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Aug 28, 2023 | Blog

CHANGE MANAGEMENT: So what is it, really?

By Grace McKeown, Vantage Point Knowledge Philanthropist

I have been a Knowledge Philanthropist with Vantage Point for a few years now and have provided change management workshops to a number of not for profit organizations. Most participants attend these workshops as they are keen to learn more about how to implement successful change in their organizations. Often the “aha moment” happens when we discuss how people respond to change. Just because a change may be perceived as positive for an organization, people may still react negatively because of how the change personally impacts them and their day to day routines. Once leaders understand how individuals will respond to a change then they are better able to proactively manage the change and increase the likelihood of a successful implementation. The art and science of understanding and responding to the people side of change is where change management professionals are invaluable.

The term change management has become an increasingly common phrase in businesses and projects today. We hear leaders say, “we need change management” or see job postings for “change management” but really, what is change management?

The Association for Change Management Professionals (ACMP) defines Change Management as “the application of knowledge, skills, abilities, methodologies, processes, tools, and techniques to transition an individual or group from current state to a future state to achieve expected benefits and organizational objectives. Change management processes, when properly applied, ensure individuals within an organization efficiently and effectively transition through change so that the organizations’ goals are realized.”

Another way to understand change management is to compare it to project management. Project management applies a structured approach to implementing the technical side of a change, and change management addresses the people side of change. i.e. how can people be supported in adopting and using the new system, processes, etc. to ensure a successful transition to the change?

SOURCE: https://www.prosci.com/resources/articles/definition-of-change-management

A change management professional will apply the following steps (Reference: ACMP Standard for Change Management) to support organizations, projects, and individuals transition to a new future state:

  • Evaluate Change Impact and Organizational readiness
  • Formulate the Change Management Strategy
  • Develop the Change Management Plan
  • Execute the Change Management Plan
  • Complete the Change Management Effort

Various tools, templates and assessments are utilized to assist the change management professional in understanding WHAT is changing, WHY the change is happening, WHEN the change will happen, WHO is impacted and HOW.

Understanding the scope of the change and who and how individuals are impacted are key inputs into developing a change strategy and plan, but equally important is identifying what activities are required to support individuals through the change.

  • What information needs to be communicated?
  • What will the reaction be (positive or negative) and how will individuals need to be supported?
  • Will training or other new skills and knowledge be required?
  • How will new skills and knowledge be reinforced to ensure the changes are fully adopted?

It is critical that appropriate resources are identified and individuals responsible are identified to ensure each of the required activities are completed.

A final critical success factor in change management is strong leadership and sponsorship. A few examples from the ACMP Standards of why sponsors are critical to change success include:

  • Staff want to learn about the change and the reason for change from senior leaders
  • Sponsors build support for the change at all levels of the organization
  • Sponsors provide the resources and budget, set expectations, and hold organizations and individuals accountable during the change

Change can be a disruptive and if not managed can result in failed projects and/or failed business outcomes. “Effective change management results in a higher likelihood of change adoption and benefits realization” (ACMP Standards).

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