What is change management?

By Natasha Crooks.

For a concept which first started emerging in the 1960s, change management is not a discipline which is necessarily well understood, or utilised by organisations when they are seeking to transition to the new. A company will overlook it to their detriment - as organisations with mature change models will attest - the key to being adept, agile and competitive in an environment seeing an unprecedented rate of change (in all spheres - from economies, to markets, to technology) is an engaged, adept, and agile workforce. 

There is 50 years worth of research, tools, and theories in the realm of change management (from Kotter, to PROSCI accreditation) - the approaches may vary, but the goal is the same - to successfully transition an organisation from its current state to a desired future state - with staff who are prepared for the change, adopt the change, and sustain the change.

With people at the heart of the endeavour, it can never be an exact science. Commitment to change mechanisms (for example training, change networks, communications) tend to suffer for constant internal competition for air-time, resourcing, and budget. Strategic and committed leadership is key - the 'tone at the top' tends to set the tone for the rest - so there needs to be a very clear vision of what is changing, and why. The 'how' should follow. 

Change is challenging. People's natural inclination is to resist it, or treat is as a threat/with suspicion. For an organisation to evolve to a state where change is embraced, or better yet, encouraged, there needs to be a longer-term commitment to a cultural shift. The more immediate concern for a change practitioner is to be asking (and answering) these questions: 

When X arrives at work on the day when this change happens - will they be ready and able to do their job?
How do we make sure they are?

When those questions can be answered positively - change management is happening.



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