Managing Change

Your boss asks you to his office and tells you that as of next week you will be assigned to a new process unit. You receive an email that HR is rolling out a new time-tracking system. The IT manager informs your group that she is installing a new security system on your company-issued cell phone. You are moving from an apartment into your first house.

These are all changes and all of us face changes every day. We are asked to accept and adopt changes as employees and we are asked to create change as leaders. And, we strive for new opportunities — change — in both our professional and personal lives.

Yet, if we’re completely honest, change brings a dichotomy of emotions. We are either excited for, or absolutely dread, a change.

How can we handle change better and learn to manage positive change as leaders within our organizations?

Reasons for change management

Jeff Hiatt and Tim Creasey present five reasons for change in their book, Change Management.1 First, we change because something is fundamentally different. Moving from an apartment to a house creates fundamental changes: more space, increased equity, and additional responsibility.

Next, organizational change requires individual change. As employees at a petrochemical facility leave and retire, others are promoted and moved to different jobs. In order to keep production and innovation on track, the organization requires individuals to learn new skills, acquire new knowledge, and form new competencies. Each individual in an organization plays a role in the overall business success of the firm.

The third reason we need to have change management is that the organization can only be successful in change if the individuals are also successful. As you move to supporting a different unit in the plant, you will meet new people and learn different chemistries. As a part of the transition, you will observe the job of your predecessor and teach your own successor. Knowledge sharing among team members is critical for organizational success in change management yet relies wholly on the individual to achieve that success.

Another reason for leading change management is that people are at the core of a change. The new HR process for time-keeping will only be successful if employees accept and adopt the system. Resistance to change is a real challenge to successful change management. Employees must understand the reasons why a new cell phone security policy is required and how it will impact them. A change that is complex or remote will not be accepted and staff will develop unauthorized workarounds that put the organization at risk.

Finally, we need change management processes to realize the benefits and outcomes of a change. Packing boxes and painting are not necessarily fun activities, but when you own your home, you will be happy that you took on the change. Likewise, when you learn a new unit’s operations, you will be satisfied with the benefit of new knowledge, skills, and capabilities.

Why change management?

Change is a constant in our lives to keep up with new technologies, markets, and products. If we don’t change, we cannot improve our performance, learn, and grow. Supporting organizational changes improves the business and can bring new leadership responsibilities. Understanding that people are at the core of any change is what makes change management successful.

What is a change you are experiencing now? How are you managing that change?


1. Jeffrey M. Hiatt, Timothy J. Creasey. Change Management: The People Side of Change. Prosci: Loveland, CO (2012).