How to Successfully Manage Organizational Change

Published: Nov 03, 2017
Modified: May 20, 2020


In today’s organizations, leaders must be prepared to manage organizational change. Change in the workplace is inevitable, and the effective management of a change initiative plays a large role in transformative success.

Types of organizational change

To start, leaders should recognize the types of change that may occur. As explained in AMA‘s Change Management Workshop, change is generally characterized in five ways:

Evolutionary change or adaptation is slow and incremental. While the complete results could create significant change in an organization, the pace is quite slow and involves many committees and individuals to ensure less upheaval.

Developmental change enhances or corrects existing aspects of an organization, such as improving a skill or process. This type of change should cause little stress as long as the rationale is understood by employees.

Transitional change seeks to achieve a desired state that is different from the existing one. This is a little more intrusive than developmental change since it replaces existing processes with something completely new.

Drastic action or revolutionary change is immediate and forced on the organization in the face of a significant event. Mandated regulatory change or the introduction of advanced technology are examples of drastic changes.

Transformational change is radical, requiring a significant shift in assumptions made by the organization and all employees. The transformation results in an organization that differs significantly in terms of structure, process, culture, and strategy from where it began.

Effective organizational change management in the workplace

As leaders of change in the workplace, we provide direction and help our organizations understand the nature of change and reason for it. Your role in leading change depends on factors such as the level of authority and influence you have over the change and the nature of the change.

Organizational change management is multifaceted and involves many elements. But among them, our primary responsibility and objective is to manage the scope and speed of change for the people we lead. This is where we have the most impact, and all other elements of managing change are part of being able to do this effectively.

The elements of organizational change can be broken down this way:

  • The scope relates to the impact the change may have.
  • Speed relates to how quickly we can get people to adapt, with as little impact as possible on engagement (morale) and productivity.
  • Communicating the reason for change, monitoring the impact, and adapting communications to people and the environment all contribute to managing the scope and speed of the change.

Challenges of managing organizational change

To successfully manage organizational change, leaders need to understand that individuals deal with change at different rates. Too much change in a short time can result in feelings of change overload. Leaders must help teams make a change with minimum disruption and stress. To do so, we need to ask:

  • What approaches to leading change create overload, chaos, and resistance?
  • How can these effects be mitigated to lessen the perceived or felt impact?

Some common challenges of managing workplace change are listed here, along with tips on how to handle them:

  • Lack of communication: Provide as much information as you can, in a timely manner.
  • Change does not make sense: Demonstrate the link to the organization’s vision and strategic goals.
  • No involvement in the change process: Have open, two-way discussions on how the team can implement changes.
  • Insufficient time to process change: Hold individual and team discussions.
  • Multiple changes in a short timeframe: Provide information as soon as possible.
  • Unrealistic timelines: Explain why timelines are short and explore ways they can be achieved (if possible).
  • Lack of support: Show genuine care and offer support to the team; remove barriers where possible.
  • Past experiences: Focus on future benefits.
  • Lack of engagement (willingness to adapt): Address what the impact will be and what will be done differently; discuss the benefits of change.