What exactly is Change Management? (Models, Examples, Metrics, Definition)

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    Home / Growth / What exactly is Change Management? (Models, Examples, Metrics, Definition)

    "Our only security is our ability to change."

    ~ John Lilly

    Without change, you simply can't adapt to harsh conditions before you, and therefore can't survive.

    Especially in the business world.

    Chances are, your competition has already changed and you are following them.

    (If not, kudos to you for being a pioneer!)

    And ensuring that this change is going to be beneficial and successful is possible by managing it carefully.

    Managing change is, in short, proposing a strategy that helps us move from situation A to situation B with the greatest possible guarantee of success.

    Many change management models have been proposed and developed over the years, but the model that works for you will depend on your needs, your resources, the size of your business, and the kinds of change you want to bring about.

    In this detailed guide to change management 101, we will discuss:

    • What Change Management is in an organization,
    • Main barriers to Change Management,
    • Steps in the Change Management process,
    • What you need to do before Change Management,
    • Main models of Change Management,
    • Examples of Change Management,
    • and the best Change Management Software.


    What is change management?

    Now this is going to be a comprehensive definition of change management, here we go:

    Change management in an organization is the process of making interconnected decisions that will allow a company or a business entity to transform from a given situation, environment, or set of circumstances that are less conducive to company goals to situations, environments, or circumstances that are better for the business in either the short, medium or long-term.

    Barriers to Change Management

    Here's some motivation for you before undertaking a change project:

    change management graph 1

    It's not the statistic you are expecting at the moment, but it is the one you need.

    Because you have to know that your project is most likely going to fail, and act accordingly. Make all the improvements you can make, eliminate frictions as much as possible, and deal with the problems that will pop up.

    Starting with these 5 main barriers:

    1. A Lack of Stakeholder Buy-In

    Employees, vendors, managers, HR personnel, and others are all typically averse to change.

    A failure to involve these groups or entities in your change management initiative is a cardinal business mistake. People will be less likely to embark on a new initiative with you if they do not understand why it is taking place, what their role in it is, what the expected outcomes will be, and how the proposed changes will impact them.

    2. Ineffective Communications

    You cannot assume that just because you have decided on a course of action, everyone will know what the plan is.

    Coherent messaging from the top to the rest of the organization is critical to any new company-wide or departmental initiative you may wish to undertake.

    3. Poor Process Planning

    How will the proposed change be implemented, and how will current systems, processes, or cultural DNA be transferred and transposed after-the-fact?

    You cannot discount the role that feelings, interpersonal relationships, and habits have in resisting change, and you must accurately assess these factors and account for each one in your change strategy.

    4. Lack of a Clear End-Goal

    Why are you undertaking the proposed change?

    Some organizations embark on new initiatives – such as buying the latest tech or implementing a new solution – without really understanding why it is needed or what aspect of the business will benefit from it. There must be a clear goal you aim to achieve or a defined issue you hope to address.

    Without clear goals, you will have a new system in place that is, at best, unnecessary or, at worst, detrimental to your operations.

    5. Business Complexity

    As companies grow and become more and more complex, their systems and processes tend to become more and more rigid.

    Executing change in such a setup is much harder than it is in a smaller setup that may be more agile, flexible, or open to change.

    change management barriers

    Steps to a successful Change Management Process

    Change is never easy, even if it is something as seemingly trivial as changing your apartment, changing your position in the office, or undergoing some sort of personal change.

    Especially in a business setting where there is much to be gained or lost, it is necessary to manage change so that you do not lose sight of your goals or run into avoidable challenges along the way.

    The difference good change management in an organization can make is pretty obvious, and backed by hard data:

    change management graph 2

    Here are eight steps you can follow to efficiently execute – and manage – change in your organization.

    Step 1: You Must Create a Sense of Urgency

    Change can only take place effectively if you involve the people who will participate in that change.

