What is change management?

What is change management?

Change management is one of those terms that most people know very little about.  Some people would tell you there is some framework, others would be able to tell you about the steps involved from the famous text by Kotter on managing change, but my instinct from working with project managers and the business alike is that they don’t really understand it.

What if I was to explain change management in these terms:

The business has a business process that they decide to change.  This change may involve an IT system, or a policy, or the way a task is carried out, or who is responsible for doing something – picture the process flow diagram that shows you what the original or existing state (before the change) looks like, and then what the new state or future state (after the change) looks like.

If you have this picture of the business process current and future, then you should clearly be able to understand where the ‘people’ fit into this process.  Where they touch the process, interact with it, participate in it, and from there what the difference is going to be for those people when the change is made.

This list of ‘how the people’ are impacted is what is known as a ‘Change Impact Assessment’ – it’s really that simple.

The people involved in the process, impacted by the process (either internally or externally) or people who can help you with the change are your stakeholders.  These people would be listed out on your ‘Stakeholder Analysis’.

Who is just interested in knowing about the change?  Who is going to be the most strongly impacted by the change?  Who is going to be impacted in a small way by the change?  What external users are impacted? Who only needs to know about the change and are not directly impacted by it?

Now you have a picture of the change impact the next thing to do is to understand what you need to do in order to mitigate the risks associated with making this change.  This is what good change management is about.

If you make this change and do nothing, then what is the risk to the business?

How do you mitigate change impacts?  Communication is usually the first thing that people think of, and yes it is important, but it’s not the only thing to consider.  Is training needed?  Do you need to provide instructions, or instructional material to describe the change?  Do you need to create and set up a formal support model to help people gain knowledge and advice on the change?  Don’t make the mistake of starting with training.  If you do this your change effort is likely to fall very flat.

The key thing to remember is that good change management is all about the people.  It’s not about the process.  It’s not about filling out templates (change management templates).  A good change manager will ALWAYS focus on the people impacted.  And, you need buy-in from the business in order to have them work with you to mitigate the risk. This is the key to getting a good outcome.  Awareness building of the change is the first key step to good people focused change management.

Think about how you are going to manage the change created by your project.  What or how are you going to manage it?


Written by Karen Munro

*Image courtesy of Praisaeng at FreeDigitalPhotos.net