Change management, or the leadership-driven elements of large-scale change in an organization, is indeed a significantly related component to industrial-organizational psychology. Change management is also closely related to many other disciplines as well, including information technology, business and industry, education, government agencies, and many more.
While there are truly countless types of large-scale change that can be administered by upper management in this way, there are a number of more commonly seen types of change in today’s business world.
The following represent some of the more commonly seen change management goals.
What is Change Management?
Before we can understand some of the primary goals of change management, we need to first have an understanding of what change management is.
As noted in the introduction, change management refers to a leadership-driven process of making large-scale changes in an organization. Change management is the structure by which organizational change takes place. People in leadership roles utilize various tools to help support employees in making positive changes in the way they do their jobs.
The key here is that this is a leadership-driven process. While everyone in an organization is unique, and while the changes that each employee needs to make are also unique, those individual-based processes of change have to begin somewhere. That “somewhere” is the managers, executives, owners, and other stakeholders in an organization.
Change management takes place on three different levels:
Change management on an individual level requires that employees are well-supported to make change. This means that managers not only need to understand how to support employees but that they also understand what tools employees might need, how to encourage positive change, when to push for changes to be made, and so forth.
To help individuals achieve change and to help those changes last for the long-term, many organizations utilize the ADKAR Model, which is an acronym for the five individual outcomes needed for successful individual change: Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement.
In other words, for individual-level changes to occur, an individual must be aware that change is needed, have a desire to make the needed change, understand the knowledge that’s needed to make the change, the ability to implement the change, and reinforcement to stick with it and make the change permanent.
Though it can be difficult to make changes, doing so using this framework will make those changes much easier to achieve.
At the organizational level, change management focuses on the bigger picture. That is, it outlines the steps needed to take at the organizational level that supports each of the individuals involved.
Here’s an example…
Let’s say that the management team of a business identifies specific changes that need to be made. Let’s also say that they identify people within the organization that will be impacted as a result of the necessary changes.
To help facilitate change, the management team might create a change plan that outlines how employees will be informed of the change, how employees will be supported, any tools or training that will be offered, and how transitions from the old way of doing things to the new way of doing things will be handled. Again, all of this is done at the macro level, but with a keen eye on how each individual is handling the changes being implemented.
And then we have the enterprise level of change.
When speaking of enterprise level change, we’re referring to an organization’s commitment to pursuing change in order to continue to grow. To ensure that an organization keeps moving forward and improving, this commitment to change should be part of the foundation of the business.
For example, the organization’s mission statement, the manner in which the organization is structured, the roles and responsibilities of employees and managers, and other features of the organizational structure should all have a pursuit of growth and change embedded in them. By doing so, individuals and teams within the organization have a built-in commitment to not only accepting change, but pursuing it and thriving on it.
Of course, the overarching goal of all this is to simply be open to change. That’s a very broad definition, but it holds true.
Change Management Guidelines
Paired with the three levels of change management is the notion that change management is guided by a certain set of principles. Though the precise principles and the number of principles that guide change might be different from one organization to the next, we can identify a few common guidelines that drive this process:
- Understanding change
- Planning for change
- Implementing change
- Communicating change
Obviously, the process begins with actually understanding why change is needed and beneficial. To do so, an organization’s leaders might consider things like:
- Why do we need to change?
- What are the key outcomes desired as a result of change?
- What are the benefits of change?
- How will employees be affected?
- What do we need to make change more successful?
Note that developing this understanding of change is quite introspective, forward-looking, and does not focus on what might go wrong.
Next, it’s necessary for organizations to plan the process of change.
Making wholesale changes at the organizational level isn’t as simple as committing oneself to change. Instead, there is the need for a lengthy and detailed planning phase during which the process of implementing changes is thoroughly vetted and managed.
Another part of the change planning process is to ensure that stakeholders buy into the changes that are proposed. After all, change can’t happen without the buy-in of people who will be impacted by the changes.
During the implementation stage, those in charge of making changes have to consider things like:
- How do we build support and momentum for change?
- How can we be mindful of people’s input?
- How can we manage people’s feelings and opinions about change?
- Who are the stakeholders, and what are their roles?
- What training, if any, needs to occur?
So the implementation stage isn’t just about rolling out changes. Instead, it’s an iterative process during which many different levels of questioning must occur. Again, if you can’t onboard the people that are impacted by change – perhaps because they feel left out or are unsure of the proposed changes – change management becomes that much more difficult.
Finally, communicating change is critical to change management. This is the component that allows you to tie the proposed changes into the vision for the organization’s future. As noted earlier, tying change to an organization’s mission statement or goals helps stakeholders understand how and why change is relevant and important.