    From owners, senior executives, and upper-level managers through to employees, investors, customers, and other stakeholders, everyone should be educated and informed about the reasons for the proposed change and the importance of taking immediate action so that everyone has the motivation and the ”pull factor” to initiate change along with you.

    Step 2: Form Strong Alliances

    The next step of change management is identifying the individuals or entities that can serve as agents of change.

    These people, groups, or entities should be chosen not only based on the positions they hold but based on their status, hands-on experience, or even because of their ability to lead and inspire others. In practice, the experience or leadership of such groups can be leveraged to influence those in other circles to promote the change process and eliminate problems before they even arise.

    Step 3: Create a Vision for Change

    Just as companies use a vision of the future to guide teams in the pursuit of strategic business objectives, they can take advantage of the same tool for the change process.

    It is necessary to develop a vision with the main values related to change in a highly concise and objective way that allows everyone to quickly understand what must be done on a day-to-day basis to adapt to the new situation.

    Step 4: Invest in Communication

    The change management process will likely divide the team's attention between many other priority issues within the organization.

    For this reason, it is important that you effectively direct your efforts so that the vision of change is properly communicated at the different organizational levels to ensure that everyone in the company is aware of the changes that are coming and know the role they must play in bringing it about or facilitating that change.

    Step 5: Empower the Entire Base

    Some change processes fail not only due to lack of adherence from participants and/or stakeholders but because the company is not prepared to make the changes it deems necessary, to begin with.

    Companies must ensure that the human, technical, and regulatory barriers that potentially stand in the way of change are adequately removed so that new solutions can be adopted without hindrance.

    Step 6: Define Short-Term Goals

    People feel more motivated when they perceive some sort of progress in the activities they are performing.

    Leverage this motivation by creating goals and incentives for your teams in the short term to commemorate objectives achieved and give rewards to those who successfully string together small but important efforts that will support the larger change project you are implementing.

    Step 7: Don't Slow Down

    Although short-term gains are attractive in the beginning, real changes take time to absorb.

    Therefore, do not lose focus on structural and deeper changes, as only these will be able to bring continuous improvements to processes and projects.

    Step 8: Make Change Part of Your Culture

    Perhaps more important than going through a period of change or optimizing change management is incorporating change into the DNA of your business.

    Doing this must start from the highest levels of corporate leadership, by constantly and consistently reinforcing what the expectations of the new scenario are, but also by incorporating it into formal systems, preventing new realities from being put aside by the force of habit.

    Integrating change into the culture of your company will prepare your team for future changes. Managers are responsible for fostering an appropriate environment for organizations to go through change processes without problems, and to change is to continually improve.

    Companies must constantly innovate and reinvent themselves to survive in the increasingly competitive global market, and professionals with the ability to effectively manage change can be the difference between success and failure.

    change management steps

    Before Implementing Change

    Before putting your own change management model into action, we must analyze and understand what we need to change and, secondly, that we develop a change plan, which is a strategic plan that will show us the way forward. This involves an assessment of the following:

    • What we want to change: This step requires an investigation into the factors of organizational change, the factors that the company or senior decision-makers believe are critical components of the change process, either as tools or competencies that can be used or obstacles standing in the way of change. These can be technological factors or structural, personal, and cultural factors.
    • Strategic planning or phases of change: What milestones are we going to cover, and when and what elements will we need to address each step of the way? Companies and professionals must continuously manage change to continue growing professionally and, thus, be able to survive and maintain operations in an increasingly globalized and competitive work environment.

    Intangible Elements

    Intangible elements that affect change include work teams, communication systems, culture, and leadership.

    • Teams: The teams that are going to manage and drive change must be organized from the outset. In some organizations, these teams are divided into improvement, integration, and follow-up teams. Also, there is the role of the change manager, a well-trained professional with skills in digital transformation, conflict resolution, and stakeholder management who must be committed to the push and follow-through necessary for the change to be implemented.
    • Corporate culture: Changes must always be directed in accordance with the culture of the company, otherwise they will fail without a clear reason.
    • Organizational leadership: You must create a suitable environment for change. Leaders can set the tone for such a favorable environment to come about. He or she must seize opportunities, encourage individual contributions, and help teams be more creative and innovative. Since change is a constant process, the leader must always communicate to lead the change effectively.

