What Is Change Management & Why Is It Important to Your Organization?

ChangeAs an Organizational Development (OD) and Change Management practitioner I often get asked by leaders – so what does that mean? Why are these things important to my business?  And how can they help me create a high performing organization?

Well…let me explain the executive summary (OK well the sort of executive summary)…

“If you want to truly understand something, try to change it.

– Kurt Lewin

What is change management? 

  • The definition of change management varies. Many exist, some simple, some complex.  I’ll refrain from getting overly scholarly (you’re welcome).  To synopsize for the busy executive, change management can be defined as a structured approach to transitioning individuals, teams, and organizations from a current state to a desired future state.  It can be applied to situations such as downsizing, growing organizations, or even adding new technology. It is an organizational process aimed at helping employees to understand, commit to, and accept and embrace changes in their current business environment. A part of change management is also managing transition – and though related, change and transition is not the same thing.  Some definitions go even further to define differences between change management and change leadership (in my experience I see them very interrelated – one referring to the tools and technologies and the other referring to those individuals utilizing such tools, technologies and frameworks to lead change efforts.)

Why is change management important – how can it help?

  • If changes are occurring in your organization – strategic changes, tactical changes, leadership changes, technology changes – then those changes are going to have impacts and effects on your people and processes (among other areas). To help minimize those impacts and effects, from having unintended negative outcomes, it is necessary to have “change management” methodologies in place with skilled resources delivering and executing on those methodologies, principles and processes. This helps to minimize possible negative outcomes and increase positive results. Change itself is a process – managing it, leading it, achieving it is also a process and one that should not be viewed and managed with a one size fits all approach. Approaches and actions should be customized to fit your organizational circumstances.

My take – as an organizational development practitioner, I view change management methods as just one of many tools in your toolkit used to help achieve positive organizational improvements.

Feel free to learn more on the Tolero Think Tank.

Changes Ahead sign

What is organizational development (OD)?

  • The definition of Organizational Development (OD) varies even more than that of Change Management. Again, many exist, some simple, some complex.  And again, I’ll refrain from getting overly scholarly (you’re welcome).  To the busy executive, OD is basically the application of tools, methods, frameworks and technologies and processes to make your entire organization (yes, that includes people) more productive, profitable, and innovative. OD is an ongoing, systematic process of implementing positive and effective organizational change. Organizational development is known as both a field of applied behavioral science and as a field of scientific study and inquiry. It is interdisciplinary in nature and draws on many other disciplines such as sociology, psychology, communication, cultural anthropology organizational behavior, economics, political science, neuroleadership and theories of motivation, learning, and personality.

Why should you consider OD initiatives to support your organization in achieving desired outcomes?

“…Think of an organization as all the clothes hanging on a clothes line. All parts are connected. If you pull on the socks the towels move…”

– Arthur Friedman

  • One of the distinguishing characteristics of OD is that it is based on collaboration and a “helping relationship.”  OD takes a total system view — the organization as a whole, including its relevant subsystems in the context of the total system. Thus, OD interventions and improvement strategies can focus on the whole system or on multiple levels of the system such as groups, teams, and individuals. OD interventions should be clearly tied to strategic goals and objectives. Parts of systems are not considered in isolation; the principle of interdependency, that is, that changes in one part of a system affects the other parts, is fully recognized. These interventions and improvement strategies can focus on various initiatives within the organization such as change, communications, strategy, culture and process.

So, why should you care about these things?

  • Well you want to be successful, don’t you? Isn’t that why you took on organizational improvement efforts to begin with – to innovate, to reinvigorate, to become ever better. To prevent your organization from potentially failing before you even start – understanding and skillfully executing various principles of change management and OD are a necessity to success!

About: Scott Span, MSOD: is CEO & Lead Consultant of Tolero Solutions - an Organizational Improvement & Strategy firm.  He helps clients in facilitating sustainable growth by connecting and maximizing  people –> performance –> profit™, creating organizations that are more responsive, productive and profitable.

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