Change Management - An Overview


Mrs. S. Vishnuvarthani
Lecturer in Commerce
Vellalar College for Women


Change Management is not a singular concept; rather it includes a set of best practices and experiences, which are used to handle both internal as well as external changes. Change Management includes effective management of new methods and systems in an ongoing organization. Change from an existing setup to a new environment has its own set of inherent problems and the problems become multifold when applied in a service institution. It is a continuous, often contradictory process, which brings difficult challenges as well as opportunities. Change is no longer a choice. So organizations cannot avoid change. Managers, leaders have to be aware of change and take active role in anticipating, planning, facilitating and implementing organizational change through effective change management strategies. Competencies in managing change can help them to be more effective in moving the organization from the present towards the future. 

Change management is not a stand-alone process for designing a business solution. It is the processes, tools and techniques for managing the people-side of change. It is not a process improvement method. Change management is a method for reducing and managing resistance to change when implementing process, technology or organizational change. Change management is not a stand-alone technique for improving organizational performance. Change management is a necessary component for any organizational performance improvement process to succeed, including programs like: Six Sigma, Business Process Reengineering, Total Quality Management, Organizational Development, Restructuring and continuous process improvement. Change management is about managing change to realize business results.


Change management can be defined as "the process of managing changes that occur because of an event".

Karen Kaiser Clark states "Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely". Management when defined simply is nothing but making wise choices at the correct time.

Change Management includes the changes that lie within and are controlled by the organization and those that come to terms with the changes occurring in the surrounding environment i.e. the events originating outside the organization and the response to them.

The basic definition of Change management has following 3 important aspects:

  • The task of ongoing change.
  • An area of professional practice.
  • A body of knowledge.


'Managing change' refers to making of changes in a planned and managed or systematic fashion where the aim is to implement new methods and systems in an ongoing organization in a more effective manner. The content or subject matter of change management consists chiefly of the models, methods and techniques, tools, skills and other forms of knowledge that go into making up any practice. The subject matter of change management is drawn from psychology, sociology, business administration, economics, industrial engineering, systems engineering and the study of human and organizational behavior.

The rate of organizational change has not slowed in recent years, and may even be increasing. The rapid and continual innovation in technology is driving changes to organizational systems and processes. Witness the startling growth of the Internet, which is enabling much faster and easier access to knowledge; add to this the increased expectations of employees as they move more freely between organizations. And, of course, globalization has seen the tearing down of previous international market barriers. It is no wonder that relentless change has become a fact of organizational life.

While management design and implement strategies that deliver improvement in performance, they often neglect one key area for success - "Managing the change". Change management is important because understanding this change and its effect on the organization and its people minimizes disruptive aspects and enhances positive opportunities in the change process. These opportunities can include containing costs, realigning resources and respond more quickly to customer demands.

In spite of the importance and permanence of change, most change initiatives fail to deliver the expected organizational benefits. This failure occurs for a number of reasons. One might recognize one or more of these in an organization which are as follows:

  • Absence of a change champion or one who is too junior in the organization
  • Poor executive sponsorship or senior management support
  • Poor project management skills
  • Hope rested on a one-dimensional solution
  • Political infighting and tough wars
  • Poorly defined organizational objectives
  • Changing the  team through diverting to other projects

Failed change initiatives leave burned out employees, making the next change objective even more difficult to accomplish. It should come as no surprise that the fear of managing change and its impact is a leading cause of anxiety in managers.

Change management helps people to deal with change. Three key benefits are:

  • Change management can help people to recognize how powerful the human dynamics are in any change effort, how they dramatically affect the final result and how management can use that knowledge to attain the best possible out come.
  • A change management strategy can act as a map for guiding action.
  • Change management ideas and tactics can help the management to develop the relationship needed to maximize the effectiveness of a change.


Change can be better managed if categorized . Changes can be broadly categorized as:

  • Provoked by pressure or necessity
  • Induced by gentle persuasion rather than force
  • Enforced change
  • Motivation by example and evidences
  • Designed according to individual needs and requirements


Many things cause organizational change. These include:

  • challenges of growth, especially global markets
  • changes in strategy
  • technological changes
  • competitive pressures
  • customer pressure, particularly shifting markets
  • to learn new organizational behaviour and skills
  • government legislation/initiatives.

Research indicates that organizations are undergoing major change approximately once in every three years, whilst smaller changes are occurring almost continuously. There are no signs that this pace of change will slow down.


