Change Management

What is Change Management?

The definition of change management refers to the process of identifying, planning, and implementing changes within an organization. It involves considering the impact of changes on various stakeholders, determining the resources and support required, and creating a plan for transitioning to the new state.

Change management’s purpose is to build commitment to sustain the transformation process. It guides companies and workers to a successful resolution. The process prepares teams for hard-to-navigate experiences without losing revenue or headcount.

When Change Management is Needed

At some point, every organization will experience a change. Therefore, transformation is necessary for organizations to remain viable. Change management can be a reactive response or part of future-proofing an organization. 

The following are some types of change: 

  • Onboarding new employees
  • Adding or growing a department
  • Merging with another company
  • Acquisition of or by another company
  • Company layoffs
  • Exiting or new leadership
  • Shifting between office, remote, or hybrid environment
  • Globalization
  • Implementation of new technology or business models

Change impacts a business’s trajectory and profits, whether planned or involuntary. Additionally, modern organizations deal with faster-paced and more complex changes than ever before. The way companies handle transitions influences their success.

Why is Change Management Important?

Change management drives the successful adoption and usage of change within the business. It can help ensure that changes are smoothly integrated into the organization, minimizing disruptions and maximizing the chances of success. Additionally, it helps build trust and commitment from employees and other stakeholders, which is essential for the long-term success of any change initiative. Change management employs a structured approach that ensures smooth and lasting changes. When it’s effective, transitions can be predictable and inexpensive in terms of time and resources.

Additionally, workers can commit to the shift and work effectively during a disruptive transition. Employees are more likely to:

  • Understand why the change is occurring. 
  • Adopt changes faster and more proficiently. 
  • Stay engaged with the organization. 
  • Have the time and resources to meet objectives.
  • Feel heard and supported. 
  • Stay on schedule and budget.

By coordinating and structuring change as a manageable process, organizations have a better chance of seeing results from their efforts. Change management should lead teams and departments toward thriving and benefiting from the change.

The costs and risks of poor change management can be detrimental. For instance, organizations may fail to see results from the change efforts. Likewise, poor change management can result in lower employee morale and skill development. Employees may negatively internalize the transition and resort to survival mode. 

Reaction to Change

While change can be challenging, it can also be an opportunity for growth and advancement. Whereas organizational management oversees change, leaders must guide employees through the process. They must let their direct reports know what to expect. Furthermore, leaders’ behavior drives other people’s responses to change. 

The ideal reaction to change is commitment. Employees’ commitment occurs when they understand the change and trust their leaders. Committed workers want to help and propel progress. Employees may be compliant to change. This reaction involves doing the minimum and being unsure or wary of the process. Leaders often need to exert their position to motivate. 

Resistance is when individuals are opposed to change. They may see the transition as a threat and move in the opposite direction. Resistance can look like the following:

  • Fight
  • Flight
  • Freeze
  • Fawn

Organizations can learn how to overcome resistance to change in the workplace with practical change management training. 

Why is Change Management Important to L&D Teams?

Change management is essential to learning and development (L&D) teams for several reasons:

  1. Aligning with organizational goals: L&D teams play a crucial role in supporting the organization’s strategic goals by developing and delivering training programs. In addition, effective change management helps ensure that these programs are aligned with changes happening in the organization.
  2. Improving adoption of new skills and practices: When changes are effectively managed, employees are more likely to embrace and adopt new skills and techniques. This, in turn, leads to tremendous success in achieving the goals of the change initiative.
  3. Minimizing disruptions: Changes in an organization can cause disruptions in work processes and cause employees to lose focus. A well-planned change management process minimizes these disruptions and helps employees transition smoothly to the new state.
  4. Engaging employees: L&D teams can be vital in engaging employees during the change process. By involving employees in the change initiative and providing them with the training and support they need to succeed, L&D teams can help build trust and commitment to the change.

Change management is essential for L&D teams because it helps ensure that their training programs are aligned with organizational goals, improves the adoption of new skills and practices, minimizes disruptions, and engages employees in the change process.

New call-to-action

What is a Change Management Process? 5 Steps to Creating Change

Generally, change management includes preparation, implementation, and follow-through. Many models exist, and their processes have evolved to meet modern demands. 

The change process entails five steps. The first three create a powerful strengths-based vision. These steps can sustain the commitment needed to see change through. The last two steps represent strategy and execution to fulfill the vision. These steps entail developing the strategic plan and implementing the action steps. 

1. Define

Questions shape the answers – or outcome. The questions that organizations ask are important. They often dictate the type of answer received. 

The first principle is formulating the right questions for the change initiative. This requires stepping into a growth mindset of inquiry and being open to seeing new possibilities. 

Defining Question Checklist

  • Is the change topic relevant and vital?
  • Is the question positively stated?
  • Does the question not assume a solution?
  • Does the question inspire?

