Change management is a collective term used to describe the approaches to prepare and support individuals in making a change.
Change management is an interdisciplinary domain with contributions from — management theory, organizational development, behavioral and social sciences, systems theory — just to name a few. Therefore, definitions of change management vary greatly based on the context from which they emerge.
As a change strategist and brain-based coach, these are the definitions that I find meaningful:
As a certified coach,
Change management initiative: any project or task that applies a structured approach to transition an organization from a current state to a future state to achieve expected benefits.― International Coach Federation
As a change management professional,
ACMP defines change management to be the application of knowledge, skills, abilities, methodologies, processes, tools, and techniques to transition an individual or group from a current state to a desired future state, such that the desired outcomes and/or business objectives are achieved.― Association of Change Management Professionals
As an employee experience lead and advocate,
“Change management” is defined as a structured approach to transitioning individuals, teams― Society for Human Resource Management
andorganizations from a current state to a desired future state. It can be applied to situations such as downsizing, introducing a new internal process or adding new technology.
As a previous software team member,
Change management is defined as the methods and manners in which a company describes and implements change within both its internal and external processes. This includes preparing and supporting employees, establishing the necessary steps for change, and monitoring pre- and post-change activities to ensure successful implementation.― American Society for Quality
The definitions listed above have a few themes in common:
- Change is recognized as occurring at both the individual (micro) and organizational (macro) level
- Change is described as an externally perceivable state (current state, future state) and as an internal process (transition)
- Change is known to impact the entire system (a company-wide downsizing) or isolated segments (technology upgrade for a small group of employees)
- Change management follows a sequence of stages — preparing, managing, implementing, monitoring, reinforcing
- Change management emphasizes the realization of benefits
- Managing people change is mostly about creating awareness, providing knowledge and building engagement
Our change approach
Since change management is interdisciplinary, our approach to change is holistic. It builds upon the latest scientific research from social neuroscience and behavioral economics to construct a brain-based model of change.
Our change philosophy aims to bridge these glaring gaps that arise from the definitions listed above:
- Leaders or change team members are rarely impacted by the change in the same way as the stakeholders. It is important for those leading and managing the change to thoroughly understand the change from every stakeholder’s perspective.
We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are.―Anonymous
- If you have a brain, you have a bias. Change practitioners need to understand cognitive biases that might interfere with making effective decisions.
We think, each of us, that we’re much more rational than we are. And we think that we make our decisions because we have good reasons to make them. Even when it’s the other way around. We believe in the reasons, because we’ve already made the decision.― Daniel Kahneman, Psychologist
- Change management needs to do more than just build awareness, it needs to create opportunities for stakeholders to actively engage in inquiry and deep learning which are key components of skill-building from adult learning theory.
We will learn no matter what! Learning is as natural as rest or play. With or without books, inspiring trainers or classrooms, we will manage to learn. Educators can, however, make a difference in what people learn and how well they learn it. If we know why we are learning and if the reason fits our needs as we perceive them, we will learn quickly and deeply.― Malcolm Knowles, Adult Educator
- Thanks to the prevalence of Kotter’s model, many organizations still rely on a sense of urgency (“burning platform”) to ignite interest. Instead, by allaying stakeholder concerns, leaders can create a sense of psychological safety, build trust and commitment for the change.
Many great leaders understand intuitively that they need to work hard to create a sense of safety in others. In this way, great leaders are often humble leaders, thereby reducing the status threat. Great leaders provide clear expectations and talk a lot about the future, helping to increase certainty. Great leaders let others take charge and make decisions, increasing autonomy. Great leaders often have a strong presence, which comes from working hard to be authentic and real with other people, to create a sense of relatedness. And great leaders keep their promises, taking care to be perceived as fair.― David Rock, Your Brain at Work
- These days, most companies make a deliberate effort to improve the employee experience. 2018 was even dubbed the “year of employee experience”. Given the accelerated pace of change, one would assume that there would be an equal effort to improve employee’s change experience. Yet, change management continues to rely on antiquated techniques, emphasizing “stakeholder management” and “change reinforcement” over creating positive brain-friendly stakeholder experiences.
In a world where money is no longer the primary motivating factor for employees, focusing on the employee experience is the most promising competitive advantage that organizations can create.― Jacob Morgan, The Employee Experience Advantage
- Last but not least, our approach aims to integrate a complex systems perspective. I used this approach while modeling complex ecosystem problems in my former life as an environmental scientist. I have rediscovered the importance of this perspective and
integratedit into my work as a change practitioner.
A central component of the chaos and complexity theory in management is the recognition that change within systems is nonlinear (erratic, unpredictable, unstable) and based on the evolving relationships and complex interactions of the ever-changing components within the system. While these factors make results virtually impossible to predict, when their nature is recognized and understood, they also allow for― Business.com
a newflexibility of approach that can provide the freedom to innovate.
- This systems perspective can be found in the Human Systems Dynamics approach to change. Organizational change is dynamic, unpredictable, complex, and characterized by continuous movement, activity, and progress. This kind of change requires a different kind of approach to see and respond to patterns, to use differences for adaptive capacity building, and engage people in a new way.*
We have a healthy respect for the uncertainty and power of dynamical change. The principles and practices we teach inform our own decision making and action taking. While we cannot predict the future for ourselves or our community, we do know one thing for sure: We will use simple Models & Methods to see, understand, and influence emerging patterns in complex human systems.― Glenda Eoyang, HSD Founder