There are different strategies and procedures that are used to categorize the change environment. The relevance of different change strategies is that they build upon different assumptions about human motivation and hence willingness to engage in change at a particular point in time. These strategies are not intended to be mutually exclusive. Rather they may each be appropriate at a different stage of a particular change process. Once the environment is identified, an effective implementation plan can be composed. Five differing views are presented below.

Normative-re-educative strategy

This approach believes that changing the norms, attitudes and values of individuals will lead to changes in their behaviours. It is based upon core beliefs, values and attitudes. So change will occur as individuals change their attitudes and this leads them to want to behave differently. People are social beings and will adhere to cultural norms and values. Change is based on redefining and reinterpreting existing norms and values, and developing commitments to new ones.

Rational-empirical strategy

This strategy is based on persuasion, and assumes that individuals are rational and as such they will follow their own self-interest once this is made clear to them. The benefits of a change therefore need to be highlighted and sold to the individuals as being of personal benefit to them. People are rational and will follow their self-interest once it is revealed to them. Change is based on the communication of information and the proffering of incentives.

Power-coercive strategy

This strategy is based on the application of power, with the belief that most people are compliant to those who have greater power. A potential issue with this process is that once the power is removed, individuals may revert to previous behaviours. People are basically compliant and will generally do what they are told or can be made to do. Change is based on the exercise of authority and the imposition of sanctions.

Action-centred strategy

This focuses on the actions which include problem solving, looking at problems and focusing on remedial actions.

Environmental Adaptive Strategy

People oppose loss and disruption but they adapt readily to new circumstances. Change is based on building a new organization and gradually transferring people from the old one to the new one.


Generally speaking, there is no single change strategy. An organization can adopt a general strategy for any given situation. It can also adopt mix of strategies in special cases. The following are the factors which influence the strategy chosen to change management:

  • Degree of change

Radical space in an organization argues for an environmental-adaptive strategy. It  will change the existing on an organization and build a new one instead of trying  to transform the old one.

  • Degree of resistance

Strong resistance argues for a coupling of power-coercive and environmental- adaptive strategy. Weak resistance or concurrence argues for a combination of  empirical-rational and normative- reductive strategies.

  • Target population

Large population argues for the mix of all four strategies. Diverse population also  calls for mix of all strategies. This implies that, there should be a careful  segmentation.

  • The stakes

High stakes argue for a mix of all strategy. When stakes are high, nothing can be  left to chance. Moderate stakes calls for a power-coercive strategy.

  • The time-frame

Short-time frames argue for a power-coercive strategy. Longer time frames argue  for mix of empirical-rational, normative-re educative and environmental-adaptive  strategies.

  • Expertise

Adequate expertise at making change in an organization argues for some mix of  strategies

  • Dependency

This is a classic double-edged sword. If the organization is dependent on its  people, management's ability to command or demand is limited. Conversely, if  people are dependent upon the organization, their ability to oppose or resist is  limited.


    a) Definition phase   

This phase accurately define the change. It involves,

    • Problem specification
    • Formulation of success criteria
    • Identification of performance indicators

    b) Evaluation phase

This phase helps to,

    • Generate the options
    • Selection of appropriate techniques 

    c) Implementation phase

    • Development of implementation strategies
    • Consolidation


Teamwork is the integrating element in allowing organization members to influence and manage change through an interactive and co-operative network. The process involves the following steps:

    • A clear sense of mission or purpose is essential.
    • Build a team.
    • Clarify roles, goals and expectations of each member.
    • Increase overall organizational competency.
    • Improve communication and cooperation.
    • Collect and analyze data to develop new action.
    • Link planning and implementation.
    • Encourage feedback.
    • Connect the organization to its environment.


For change management organization will need to build knowledge and abilities in the following areas:

    • Change management team structures
    • Change management roles
    • Critical barriers to implementing change
    • Change management  planning and strategies
    • Managing  employee resistance
    • Organizational change management methodologies
    • Building executive sponsorship
    • Creating communication plans
    • Creating training and educational programs
    • Incentive and recognition programs


Three important principles are central to the change management approach which are:

  • Change management is not the goal in itself: it is a means to an end, and the end is an improvement in an organization's performance. It is about effectively managing a process that will lead to an environment where an improvement in performance can be realized.
  • The "targets" of change must play an active role in realizing the change: Successful Change projects will identify and communicate the vision, letting the employees know that they are expected and empowered to play an active role in realizing the planned benefits.
  • An organization's employees are their greatest asset: potentially, they are also the greatest challenge. For a vision to become reality, those at the "coal-face" must believe in the project and have the desire to achieve it.

