What is change management?

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The APM Body of Knowledge (BoK) 6th edition defines change management as a structured approach to moving an organisation from the current state to the desired future state.

According to the BoK, the conversion of outputs into outcomes and benefits invariably requires some form of organisational change. Resistance to change is a natural phenomenon, so managing change in a structured and controlled manner is essential if the benefits in a business case are to be realised.

There are many change management models, such as those of Kotter, Carnall and Lewin. Each model has a different approach and applies different metaphors in order to explain how it works. For example, Kotter uses his 8-step model to describe how we lead and manage change.

Why do we need to know how to ‘manage change’ as project managers?

According to the authors of the APM book Introduction to Managing change, ’all projects and programmes are ultimately created to deliver change of one form or another. Whether it be delivery of a new asset, process, structure or system, until it has actually been adopted and is used in the way it was intended, the change is not complete and the full benefits will not be realised’.

Research findings often demonstrate that the majority of projects and programmes do not fully succeed in achieving what they set out to do and with the rate of change faced by project managers today, it's vital that practitioners recognise the need to adapt and grow and learn new skills.

Change management recognises the specific challenges to implementing and embedding change and addresses these through leading, engaging and supporting people through change at both the individual and organisational levels. Managing change well can help address resistance and reduce performance impacts and secure sustainable benefits more rapidly. Change management should therefore be seen as a critical requirement for project and programme success.

The authors of Managing Change list the following as key factors for successful change:

  1. Formulate a clear vision and strategy, supported by well-defined benefits.
  2. Ensure strong leadership and sponsorship.
  3. Define and follow a well-structured and integrated approach.
  4. Understand, engage with, build commitment from and support key stakeholders.
  5. Build a strong change team with the necessary capabilities for success.
  6. Measure the success of the change initiative
What do change managers do?

The Change Management Body of Knowledge (CMBoK), published by the Change Management Institute (CMI), describes change managers as:

  • Advocating effective change management practices
  • Defining the change and placing it in context
  • Engaging people in order to ensure the change initiative succeeds – change can’t be imposed
  • Helps manage the benefits of change
  • Supports the development and execution of change plans
  • Facilitates the change process for the business and individuals
  • Advises and coaches senior colleagues to ensure it is supported from the top down.
Ways to ensure effective change management:

According to a blog by Ketan Patel from CMI, in order to manage change successfully any leader looking to drive change, or individual trying to adapt to change, must remember that whatever the message, people will have their own interpretations. Taking time to understand the reactions and responses to a change situation will help build trust and understanding, enabling the change practitioner to support individuals through it. By creating realistic experiences that mirror the end state of the change so that those affected can visualise the effects, they can be encouraged to accept new ways of working. This may be in the form of coaching and training, pilot groups, storytelling and role which can introduce the real-life impact of changes.

Four essential tips from the CMBoK on how to bring about effective change:

  1. A key responsibility of effective change managers is to help senior managers select suitable approaches from a range of change models. They ensure the right people are involved in the right change ‘steps’ and know that building ‘agility’ throughout an organization (such as cross- boundary working) increases capacity for continuous renewal and change.
  2. Change managers also understand the distinctive contributions that different individuals and groups make to successful change. They act as ‘agents’ for change and work with individuals and groups, at different levels, to help them make appropriate contributions.
  3. Effective change managers recognise the nature and effect of ‘cultural sensitivities’ on change in an organisation. This enables them to help leaders and managers develop appropriate strategies for developing the culture, promoting change and addressing resistance.
  4. Effective change managers understand that not all change can be scheduled and planned and help senior managers in an organization recognise the features of complex ‘emergent change’. They help create a supportive environment for leading and effecting such change.


Kirsten Bird

Posted by Kirsten Bird on 21st Jun 2018

About the Author

Kirsten is APM's content specialist

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