For example, an organization needs more employee engagement. The fundamental question is, “How do we fix morale?” Instead, they can reframe the question to, “How can we be a place where people are excited to come to work every day?”

2. Discover

In this principle, businesses focus on their strengths. To identify strengths, organizational leaders look back at how they’ve been successful in the past and what’s enabled that success.

An organization’s strengths can include the following: 

  • Diverse perspectives. 
  • Collaboration.
  • Trustworthiness. 
  • Industry experience. 
  • Content expertise. 
  • Creative. 

Research shows that the most effective professionals focus 80% of their time on areas of strength and only 20% on areas of weakness.

3. Dream

The third principle brings the first two together. The dream is the compelling future state that comes from the generative question and the organization’s strength. 

  • A dream statement formula is, “By [date], [organization/team] will….”

Organizational leaders should reflect on how the dream aligns with the question and its strengths. Then, they can expand on the vision to make it bigger. 

4. Design

Businesses must articulate their plan to achieve change. The design is the action plan or how the vision moves forward. This principle requires:

  • Evaluating top priorities. Priorities are required projects that advance the company toward its vision. 
  • Setting dates. A timeframe chronicles deadlines to implement specific actions. 
  • Determining resources, including people and finances. 

In the design step, leaders may look at obstacles to change. For instance, insufficient resources or a lack of executive support can compromise progress. Likewise, a change-resistant culture can 

5. Delivery

Delivery involves executing the plan. Additionally, change management delivers a continuous learning and improvisation culture around the change initiative.
download the new model of live cohort based leadership training report

Change Management Bike Theory

The Center for Creative Leadership, a top global leadership institute, states that successful change requires aligning key elements. Organizational leaders can imagine leading effective change like riding a bicycle.

  • The bike rider (leadership) is the mindset and intentionality of the person leading the change. The rider steers and sets the direction. 
  • The front wheel represents the leading process. A leader can initiate, strategize, and execute change. They control the steering and direction. 
  • The bike chain represents how a leader must work with others to move forward. It’s how a leader connects the change message with the employees’ motivations to build broad organizational commitment. 
  • The back wheel represents leading people. Success depends on communicating a vision, influencing others, and guiding them through the emotions of change.

The bike rider is the most critical aspect of change management for successful change. How hard and fast the bike moves depends mostly on mindset and determination. Therefore, leaders must commit to keeping the bike steady and balanced by adapting to the twists and turns of the journey.

The 2 Principles of Change Management

Change management has long used the problem-solving principle. The problem-solving method focuses on the question, “What needs to be fixed?” It holds the belief that change is a problem to be solved. 

But it expands to now include the appreciative inquiry principle. Combining these two parts sustains enough commitment to lead employees through the change process.

The appreciative inquiry principle involves the generation of possibility and innovation. This approach holds the belief that change is an opportunity to be embraced. This positive approach can help to train teams to communicate change effectively.

Appreciative inquiry is a cutting-edge organizational change process. It is a strengths-based model instead of taking a deficit-based approach to change. The appreciative inquiry process aims to leverage strengths to evolve and thrive.

Additionally, individuals actively engage in discussions that focus on what works. They like sharing their experiences and successes, and generating a vision for the future influences their behavior in the present. And it often leads to the anticipated positive result.

What to Remember About Change Management

Here are some key points to remember about change management:

  1. Change is a continuous process: Change is an ongoing process and organizations need to be prepared to manage it effectively.
  2. Involve stakeholders: It is crucial to involve all stakeholders in the change process, including employees, customers, and partners. This helps build trust and commitment to the change.
  3. Plan thoroughly: A well-planned change management process increases the chances of success and minimizes the risk of disruptions.
  4. Communication is key: Clear and effective communication is essential for managing change effectively. This includes communicating the reasons for the change, the benefits, and how it will be implemented.
  5. Monitor and adjust: Change management is not a one-time event, it requires ongoing monitoring and adjustment to ensure the change is successfully integrated into the organization.
  6. Celebrate successes: Celebrating successes along the way helps to maintain momentum and support for the change initiative.
  7. Embrace resistance: Resistance to change is a normal part of the change process. It is important to understand and address the root cause of resistance rather than simply trying to overcome it.

By keeping these essential points in mind, organizations can effectively manage change and increase the chances of success.

Recommended content


Upcoming Webinar

Metrics that Matter: Using Workplace Surveys to Drive L&D Excellence
Cover of eBook: When Self-Paced eLearning Isn't Enough


When Self-Paced eLearning Isn’t Enough
office team collaborating effectively using power skills

Recent article

The Most Important Skills Your Team Needs Now and What to Do About it

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Employee learning and development trends and research content delivered straight to your inbox.