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What Is Change Management and How Does It Work?

Change management is a way to guide organizations through times of disruption or growth. In today's evolving world, effective change management is crucial for the success of any business.

According to Benjamin Dunford, professor of management at Purdue University, change is hard for most people. “The crux of change management is voluntary change,” Dunford says. “People must choose to make changes themselves. Try to look at change not as a threat but as an opportunity.”

Here’s more about the change management process and how you can gain the skills needed to be a change manager.

Managing Organizational Change

COVID-19, remote work and new technology have rapidly led to changes within organizations. This will only continue, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. It says the biggest changes will continue to be in work locations, employee health, diversity initiatives, treatment of workers, environmental impact and integration of technology.

Change management emphasizes helping people engage with and adopt changes in their daily work. Being in charge of managing this change is both a process and a competency.

Common Types of Organizational Change

The three most common types of organizational change are:

  • Developmental change: This enhances existing processes, strategies and procedures. This process isn’t an attempt to recreate workflow but to refine it to make it better.
  • Transitional change: This is moving an organization from its current state to a new state to address a specific problem, such as mergers or automation. This involves a set plan for making this change and a process for controlling implementation.
  • Transformational change: This brings about fundamental changes to an organization’s culture, core values and operations. This process recognizes challenges and new opportunities.

A typical organization has initiated five major changes in the past three years, according to Gartner. Nearly 75% expect to initiate more changes in the next three years.

Change Management as a Competency

Change management is a leadership competency that enhances an organization's change capacity and responsiveness. Senior leaders must be effective sponsors of change and demonstrate commitment, while people managers should coach their direct reports through change.

Building change management competencies throughout an organization is crucial for success. Effective change management involves a structured process and holistic tools to drive individual and organizational change. This goes beyond communication and training.

“Accountability is a critical principle in leading change, as it reinforces progress and prevents the status quo from dominating,” Dunford says. “Without accountability, others may adopt the same behavior. As teams are fundamental to organizations, accountability is crucial at all levels.”

Change Management vs. Change Leadership

Change management and change leadership are two different approaches that organizations can use to facilitate and implement change.

  • Change management: This is a process-oriented approach that focuses on the technical aspects of implementing change. It involves creating a plan, assessing risks and identifying potential obstacles. Change management also involves developing a strategy to communicate and engage stakeholders in the change process. This approach is often used to manage changes that are incremental or evolutionary in nature, such as process improvements or technology upgrades.
  • Change leadership: This is more people-oriented, focusing on inspiring and motivating individuals to embrace change. Change leadership involves developing a compelling vision for the future and communicating it in a way that inspires others. In this approach, leaders work to create a sense of urgency and build a coalition of supporters to drive change. This approach is often used when an organization needs to make significant or transformational changes, such as entering new markets or changing its business model.

>>Read More: What Can You Do with an MBA focused on Leadership, Negotiation and Change Management?

Leadership, Learning and Making Change

Studying leadership, negotiation and change management through an online MBA program can provide valuable skills for launching or advancing a career in management. These skills are critical for leading and managing teams effectively, negotiating with stakeholders and implementing successful organizational change.

In Purdue’s online MBA program, students can expect to learn about a range of topics related to leadership, negotiation and change management, including the key principles and theories behind these concepts, as well as best practices for applying them in real-world situations.

Coursework may cover topics such as managing conflict, building and leading high-performing teams and navigating complex organizational change.

By specializing in leadership, negotiation and change management, students can gain the skills and knowledge needed to advance in a variety of management roles, including human resources, project management and executive leadership. Students with these skills are well-positioned to take on new challenges and opportunities, whether within their current organizations or in new career paths.

Your Future in Change Management Awaits

Having an understanding of change management is important for career growth. Learn more about the Purdue Online MBA and the Leadership, Negotiation and Change Management specialization.

To learn more about the Purdue Online MBA and how it can help you achieve your career goals, reach out today.

If you would like to receive more information about pursuing a business master’s at the Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr. School of Business, please fill out the form and a program specialist will be in touch!

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