What is change management?

With change management courses and change management certification becoming increasingly popular, this article explains what change management is about, the history behind it, its processes and how it has become mainstream in all enterprises!
What is change management?


What is Change Management

Bluntly speaking, change isn’t easy. It requires total belief in the cause, dedication and hard work. The most common change everyone in the world is doing right now is weight loss. You can say “I want to become healthier and lose weight”, but saying your intention isn’t enough. You need to be motivated and convinced to do it. Then, you can ask for professional help to assist you with a scientific plan that suits your current health status to guarantee desired results.

Now this is changing something for the better on an individual level. But what about changing something for the better on an organisational level? Organisations consist of not only one individual, but LOTS of different and diverse individuals in addition to IT systems, common ways of working and the need to make profit! Imagine the size of work that needs to be done!

That’s one of the reasons why professionals wanting to get into a change management career choose to get a professional change manager certification by attending change management courses.

What is Change Management

Definition of change management

Change management is simply defined as a structured approach to moving an organisation from the current state to the desired future state[1].

Change in an organisation can be any minor or major alteration in internal structure, policies, strategic plans, organisational culture, IT solutions or marketing/sales approaches. Such change is normally implemented to achieve an improvement. Organisational change often causes resistance, which is a natural reaction and must be taken into consideration.

Applying change in organisations is a hefty task. It is extremely challenging but rewarding at the same time. It is now a field of management on its own and is studied as an academic and professional course in universities, colleges and institutions.

What is Change Management

Evolution of change management

Before 1990, understanding change and its effects on human beings was an ongoing study among thinkers, academics and psychologists.

However, change became a hot topic in the early 1990s, being spoken about as a discipline in project meetings and at boardroom tables. It became mainstream after a couple of companies and authors put change on the map through new processes and school of thought. Some examples are:

  • General Electric introduced the Change Acceleration Process as part of its larger improvement program.
  • Todd Jick, a senior lecturer in Columbia Business School, introduced the Ten Commandments of Implementing Change in his famous textbook “Managing Change: Cases and Concepts”.
  • Spencer Johnson, author of “Who Moved my Cheese?”, amuses us with his mouse maze allegory about change and how to deal with it[2].

In the year 2000 and onwards, the change discipline became formalised as another type of management, and official frameworks started to develop. In 2005, the Change Management Institution (CMI) was established in Sydney, Australia. They have authored “The Effective Change Manager: The Change Management Body of Knowledge” (CMBoK) and it is widely recognised as one of the best books in change management.

What is Change Management

What processes, tasks and tools are involved in change management

To make change in organisations, change management teaches you several processes, tasks, and tools for an effective and smooth transition. Popular models of the change process are:

Lewin’s three stage model

This process shows you how collective mindsets are broken down to enable change by three stages:

  1. Unfreeze Stage: Where you define the current situation, create a vision of the desired end-state, and then identify the forces that will help drive and resist change.
  2. Change Stage: Where a plan is followed to implement change, involve people, allow experimentation over solutions to problems and then provide great role models with whom people in change can identify.
  3. Refreeze Stage: Where new work practices become new work habits, new ways of thinking and reward behaviours and results that are aligned with the changed environment. [3].

Kotter’s eight step model

This process shows a road map for change based on common errors made by organisations. Kotter’s underlying assumption is that given the right process and the right leadership, change can be planned and managed. The eight steps are:

  • Establishing a sense of urgency
  • Creating the guiding coalition
  • Developing a vision and a strategy
  • Communicating the change vision
  • Empowering employees for broad-based action
  • Generating short-term wins
  • Consolidating gains and producing more change
  • Anchoring new approaches in the culture [4]

Senge’s systems thinking model

This process shows how profound change can be achieved through learning. [5] The five learning disciplines it suggests are:

  • Shared Vision: To use tools such as ‘Positive Visioning’, ‘Concept-shifting’ and ‘Values Alignment’ to create a shared vision.
  • Mental Models: To use tools like the ‘Ladder of Inference’ and ‘Reflective Inquiry’ to make their mental models clearer.
  • Personal Mastery: To use tools like ‘Perceptual Positions’ and ‘Reframing’ to enhance the quality of interaction and relationship in and outside their teams.
  • Team Learning: To use tools like the ‘Action-Learning Cycle’ and ‘Dialogue’ to develop critical reflection skills.
  • Systems Thinking: to use tools like ‘Systems Thinking Maps’ and ‘Archetypes’ to map and analyse situations, events, problems and possible causes/courses of action to find better change options/solutions. [6]

What is Change Management

Who carries out change management activities

In general, any employee in an organisation can be appointed as a change agent, in addition to their current job role, to be a positive and influential force for the change activities upper management has planned for and to deliver the change message to everyone.

But it is up to the change managers/change team members, who could be executives, managers, team leaders, project teams and their support in any department to:

  • Create and develop the change management strategy and plans
  • Financially fund the strategy
  • Train staff, spread awareness and boost activities
  • Manage the technical resources
  • Standardise the proven successful methodology and apply it in the organisation

What is Change Management

How change management relates to other areas of the business

Change management is intertwined with almost all management areas and departments in an organisation. Each member of these departments is considered a stakeholder. Some of them are:

  • Project & programme management: new projects or programmes are normally initiated to enhance and change something in the organisation. Change management is therefore very closely related to this department, working in parallel to the project, or after it has finished. Change managers are often an important part of the project team.
  • Finance management: transformations in the finance department, like reducing close-cycle time or financial process improvement, would need the help of change management.
  • Human resources management: people-oriented professionals who develop the human capital of their organisation, such as HR, should be the first to step into change agent roles.
  • Information Technology (IT) departments: new systems, networks, software and hardware integration rely heavily on change management. That is why change management is one of the processes in the service transition stage of ITIL.
  • Quality management: any change implemented in the organisation will affect the quality management department and they’ll have to update their systems (QMS) accordingly.
  • Customer service department: change applied to the organisation’s internal customers and processes will eventually affect external customers. Change managers therefore need to work closely with customer services.
  • Sales & marketing departments: change management is always about making something better, so there will consequently be better products/services and selling margins.

What is Change Management

The emerging profession of change management

Change manager roles did not exist 30 years ago. Now it is a must-have position in most large corporates and companies due to the continuous demands of our contemporary world. There are dedicated teams and even departments for change management. If not, outsourced consultancies with trained professionals are hired to make changes happen.

Change management is not only a discipline, but also a competency every leader, line manager and decision maker must learn to understand, design and implement for their 21st century business.

Are you now inspired to gain change management certification? Knowledge Train runs change management courses accredited by APMG International in partnership with the Change Management Institute (CMI). These courses equip students with the knowledge of modern best practices in change management. They are an important part of any change manager’s toolbox.

You can enrol for the 3-day Change Management Foundation course, or the 5-day Change Management Foundation & Practitioner course.


[1] APM. (Unknown). Change management. Available: Last accessed 19 Sep 2018.

[2] Prosci. (Unknown). THE HISTORY AND FUTURE OF CHANGE MANAGEMENT. Available: Last accessed 20 Sep 2018.

[3] [4] [5] The Change Management Institute (CMI) (2014). The Effective Change Manager’s Handbook. Australia: Vivid Publishing. 36-42.

[6] Bill Cropper. (Unknown). Five Learning Disciplines…. Available: Last accessed 20 Sep 2018.

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