, there are different types of organisational changes, internally and externally. Adopting and implementing new technology (or software) across the organisation is a simple example of change. 

On the flip side, employees tend to remain suspicious about organisational change. For that, a company or the leaders should take the proper measures to help employees reliably go through the process. 

This blog explains how change management is carried out smoothly by adopting standard management practices. You should also be able to grasp what is considered a change, how it impacts a workforce individually, and the common barriers to address. 

What is Change Management?

Change management refers to preparing, planning, implementing, and managing organisational changes. It involves creating a structured approach to transitioning individuals, teams, and the organisation from the current state to a desired future state. 

What Does Change Mean in an Organisation?

Below is a more clarified but theoretical definition by Francis and Sinclair is 

“Organisational change is an ongoing process of social construction that comprises spiral patterns of discursive change and restructuring of collective meanings.”

Common Types of Organisational Change 

Type Examples
Strategic Modifying rules, policies, regulations, and/or overall company structure
Personnel-Focused Hiring new personnel, determining leave policies
Technological Introducing new software like CRM or replacing old software
Transformational Taking action based on the dynamics of the business environment
Remedial Responding to issues identified quickly with planned solutions
Unplanned Responding to unprecedented events globally and economically, like COVID-19

Popular Change Management Frameworks

Kurt Lewin Change Management Model

Kurt Lewin proposed a three-stage model of change management that is widely adopted. To describe this change management framework, he used the analogy of how an ice block transforms into a cone of ice by unfreezing to explain the organisational change process.

Unfreezing

The first stage of organisational change is unfreezing. The focus is on preparing people for upcoming changes by raising their awareness and willingness to embrace new working methods. Effective business communication is vital in gaining people’s support and involvement.

Change 

The second stage is the actual implementation of the change, also known as the change or transition stage. Careful planning, effective communication, and encouraging individuals to endorse the change are essential during this stage. It can be challenging due to uncertainties and fear of consequences.

Refreezing 

In the third and final stage, called freeze or refreezing, people move from the transition stage to a more stable state of equilibrium. This stage marks the acceptance and internalization of the new ways of working, making it an integral part of their lives and establishing new relationships.

Kotter’s 8-Step Change Process

In his pioneering book, Leading Change, Harvard professor John Kotter describes eight steps of change management based on exhaustive research on 100 organisations going through change. 

Kotter’s model for organisational change involves eight steps. 

Creating Urgency

To identify potential threats and opportunities, initiate honest dialogue, and request the involvement and support of key stakeholders. 

Building Guiding Team

To form a powerful guiding coalition by identifying effective change leaders and building a team with influential people from various departments. 

Developing a Vision

Developing a vision and strategy, ensuring that the vision can be easily understood and communicated to others. 

Communicating the Vision

Communicating the vision effectively, handling concerns and issues with honesty and involvement. 

Removing Barriers

Remove obstacles and barriers to change by aligning organisational processes with the overall vision and rewarding those who endorse and support change.

Focusing on Short-Term Wins

Creating short-term wins by setting achievable targets and rewarding those who meet them. 

Consolidating Gains

Consolidating gains by analysing individual success stories and improving from them. 

Anchoring Change

Anchoring change in the corporate culture by discussing successful change initiatives and ensuring ongoing support from company leaders is critical. 

Common Barriers to Change Management

These are the usual barriers to change on an organisational level, along with examples of top companies that could not adapt to change. 

Barrier Example
Resistance to change Kodak failed to adapt to the shift from film to digital photography, despite being the inventor of the digital camera
Ineffective communication or lack of transparency Sears struggled with poor communication and transparency during its efforts to transform its business model and compete with online retailers.
Lack of employee involvement BlackBerry struggled with a lack of employee participation and innovation during the rise of the iPhone and Android, resulting in a significant loss of market share.
Insufficient resources or support Target struggled with inadequate staffing and training during its transition to a new point-of-sale system, resulting in significant delays and lost sales.
Organisational culture General Motors struggled with a culture that emphasised internal competition and bureaucracy instead of innovation and customer focus, leading to a decline in market share and eventual bankruptcy.
Poor planning or execution McDonald’s faced backlash and lost sales due to poor execution of its introduction of all-day breakfast and other menu changes.
Inadequate leadership Volkswagen struggled with inadequate leadership and change management during the emissions scandal, resulting in significant financial penalties and damage to its reputation.

Importance of Change Management

Change management reduces the negative impact of change. It maximises the benefits by addressing the people and cultural aspects of the change and the technical or procedural aspects. 

Change is a constant and necessary aspect of business, but it can also be challenging and disruptive if not managed effectively. 

Through planned change management processes and strategies, organisations can minimise resistance, improve communication, build buy-in and support, and ensure that the change is implemented smoothly and effectively.

In short, change management can improve efficiency, productivity, innovation, customer satisfaction, and organisational performance.

How do Leaders Approach Change Management?

Change management is one of the most important leadership skills that HR leaders/managers, team leaders, general managers, and mid-to-senior level leaders must have. 

See how leaders should approach organisational change. 

Vision and Engagement

Leaders are visionaries and are expected to help the organisation’s people navigate the change smoothly.  

This is possible by reaching out to the first level of management, who handle day-to-day operations, manage resources, and are the conduit between upper and lower-level employees. 

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Leaders should be able to evaluate what employees feel about change and communicate how the change will help them. Without an overarching vision that benefits both employees and organisation, there will be resistance to change. 

The vision should be clear, and leaders should know the hows and whys of change, along with the preferred communication mediums of people. These steps are necessary for opening up opportunities for employee engagement and allowing them to discuss challenges openly. 

Clear Communication

It’s lack of clarity that makes change management a failure. Leaders must be accountable for the challenges that employees face. They should also publicly recognise the employees’ milestones to strengthen the vision and encourage the other employees. 

Inspire through Action

Leading by example is a crucial criterion for managing change. Because it is the behavioural traits that can inspire people to go through change. 

There must be ample self-awareness among leaders, too. 

Learning to Implement Change Management

To advance your change management and leadership skills, taking courses is a perfect way. Lucky for you, beginner to advanced change management courses are available on many platforms, including Udemy, FutureLearn, and Talent Edge. 

You can check out the Leadership Skills and Change Management in Uncertain Times course on FutureLearn. Without any prerequisites, this course is for two weeks but you can complete it faster if you will to. 

And the talks are from global leaders, including the former director of CIA and the former Chairperson of Qantas Airways. You will get ample insights on crisis management and leadership. 

Now the above course is for every level of professionals and freshers, you can go for advanced course such as XLRI – Executive Development Program in Leadership & Change Management. Offered by Talent Edge, the course is of 5-6 months with live lectures and periodic assessments and projects. This course is for you if you are in a mid-to-senior level managerial role. 

About the Author
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Syed Aquib Ur Rahman
Assistant Manager

Aquib is a seasoned wordsmith, having penned countless blogs for Indian and international brands. These days, he's all about digital marketing and core management subjects - not to mention his unwavering commitment ... Read Full Bio