What is change management?
Often times, while working with our clients, we are faced with varying degrees of understanding of what change management is. For some of the most informed, change management is a synonym for training and communication, for others change management speaks to the ability to navigate the organization and be persuasive, and for others is just a buzz word (“my competitor uses change management, therefore, I should).
To explain this tricky concept, we propose a simple distinction between project change management and change management as a personal and organizational capability.
Project Change Management
Project change management refers to the set of tools and concepts a change specialist applies in the context of a project. The goal here is to ensure that those impacted by the change “buy in” to the new process, technology, etc. being implemented. Why? So that the benefits of the change are realized. As Hiatt & Creasey (2012) put it, there’s no point in implementing a process that no one follows or a technology that no one uses. Change management helps with the work required to win people’s minds
The concept of project change management then refers to a very defined set of activities and plans (e.g. stakeholder analysis, communication plan, training plan, impact assessment, etc.) that must be tightly integrated into the overall project plan.
Change Management as a Personal and Organizational Capability
Change management as a personal and organizational capability is a bit more difficult to define. This view of the term refers to the mindset and reflexes (skills) that a leader must have to lead the change in his or her organization. As the leader, what you know is as important as how you show up to others. To illustrate this, think for a moment of a leader who is very proficient in his or her discipline but who lacks the ability to lead others and, as a result, face higher turnover.
This view of change management is then similar to what is commonly known as emotional intelligence and, in particular, to a subset of what is known as “social competence.” In Daniel Goleman’s words “social competence takes many forms – it’s more than just being chatty. These abilities range from being able to tune into another person’s feelings and understand how they think about things, to being a great collaborator and team player, to expertise at negotiation.”
In this view then, change management speaks to the ability of a leader (or a collection of leaders in an organization) to navigate and lead the change in ways that inspire others to take action. Change leadership is a competency of high performing organizations.
To be successful, an organization must be able to apply both of the conceptions of change management, depending on the needs at hand.
Hiatt & Creasey (2012). Change Management: The People Side of Change.