STEP I: Change Management Planning

Before launching a project, the team should conduct the following:

  • Benefit Identification: The early identification and agreement to the organizational, functional and personal benefits to be produced from any change programme is essential.
  • Executive Sponsorship: The programmes must show alignment with senior management's business objectives. Gaining executive sponsorship and leadership is the first step to verify that the change to be implemented aligns with the business objectives.
  • Readiness Assessment: An assessment of the readiness of the organization to adopt the changes required will enable a realistic implementation plan to be developed.
  • Benefits Planning: Having identified the benefits of the programme, it is important to structure the plan in a way that demonstrates when and how these benefits will be delivered.
  • Resistance Management: A major obstacle to successful Change Management is employee resistance at all levels, typically due to lack of awareness about the change, comfort with the ways things are, fear of losing control or overload of current responsibilities. A strategy will be developed to reduce resistance.

STEP II: Change Management Execution

Once the project has been launched, the project should conduct the following 4 key execution steps.

  • Communications Plan: If employees know "what" the change is and "why" it's being implemented, then "how" to implement the change becomes far less challenging. We will develop a carefully structured communications plan to inform the employees about the Change Management programme and how the change will affect them.
  • Implement the Change Management Plan: The execution of the actions within the Change Management plan can be supported by continuously assessing progress and if necessary revising the plan accordingly where the aim is to equip the employees in the organization with the skills, tools & techniques required for them.
  • Education and Training Plan: A key element of the Change Management plan is the Education and Training plan, to perform an effective role within the organization once the changes have been implemented.
  • Resistance Management: By actively listening, feedback on the changes can be constantly monitored during implementation, to identify any areas where resistance is being encountered.

STEP III: Change Management Reinforcement

Once the project is complete, PMIS (Personnel Management Information System) can support clients' through 3 further steps focused upon sustaining the change. They are:

  • Measuring Benefits: Measuring the benefits delivered by the programme assessing the progress achieved against the objectives identified at the outset.
  • Identify Gaps and Manage Resistance: If the some of the anticipated benefits have not been realized this may be because of gaps in the actions undertaken or unexpected resistance. The identification of these gaps and resistance will enable the implementation of corrective actions to reinforce the change.
  • Reinforcing Change: Having achieved the new behaviors, process, practices etc, it is all too common for organizations to slip back to operating and behaving along the original familiar lines.

On a regular basis, monitor the organizational performance relative to the goals of the Change Management project, developing where appropriate corrective actions to reinforce the desired changes.


The honest answer is that you manage it pretty much the same way you'd manage anything else of a turbulent, messy, chaotic nature, that is, you don't really manage it, and you grapple with it. It's more a matter of leadership ability than management skill. 

  • The first thing to do is jump in. You can't do anything about it from the outside.
  • A clear sense of mission or purpose is essential. The simpler the mission statement the better. "Kick ass in the market place" is a whole lot more meaningful than "Respond to market needs with a range of products.
  • Build a team. "Lone wolves" have their uses, but managing change isn't one of them. On the other hand, the right kind of lone wolf makes an excellent temporary team leader.
  • Maintain a flat organizational team structure and rely on minimal and informal reporting requirements.
  • Pick people with relevant skills and high energy levels. You'll need both.
  • Toss out the rulebook. Change, by definition, calls for a configured response, not adherence to prefigured routines.
  • Shift to an action-feedback model. Plan and act in short intervals. Do your analysis on the fly. No lengthy up-front studies. Remember the hare and the tortoise.
  • Set flexible priorities. You must have the ability to drop what you're doing and tend to something more important.
  • Treat everything as a temporary measure. Don't "lock in" until the last minute, and then insist on the right to change your mind.


Organizational change is increasing yet the high level of failure indicates that effective management of these changes is still lacking. Such a gap indicates that there is much to learn about how to manage change more effectively. Hence, people management and development professionals have significant role to play in any change management process. Change management is a systematic approach to dealing with change, both from the perspective of an organization and on the individual level. With the widespread commitment of people throughout the organization, change efforts will succeed. Change does not substantially alter the way a leader leads; change only reinforces that leaders must always use their skills to lead everyday.



Mrs. S. Vishnuvarthani
Lecturer in Commerce
Vellalar College for Women

Source: E-mail February 22, 2010


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