Thu, Apr 25, 2024

Change Management: The Basics

Navigating change within organizations is often complex, especially when multiple initiatives and stakeholders are simultaneously involved. Despite being a cliché, the phrase is a perennial truth: change is inevitable. This is especially true for modern organizations that are facing constantly evolving factors such as technological advancements, market trends, and internal restructuring.

Managing change effectively is essential to minimize disruptions and maximize growth opportunities. A well-established change management strategy helps organizations navigate through transitions with clarity and purpose. Change management starts with a simple structured process, such as the ADKAR change framework:

Awareness: Recognizing the need for change and understanding its importance

Desire: Developing a personal desire or motivation to participate in and support the change

Knowledge: Getting the necessary knowledge and understanding of how to change

Ability: Developing the skills and abilities needed to implement the change effectively

Reinforcement: Ensuring that the change is sustained over time through reinforcement mechanisms and ongoing support

Change management as a topic is (ironically) always changing. Despite that, there are a few tools, techniques and best practices for managing organizational change that build on the ADKAR framework. From understanding the psychological aspects of change to tailoring communication strategies and using internal resources, getting change management right starts with knowing best practices.

Best Practices

To manage change effectively, organizations would be wise to follow a set of change management best practices. These practices cover everything from documenting changes to communicating them effectively and ensuring that they work as intended.

Companies can use best practices to help them create a structured system for managing changes, staying in line with their goals and strengthening trust and resiliency in their corporate culture.

Setting up a Control Tower

One way to guide the change management process is to create an Organizational Change Management Center of Excellence (OCM/COE) to oversee and optimize change initiatives within the organization. Like an air traffic control tower, the OCM/COE acts as a guiding force by monitoring ongoing changes and resource availability and identifying and managing key stakeholders.

Centralizing these functions means the OCM/COE:

• Ensures alignment with organizational goals and minimizes the risk of change saturation, reducing the significant risk of employees being overwhelmed by excessive change demands

• Optimizes resources by strategically allocating and prioritizing projects based on capacity and potential change saturation points

Having an OCM/ COE allows organizations to effectively navigate change, keeping projects on track and aligned with change management objectives.

Stakeholder Engagement and Change Management Techniques

For effective change, it's crucial to involve everyone affected by the change. Talk to people across the organization to find out what works well and what doesn't. Identify key stakeholders to monitor the status of the change and regularly check in with them to help with blind spots and address concerns.

Change management methods, like the ADKAR framework above, help make sure stakeholders know:

• Why the change is happening

• Why it benefits them

• What they need to do

• What skills they need to do it

• Why they should keep supporting it

Carried out effectively, stakeholder engagement ensures that change happens smoothly and sticks.

Anticipating Protocols

Proactively creating robust change management policies and procedures ensures consistency and efficacy within an organization. They should include protocols for communication, detailed recording, initiative assessment, appropriate authorization, rigorous testing and other aspects contextually relevant to a specific change initiative.

During a change initiative, policies and procedures help organizations maintain operations and safeguard data and system integrity. Proactive protocols not only reduce risks associated with change but also increase organizational resilience in the face of rapidly evolving business landscapes.

Using Change Management Models

Change management models, such as the Change Management Capability Maturity Model (CMM), provide organizations with a structured approach to assess and enhance their change management processes. Models like the CMM outline maturity levels of business components and associated practices, guiding organizations toward optimizing their change management capabilities and aligning them with business strategies.

Running Change Management Audits

Regularly conducting change management audits allows organizations to evaluate the effectiveness of their change management processes comprehensively. These audits involve assessing various aspects of the change management lifecycle to identify areas of strength and opportunities for improvement. Audits highlight these areas, allowing organizations to enhance change management procedures, minimize risks and ensure smoother transitions.


Change management tools, policies and procedures are essential for organizations navigating various transitions and transformations. These resources provide structured frameworks and methodologies to effectively manage change, mitigate risks and ensure successful outcomes.

Change Management Policies and Procedures

Change management policies and procedures offer a comprehensive framework for organizations to systematically plan, execute and monitor changes across different areas of operation. These policies typically include guidelines for recording, assessing, authorizing, testing and implementing changes to maintain system integrity, data security and operational efficiency. By adhering to established procedures, organizations can ensure consistency, transparency and accountability throughout the change management process.

