What Is Change Management? | Lucidchart Blog
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70% of all change initiatives fail. Why? Because changing human behavior is hard.

Newton’s first law of motion dictates that a body at rest will remain at rest (or at least in its uniform motion) unless directly acted upon by another force. You could speculate that change management would have fit right into Sir Isaac Newton’s wheelhouse were he to be a project manager today.

So, what is change management?

Simply put, it’s the management of change within a group or organization. A ubiquitous term often interchangeable with organizational change management, change management has an uphill battle against inertia as well as a lot of moving parts that can get away from an organization if they’re not orchestrated correctly. Regardless of the change management model a company has decided to use, the common denominator between all of them is people.

Successful change management requires frequent and clear communication between an organization and its people. Thus, an essential part of organizational change management is not only managing all the moving parts but also understanding how people process change.

Disruption has become a buzzword of late when it comes to start-ups and companies shaking up the status quo, but the focus of change management is to minimize disruption when a company undergoes a shift, whether the changes be large or small.

Change management and project management work hand in hand to minimize the ripple effects when change comes down the pipeline. Think of them as two sides of the same coin: the technical side and the people side. Project management handles the technical pieces during a change while change management focuses on people’s reactions to change.

So why is successful organizational change management important? Because companies that can efficiently adapt to change outperform their competitors by 3.5 times.

Organizational changes affect everything

Impending changes affect every part of an organization—and the people within it. A company’s structure is like a spider web: tug on one tiny corner and vibrations are sent throughout the entire web. Every piece, every team, every person of a company affects each other.

Some of the key areas change management addresses are:

  • Systems
  • Processes
  • Company structure
  • Job roles

Some of the key barriers standing in the way of progress are:

  • Management
  • Employees
  • Budget
  • Lack of communication
  • Lack of leadership

Some of the key challenges lying in wait are:

  • Communicating the changes
  • Navigating the changes
  • Implementing the changes
  • Scaling the changes
change management chart
Change Management Chart (Click on image to modify online)

Spiders build their webs the way they do because they want to immediately know what’s coming. People are no different. As humans, we are naturally opposed to and hard-wired against change.

5 steps of organizational change management

When changes are on the horizon for your business or organization, you can prepare for them in a few ways. The basic change management stages include:

  1. Assess
  2. Design
  3. Implement
  4. Manage
  5. Evaluate
change management
Change Management Template (Click on image to modify online)

And while the details to each of these steps may look different for each company, they help outline an organizational plan of attack. To keep the assessment stage from becoming too overwhelming, you can create your own change management checklist of questions to ask, such as:

  • Why is this change happening?
  • What is the proposed timeline?
  • What are our key challenges?
  • How do we communicate this change?
  • What does our roadmap look like?

A separate set of questions for each of the steps above can help an unwieldy undertaking suddenly seem manageable.

Transparency is essential

One of the greatest enemies to change is fear. No one likes being left in the dark, and uncertainty about an impending change can spread quickly throughout an organization.The antidote to fear is timely, correct information. Keep teams and individuals informed throughout every stage of a large-scale change implementation. You can build process maps in Lucidchart to outline each step of the implementation so all employees have a clear understanding of what will take place when. In addition, if the change involves modifying an existing process, you can use Lucidchart to show both the current process and the new process to help employees understand the benefits of the change.As is and to be processes for change management

Your people are the key to successful change management

Yes, change can be hard. But change is natural and more importantly, change is crucial in order for an organization to grow. Strong leadership combined with clear communication works as a catalyst for change at the employee level. When employees have an informed and accurate understanding of what changes are happening and how they affect them, they can become proponents of those changes—and that’s the kind of momentum any organization can benefit from.