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What is Change Management?


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Quality Glossary Definition: Change management

Change management is defined as the methods and manners in which a company describes and implements change within both its internal and external processes. This includes preparing and supporting employees, establishing the necessary steps for change, and monitoring pre- and post-change activities to ensure successful implementation.

Significant organizational change can be challenging. It often requires many levels of cooperation and may involve different independent entities within an organization. Developing a structured approach to change is critical to help ensure a beneficial transition while mitigating disruption.

Changes usually fail for human reasons: the promoters of the change did not attend to the healthy, real and predictable reactions of normal people to disturbance of their routines. Effective communication is one of the most important success factors for effective change management. All involved individuals must understand the progress through the various stages and see results as the change cascades.

How to Implement Change Management

  1. Define the change.
  2. Select the change management team.
  3. Identify management sponsorship and secure commitment.
  4. Develop implementation plan including metrics.
  5. Implement the change—in stages, if possible.
  6. Collect and analyze data.
  7. Quantify gaps and understand resistance.
  8. Modify the plan as needed and loop back to the implementation step.

Tutorial for Overcoming Resistance to Change

Resistance to change can be defined as any obstacle that becomes an impediment to implementing change. The source of resistance is often individuals or groups, but it can also be systems or processes that are outdated or that fail to fit current business conditions.

Figure 1 depicts the elements of a change management model and the sequence in which they occur.

Change management model for making change work
Figure 1 Change management model for making change work

In the center of the change management model figure, all changes move from the current state, through a transition phase, and into the desired improvement state.

  • In the beginning, it is important to create, or affirm, a broadly understood need for the change (creating a shared need).
  • It is equally important to create and share an idea of what the outcome will look like (shaping a vision).
  • Throughout the change effort, there must always be sufficient resources dedicated to it (mobilizing commitment).
  • There must be a way to track the change efforts (monitoring progress).
  • A person or team must ensure that the change reaches completion (finishing the job).
  • From the very beginning until the end, the change effort must have the backing of management, and leadership from an accountable person or people (leading change)

Elements of the change management model
Figure 2 Elements of the change management model

Change Management Resources

The Human Side of Change Leadership (PDF) Identify potential resistance to planned changes and design motivation into the new process.

15 Waste Scenarios (PDF) Fifteen scenarios of waste are possible when an effective model is not used to facilitate effective change.

Driving Performance Results at American Express (PDF) The American Express Change Process, a change model applied in the launch of Six Sigma, shows how addressing human variables makes project initiatives work.


Adapted from Making Change Work: Practical Tools for Overcoming Human Resistance to Change, ASQ Quality Press.

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