The Basics of Managing Change

Some key questions to get you started in understanding and working with change management:

What is change management?

Change management is a set of ideas, strategies, and skills that can be applied to engage change effectively. These may be applied

  • in planning for change
  • in implementing change
  • in supporting continuous improvement following change

What kinds of change benefit from using change management?

Change management methods may be applied to any type of organizational change, including departmental mergers, technology implementation, creating team-based organizations and professional development. It may be helpful to think about change management methods on two levels:

The first level of change managementis generic enough to apply to any type of change, whether it's the creation of a new department or the implementation of a new technology. At this generic level, change management methods are mostly targeted at understanding the human response to change and creating effective strategies for engaging people to achieve change.

The second level of change managementincludes methods that are specific to a particular change. For example, in technology implementations, specific actions include establishing and communicating the business case for change, ongoing relationship building, communication and training for affected staff, redesigning business processes, and creating and sustaining groups to manage the project. While some of these activities apply to other types of change, this collection forms a boilerplate for technology implementation.

What are some examples of change management skills?

Here's an example of a change management idea: A guideline for assessing the likely success of a proposed change requires evaluating three key elements: the leadership capacity and attention span for driving the change, the business need for the change, and the energy of affected people for and towards the change.

An example of a change management strategy: For a communication plan, a leader should communicate about each step of the change "seven different times and in seven different ways" to encourage support for the change and help ensure its effectiveness.

Example of a skill: At the outset of a change process, a leader should meet with each major stakeholder group (staff, customers, suppliers, sponsors). Combine active sharing of the benefits and tradeoffs of the change with active listening to stakeholder concerns. This makes any resistance visible, discussable, and hopefully resolvable.

How can change management help me deal with change?

There are a number of ways change management helps people deal with change. Three key benefits include

  • Change management can help you recognize how powerful the human dynamics are in any change effort, how they dramatically affect the final result, and how you can use that knowledge to attain the best possible outcome.
  • A change management strategy can act as a map for guiding action and helping you "stay the course" rather than getting caught up in the complexity and tumult of change.
  • Change management ideas and tactics can help you develop the relationships you need to maximize the effectiveness of a change.

What about personal change?

Some resources that may be helpful:

  • For professional development changes, MIT's professional development courses can help you identify learning opportunities.
  • The MIT Work-Life Center offers programs to help with changes in personal and family life.
  • Your Human Resource Officer or the Ombuds office are good places to start when dealing with work-related conflicts and concerns.

Where can I go for additional information?

Learn more about change management by visiting our articles and tools and recommended resources.