IT Change Management Policies

The IT Change Management Policy is a tool and template that is particularly crucial for organizations relying on complex IT infrastructures and systems. Aspects of the change management process the policy covers include:

• Owner and Approver

• Types of Changes

o Implementation

o Modification/Enhancement Changes

o Infrastructure Changes

• Standard Change Management Process

o Decision Phase

o Discovery Phase

o Design Phase

o Development Phase

o Deployment Phase

The tool further drills down to the finer aspects of procedures for managing changes to IT assets in the production environment, emphasizing the importance of maintaining system availability, data integrity and operational efficiency.

The IT Change Management Policy can also be used as inspiration for organizational divisions outside of IT that seek to put structure to their change management process.

Delegation of Authority Policy

The Delegation of Authority Policy is a critical component of effective change management, providing clear guidelines for assigning decision-making responsibilities during transition periods.

This policy lays out who has the authority to initiate, approve and communicate changes, ensuring accountability and alignment with organizational goals. By clarifying roles and procedures, this tool streamlines change management processes and facilitates effective communication and coordination across the organization.

Change Management Capability Maturity Model (CMM)

The CMM helps assess and advance an organization's change management process from an initial/ad-hoc stage to an optimized state. The model outlines organizational maturity levels, each level representing a stage of maturity in change management capacity and practices:

• Initial/Ad hoc: Formal strategies or policy guides system changes do not exist. Processes are informal, adjusted reactively and vary significantly between groups. Responsibility for changes is inconsistently defined, with only anecdotal evidence. Constant emergency changes, with unclear processes from request to closure, are often managed in silos between applications and infrastructure.

• Repeatable: A basic policy outlines authority and responsibility, but enforcement lacks consistency, with limited training among key roles. Processes are somewhat consistent, but methods are applied unevenly. Few defined metrics exist, primarily relying on periodic audits for data. Frequent emergency changes indicate less mature change management.

• Defined: Policies clearly define objectives, emphasizing avoiding unauthorized changes. Processes are well-understood with widespread training. Key measures are analyzed periodically, with set thresholds for service level monitoring. Emergency changes are rare, with impact analysis and risk mitigation.

• Managed: Executive/IT governance embeds policies and objectives. Service measures integrate with automated controls. Cross-training reduces single points of failure. Emergency changes are minimal. Benchmarks heavily influence decisions. Change management is fully integrated with trending reports for performance analysis.

• Optimized: Organizations are tightly aligned with business strategies, facilitating swift implementation of new initiatives. Changes are routine, with rare, planned system outages. Costs, benefits and risks are carefully evaluated across projects. Proactive system controls pre-empt service interruptions.

Getting more granular, the CMM measures the maturity level of core aspects of any organization:

• Business Strategies and Policies

• Business and Risk Management Processes

• People and Organizational Structure

• Management Reports

• Methodologies

• Systems and Data

By using the CMM to get a snapshot of their change management maturity levels, organizations can identify areas for improvement and implement strategies to enhance their change management capabilities systematically.

Change Management Audit

A change management audit evaluates the effectiveness of an organization's change management processes by assessing the entire lifecycle of its change management activities. It examines aspects such as:

• The initiation of change requests

• Documentation content

• Approval processes

• Impact analysis

• Testing plans

• Implementation steps

Wrapping Up

Effectively managing change in organizations is crucial for navigating today's fast-paced business world. Change, ever the cliché, is inevitable. Technology, market shifts and internal changes are constantly changing. Wise organizations intelligently adapt and evolve to match their ever-changing business environments.

Adapting to change is effectively carried out by using best practices, such as setting up an Organizational Change Management Center of Excellence (OCM/COE), proactively implementing policies and procedures, running change management audits, using models like the Change Management Capability Maturity Model (CMM), and regularly checking in with key stakeholders.

By using a combination of change management best practices and tools, organizations can greatly improve their handling of change. Employing these tools and methods helps change happen smoothly, strengthens the organization, ensures that changes fit with the overall business strategy, and contributes to the bottom line both during and after changes.