    Tangible Elements

    These are the tools that those who will participate in the change will use. They include setting goals, measuring performance, continuous learning, and recognition and rewards.

    • Setting goals: You cannot bring about change if you do not have set goals. Set short, medium, and long-term goals and iteratively work towards each one in successive sprints.
    • Measuring performance: You must have clear measures of success to know whether or not you are meeting project goals and objectives or if you need to stop, regroup, rethink your strategy, focus on strengths and improve in areas of weakness.
    • Continuous learning: Change, by definition, brings about something new for everyone. As change progresses, everyone should learn about the new normal and how things should be or can be done in this new normal for the maximum benefit of the company.
    • Recognition and rewards: Change is tiring and can drain your team. Be sure to keep everyone motivated and inspired to continue working by rewarding and publicly recognizing outstanding performance.

    Change Management Models

    Now we are ready to address the question of what we want to change. This question should actually be, why are we forced to change?

    New competitors, capital mobilization, difficulty in retaining human talent, changing technologies, and the economic, political and socio-political environment we find ourselves in are just some elements that force us to change (and force those in charge of businesses and organizations to prepare and adapt to change as well).

    Change management in an organization or company is the structured execution of change. So we must understand when, where, and how it is expected to occur.

    Here are the top change management models:

    1- Lewin’s Change Management Model

    2- Kotter's Change Management Model

    3- McKinsey's Change Management Model

    4- Prosci ADKAR Change Management Model

    10 Questions to ask before starting a change project

    1. What is the level of change? It can be Ideological (affecting vision and mission), organizational (affecting management or organizational structure), or it can happen at the process, project, or service level.
    2. Who formulates the need for change, and who authorizes proposed changes?
    3. Do we have the necessary budget for implementing the desired changes?
    4. Who will be in charge of monitoring and controlling the implementation of the changes?
    5. Have we structured and planned for the proposed changes in the different hierarchical levels in the organization?
    6. Have we conducted a thorough risk analysis, both at the hierarchical levels and in the different organizational units of the company?
    7. What are the impacts of the change on our external users, the wider business community, and vendors?
    8. What is the expected time for the design and implementation of the proposed change?
    9. What is the role of HR?
    10. Is external help required (for example, do we need to hire)?

    In short, these, along with many other questions, are the variables that must be put on the table when talking about a change in the organization, otherwise, we would be playing and experimenting with something very valuable: the physical, economic, organizational, and psychological well-being of the company.

    change managements models

    Four prominent models on how to answer the questions posed above are given below.

    1- The Lewin Model

    Named after the German-American social psychologist and philosopher Kurt Lewin, this model has three stages: Defrost, change, and freeze again.

    1. Defrost: In this stage, we try to reduce any antagonistic forces that might stand in the way of change. Anything that keeps the company along its current path and in compliance with current practices must be addressed. Pain, discomfort, guilt, and anxiety are powerful tools that can be used to create a sense of urgency, as discussed, that can be the catalyst for change.
    2. Change: Implementing the desired change and resolving conflicts. Once antagonistic forces are managed, there is a movement towards the desired change. This stage consists of moving to a new state or a new level within the organization concerning behavior patterns and habits, which means developing new values, habits, behaviors, and attitudes.
    3. Freezing: In this step, the new changes are formalized and consolidated. The organization stabilizes in a new state of equilibrium, in which it is aided by the new culture, norms, policies, and organizational structure developed in step 2 above.

    This model can only work if:

    • The problem is determined.
    • Shortcomings of your current situation are identified.
    • The goal to be achieved is identified.
    • A strategy is developed to achieve change from the current situation by directing it towards the goal.

