Change management is becoming a highly talked about subject and it appears to be some confusion as to what it actually is. If you run a search on Amazon you would see that here are +1,000 books written on the subject of change management. If you turn your attention to change management associations you would notice that they all have their own definition of change management.
On one hand, this is understandable as change management is a complex discipline with many facets. On the other hand, it can be very confusing.
The aim of this post it to “tidy” up and to identify the three main types of change:
- Transformational change: this change is aimed at achieving significant improvements in the organisation’s performance. It requires changing many elements of the organisation at the same time. There are many interdependencies and it may take years to be accomplished. Examples of transformational change are: cultural change, process re-engineering, altering the business strategy or becoming a customer oriented organisation.
- Deliverable led change: this is the most “deceitful” type as most of the times executives and divisional managers don’t talk about change, but refer more generally to projects that are thought in terms of deliverables. For example the introduction of a new product, the implementation of a new software to process the payroll, the move to a new HQ. However, these projects still require change and have to be managed as such. If the company decided to introduce a new software to process the payroll, change tools will have to be identified and implemented in order to determine, for example, who will be impacted by the new software, how to achieve optimal adoption and usage.
- Bounded change: it differs from transformational change as it is usually initiated by a divisional manager and involves some change in his/her unit structure and processes. Therefore, bounded change has a narrower scope when compared to transformational change. This means that is usually less risky, as it is more limited in scope, and may take less time to be completed.
Therefore, when someone talks about change, they are not necessarily meaning the same thing. Sometimes the word change is not used at all (even if what they want to achieve requires change!). There is also a tendency to think about change management in terms of methodologies as if there is a magic wand that would resolve all the issues linked to adoption and usage. That is not the case.
One of the most popular change management methodologies is Kotter’s methodology which consists in 8 well identified steps. However, this methodology is much more suitable when applied to transformational change. It can be cumbersome and not effective when talking about deliverables and projects linked to the update of the IT software to process the payroll.
There is no one size fits all when it comes to change management. It is the job of a great and experienced change management practitioner to “translate” what the executives and divisional managers want to achieve in terms of change and to identify the best tools to support those initiatives and lead to their successful completion.