Of course, communicating about change requires that you be very clear, too. An enemy of change is misunderstandings and lingering questions, so the more clear you can articulate the need for change and the outcomes it will bring, the better.
Common Change Management Goals
Now that we have a better understanding of what change management is and the guidelines that help direct it, we can discuss some of the common goals of this process.
Bear in mind that the following is not a complete list. However, it offers insight into change management goals that can be applied in virtually any organization.
Build a Culture of Innovation
Deficiencies in culture and overall workforce attitudes can truly hold back nearly any other change management goal a company may envision. As such, the goal to build an innovative and more conducive company culture is a very common one.
While this goal may sound straightforward, in reality, it can actually prove to be a very complex one to achieve. Important elements of this kind of change can include updated incentives and punishment systems, changes in hiring techniques, and new forms of internal communications.
Likewise, organizations might adjust meeting methods, update employee uniforms and other gear, and develop new employee training programs.
While these activities might seem as though they have little in common, the tie that binds is the focus on the future and of establishing support for innovation in every nook and cranny of an organization.
Change and Update Best Practices
“Best practices” is the term used to define a company’s established best and recommended way of performing some particular activity. There can be a best practice for nearly any act, and in many cases, they are actually required protocol.
While best practices guide employees in how to perform tasks, this very quality and power make them a prime target for change as upper leadership sees fit. While change here can promote great benefits, too much and/or too regular changes can also create their very own problems.
With that in mind, it might be best to consider this as a long-term goal, one that is revisited less frequently than others on this list. For example, if the employee handbook outlines the proper procedure for reporting a problem to management, but that procedure is constantly changed and updated, it would be easy for employees to not understand what the update protocol calls for. This, in turn, would lead to confusion and frustration, and ultimately, employees might not bring issues to the attention of management.
So, while changing and updating best practice policies is a smart idea as part of an organization’s change management process, it shouldn’t be done too frequently.
Establish Milestones and Incentive Programs
Incentives can be the ultimate driving force in performance. In order to drive a workforce to do its very best, it must be properly driven with smart incentives.
Here, yet another quite common change management goal is in updating the way employees are rewarded for their efforts. For example, a creative way to incentivize is through the setup of a milestone system. Employees who then reach certain milestones or who are a part of greater, more complex milestones coming to fruition, are then recognized and rewarded, thus setting an example for others to follow.
Change Training Practices
Training practices are another critical area of business that is certainly susceptible to change when circumstances see fit.
Training sets the scene for what employees know and can accomplish. It sets the tone for expectations – both on their part and on the part of management for the behavior and performance of their employees.
For example, if employee outputs are not on par for what is needed in the organization, it is very likely that this area will become the focus of some change management efforts. This might be updating employee intake and training procedures to ensure that new hires are completely aware of the organization’s goals.
As was discussed in the communication guidelines earlier, if you don’t clearly articulate what is needed or expected, it’s hard for people to meet your expectations. Changing training practices will help maximize the chances that employees have to meet and exceed an organization’s expectations.
Shift of Targeted Customer Base
The customer base is also of great importance to any successful business. Targeting the correct group for products and services is paramount, whether that be a particular age group, sex, culture, physical size, personal attitude or philosophy, or any other characteristic.
But, sometimes, in the course of evaluating the need for change, an organization might discover that they have been targeting the wrong customers all along. Instead of focusing advertising on moms in their 30s, a women’s wear and children’s wear company might find that a better target market is women in their 20s.
The point is that change management, though much of it can be internal to an organization, can also have external changes in how the company or organization “meets” its clientele. But whether change happens internally, externally, or both, the ultimate goal is still to move the company forward in a positive direction.
Change Management is Tough, But Worth It
Although this article is a fairly streamlined description of change management processes, the truth of the matter is that it is a highly complex process that involves many, many different people at different levels in an organization.
Change can take years to accomplish and will require thousands of hours of work to implement and maintain. But, the rewards that an organization can reap are certainly worth the output of time, energy, and money.
In conclusion, the leadership-driven management of big change is an important aspect of any business. As described by Forbes expert contributor Glenn Llopis, such ability to change and adapt is important, but it also requires that “leadership – across all levels – must have absolute clarity in purpose and focus.”
While there is certainly greater depth to this subject, these are the basics of change management, an important component to industrial-organizational psychology as well as many other progressive business disciplines today.
B.A. Social Studies Education | University of Wyoming
M.S. Counseling | University of Wyoming
B.S. Information Technology | University of Massachusetts
Updated September 2021