    The objective of the first stage is to analyze and evaluate the current situation and reduce resistance so that the second stage is reached, in which change occurs. The third stage is to “freeze” the new situation, achieved in the previous (second) stage, in order to stabilize it.

    2- The Greiner Model

    This model is based on four factors:

    1. The age of the company.
    2. The size of the organization (measured by employees or sales levels).
    3. Phases of evolution (meaning long periods of time in which no major changes occur in company practices).
    4. Phases of revolution (periods of time in which significant changes in business practices do occur).

    The age of the organization matters because business practices and managerial attitudes change with time.

    The size of the organization matters because coordination, communication, new functions, and new business hierarchies all develop as a company grows.

    The rate of growth also matters because it can lead to evolutionary or revolutionary change, both of which must be approached differently.

    By taking these factors into account, the Greiner model helps decision-makers mitigate the potential negative fallout of change and choose appropriate steps based on how the business – based on its age, size, and growth rate – will likely react to the new proposed changes.

    3- The Albrecht Model

    Drawing on the Lewin model, the Albrecht model introduced some improvements to the model and said that we should bear in mind that:

    • Change can cause the quality of service to decline at first.
    • Mistakes will likely be made.
    • There will be resistance from the habit of doing things the old way.
    • There will be skepticism and confusion until the benefits of change are realized and new habits and mechanisms are learned.

    Depending on the industry you work in and the challenges you face, it is clear that in some situations, an organizational-level change management strategy such as the Greiner model may be relevant, whereas, for service industries or specific business functions (such as sales), the Albrecht model may be more relevant.

    4- The A.D.K.A.R. Model

    This model stands for awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, and reinforcement, each of which is explained below.

    • Awareness of change: Why is change necessary? This is the first key aspect of a successful change. An individual or organization has to know why a change or a series of changes are necessary.
    • Desire for change: In order to support participation in change, the individual or the members of the organization must have the motivation and desire to participate in the change or changes. Naturally, the desire to support and be part of the change can only occur after full awareness of the need for change
    • Knowledge: Knowing why you have to change is not enough. A person or organization must know how to change as well. Two types of knowledge required to be addressed for this are knowledge about how to change (what to do during the transition), and knowledge about how to continue once the change takes place.
    • Ability: Every person and organization that really wants change must apply new skills and behaviors to make the necessary changes crystallize. During and after the change, the person must be supported through practice, training, and feedback.
    • Reinforcement: Individuals and organizations must be strengthened to stabilize and maintain the new equilibrium. If not, they will probably return to the initial conditions or their old behavior.

    What is interesting about this model is that it addresses the roles of the organization as a whole and the roles of individuals in the change process.

    Bringing some sort of harmony between the two can help you smoothly transition through the change and mitigate both business as well as worker concerns for the changes that are taking place.

    Change Management Examples

    Let's go over an example of a failed and a successful example of change management to give you a better idea

    Successful Change Management - Nokia

    The Finland-based international communication company has been through a lot, seen the top then the bottom.

    In 2006, they were the world's #1 mobile device manufacturer, acquiring nearly half of the total profits of the industry.

    Everything was great, but Steve Jobs had other plans.

    Can't blame Nokia's downfall on Jobs solely, but it all went downhill after he launched the first smartphone. In a few years, Apple and Android devices took over the global market and since Nokia couldn't channel their efforts into adapting to the new trends, they were in the top no more.

    Their shares went from $40 to $2 in five years, you could say hope was lost.

    change management successful example nokia
    Image From This Medium Article On Nokia's Journey

    But their journey back to the top was because of effective change management. With a new CEO leading the company, they handed over their mobile device wing to Microsoft and focused on network and mapping systems, and they did a hell of a job.

    Nokia eventually sold its mapping wing, being a company that is currently an industry leader in network infrastructure manufacturing.

    Sure, the change came late, but it came after all. If redirecting your efforts into another industry with effective change is going to get you back on top, you shouldn't hesitate to do that.

