If there’s one constant in the world, it’s change. Whether in real life or business, you should never expect things to stay the same indefinitely, and if you aren’t willing or able to adapt, you’ll get left behind.
In many ways, organizational change management has become as unavoidable a practice as IT or project management. Businesses don’t just need to evolve: they inevitably evolve, and if someone isn’t taking charge of planning and implementation, targets will not be met, problems will arise, and essential business functions will likely be disrupted.
Why does change happen in business? There are several reasons, including:
- A long-term strategy requires it
- The business is reacting to new market opportunities
- The business is integrating new technology or digital capabilities
- Practices in areas like project management are being updated
- New legislation needs to be taken into account
- The business is expanding or shrinking
- Unforeseen challenges have arisen and the business needs to adapt ASAP
Given this level of variance, you probably wouldn’t be surprised to hear that, according to the experts, there are several different ‘types’ of organizational change management, each with its own characteristics and requirements.
So, how do you recognize and implement the best change strategy for your organization? In this article, we look at everything you need to know about the different types of change management.
How do change management projects work?
While there are different elements to consider with change management, you could say that the change process phases are often consistent across different types of change management strategies.
- Preparing for change – What is the goal of the project? The team will need to plan it out, assessing which stakeholders will be impacted, how employees will react, and so on. They will also need to set up lines of communication and book meetings to convey to the organization the reasoning behind the change and provide updates on how it is progressing at regular intervals
- Implementation – Implementing the plan will require communication with those involved. While potential problems will have been predicted in the previous stage, the team will also need to be watchful for unforeseen issues and tackle them as they appear
- Reinforcing the change – How many times have you made a positive life change, only to revert back at a later date? It’s the same with any company! Even past the point of a change being implemented and going ‘live’, it must still be supported and reinforced to stop employees from falling back into old ways of doing things. To this end, the change team must make sure that the change is integrated into the corporate culture
What are the different types of change management?
Change management is an expansive topic (hardly surprising given its importance), and, as such, there are different types of change that require different change strategies to lead them effectively.
Drs. Linda Ackerman Anderson and Dean Anderson, business transformation specialists, list three types of change in their article, ‘What is Transformation’:
- Developmental change – This is based on improving an existing process. Examples can include increasing lead generation, sales, and motivation, as well as enhancing project management, communication, and so on
- Transitional change – This is about replacing the old with the new: clarifying the desired future state of your project, orchestrating changes to dismantle the old way, and implementing the new. Examples can include general reorganization, implementing new IT systems, and so on
- Transformational change – This type of change is unique, as the change journey needs to begin despite the future state of the business being unclear at the start of the project. This type usually applies to projects that require significant shifts in the business’ organization, as well as its mindset and culture, with a prime example being how businesses recently had to adjust to the unforeseen periods of lockdown
Dr. Ackerman Anderson states: “Understanding the nature of the change you wish to effect and the context in which you are working are important in determining an appropriate strategy. Entering uncharted change territory without some sort of route map puts you at an immediate disadvantage from the start. One of the first stages in charting the territory is to understand a little more about the type of change you wish to make (broadly where you want to get to and how you plan to travel).
“There are a number of ways in which change can be categorized, most are related to the extent of the change, how much the leaders and workforce must change personally, and whether it is seen as predictable or emergent.“
It is also worth looking at the different shapes a single change project can take:
- People-centric change – It goes without saying that all corporate change projects affect people in some way. Change managers need to empathize with people at different levels, taking their concerns, priorities, and emotional reactions into account when planning transformation initiatives. For example, how are teams likely to react to the adoption of new software or best practices? What about the ripples caused by a merger?
- Strategic change – Strategic transformational change can break a company if handled incorrectly. Change on this level requires serious planning and proactiveness. The change manager must list every change required to meet strategic targets while also doing their best to anticipate the fallout. Will training be required for the integration of new technology? Will existing KPIs be reshuffled? Will employees need to learn new skills? Will teams or departments change in style or structure? Of course, just as managers will need to be aware of the changes required, they should also make careful note of each benefit so that they can be communicated to all parties involved
- Structural change – A major shakeup of an organization’s structure or hierarchy will not only affect daily tasks, but it will also create a great deal of uncertainty. You should never assume that the formation or removal of teams or departments, the arrival of new stakeholders, or similarly significant factors will be able to occur without causing a ripple effect
- Remedial change – Sometimes, a reactionary change needs to take place; that is, a change that needs to be applied as soon as possible, with relatively little time for planning. This could be when an employee suddenly leaves, or perhaps when customer issues start popping up following a new release. While difficult to plan for, remedial changes nonetheless stress the necessity of having a set change management process in place
What are the different roles in organizational change?
Given the complexity of business transition, it is important to recognize the different roles that can influence a change management project:
- Employees – For an organization to change, employees must be able to move forwards with confidence. It is important for change teams to recognize potential points of controversy that may cause resistance and alleviate them via communication, support, and, when necessary, direct action from managers
- Organizational leaders – This group consists of high-level participants, such as stakeholders and executives. So that they can guide change implementation, the group may require leadership coaching. Remember, they will hold significant influence over the employees below them and can help motivate the organization as a whole
- The change management team – The purpose of this group should be obvious! The change manager will carefully select team members most suited to the task and will make sure each role’s purpose and responsibility are clearly defined. The team will formulate, communicate, and implement the change strategy
- Change champions – While not strictly part of the change team, ‘champions’ will support the change and help drive it to fruition in their own teams and departments. Champions can include managers and executives high enough to understand the strategic direction of the business and why operations need to evolve
Studying different types of change management
At the beginning of this article, we talked about how change is often inevitable. We have also outlined just how varied and complex it can be. If you take anything away from this article, we hope that it’s the importance of having a set structure in place so that in the event that a transformation initiative is required, you will know exactly how to handle it.
One of the best ways to prepare is to invest in change management training. Frameworks like AgileSHIFT and APMG Change Management offer proven best practices for planning, implementing, and reinforcing change, as well as managing resistance and dealing with various interest groups. The frameworks are also based on years of practical insight from some of the world’s most successful transformation specialists.
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