    Failed Change Management - Blockbuster

    From starting as just one store in 1985 to owning 9000 stores in the US and being a $3 billion company, Blockbuster's rise to the top was extremely fast.

    I don't think I have to mention the reasons for Blockbuster's success.

    But if I had to give one, it would be the accessibility it provided for countless titles.

    Then came Netflix and other DVD by-mail services, slowly taking over Blockbuster's customers and its profits. They introduced an easier way to order titles, the "internet", and enabled users to keep movies indefinitely, no late fees.

    Blockbuster didn't care at the start, and until they realized they were actually going down it was too late. They were taken over and in a $1 billion debt.

    Now they only have 1 store in the whole world, surviving as a remnant of the past.

    change management failed example blockbuster
    Image from Business Insider's Article on Blockbuster

    And they couldn't rise from the ashes, like Nokia did.

    You could think that saving Blockbuster was impossible, not even with the best change management possible.

    You're wrong.

    How Netflix went from a DVD rental mail subscription in 1997 to the world's #1 subscription-based streaming service in 2020 by adapting to the changes in the industry can set an example here.

    Perhaps if Blockbuster went through a successful change project, we could be watching Stranger Things in the Blockbuster app.

    Best Change Management Software

    Effective change management in an organization is so important, but the management of your change management is also important!

    Towards that end, there are many enterprise-grade software packages available that can help you track, monitor, and gauge your change initiatives.

    Here are my top picks:

    Plan it all with SunView ChangeGear

    This application helps you plan your organizational change and also helps you track account volumes and the speed at which change occurs in large corporations.

    It can be used to automate both change management as well as release management and is ideally suited for use in DevOps and compliance. It comes with a handy events calendar, automated approval management, visual reporting features, change management tools, and communications and notifications services.

    It comes with many third-party integrations and can connect with other asset management, system monitoring, and source code control and is completely customizable.

    Improve the process with 360factors

    With 360factors, you can guarantee that your processes conform to guidelines provided by regulatory authorities and industry standards.

    It comes with useful risk management insights and can be used on its own or integrated with your existing systems to help you manage incident reporting and auditing. It is flexible and is designed to work in a modular way and has useful risk management and business Strategy mapping tools.

    Eliminate the friction with UserGuiding

    “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

    Benjamin Franklin

    UserGuiding is a user onboarding software that helps you ease the change process for your employees by adding a completely interactive onboarding experience to the new systems that come with change.

    It requires no coding from creation to integration to maintenance, as simple as dragging and dropping.

    change management software userguiding
    a guide created for LinkedIn with UserGuıdıng

    UserGuiding will help you:

    • Educate users with interactive user guides,
    • Create a sense of progression with onboarding checklists,
    • Maximize engagement and adoption with in-app messages,
    • Aid users in need with self-help centers,

    and most importantly:

    • Help you analyze the performance of each creation with an in-depth Analytics tool,
    • Enable you to personalize the experience by Segmenting and Targeting custom user groups.

    Try UserGuiding for FREE!

    Systemize it with ServiceNow

    ServiceNow focuses on the employee experience by improving cross-functional communications and streamlining your project management flows.

    It can help you more effectively use and share resources and information, connect IT, HR, and development teams, and integrate your IT infrastructure, governance, compliance, risk, operations, security, service delivery, new releases, pull requests, costs, impact measures, and much more on the patented NowPlatform.


    In order to succeed as a company that transforms its workflow into something new, extra effort should be put into the process.

    By undertaking change projects with care and looking out for everything we have mentioned, chances of your success will be increased significantly.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is Change Management?

    Change management is the process of making interconnected decisions that will allow a business to transform for preferable outcomes.

    Why is Change Management important?

    In order to adapt to new technologies and developments in the market effectively without putting your business in an even worse situation, good change management is crucial.

    What happens when Change Management fails?

    If anything in the change management process goes wrong, it can turn all your efforts into dust and even hurt your business. Check out our article to avoid failures.

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