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Change is often required to advance an organization’s growth and success. However, implementing change can be a challenge. After identifying strategic changes, business leaders need to get their employees on board, and this process isn’t always easy—most people are hard-wired to resist change.1

This is where an effective change management strategy and highlighting the importance of change management can come into play. 

What are the different types of change management? Below, we’ll dive into various change management strategies and review some popular models used to implement them effectively. We’ll also discuss how to pursue a career path in change management.

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4 Types of Change in Organizations

To start, let’s discuss the four main types of organizational change management.

1. Strategic Change Management

Sometimes, a company’s strategy needs to be revamped to achieve certain goals. In turn, it may use strategic change management to switch up its:

  • Policies
  • Processes
  • Mission
  • Vision

These strategic changes can help companies hone their competitive edge, take advantage of new opportunities, and prepare for upcoming threats. For example, a business may use a strategic change management process to expand into a new market.

Persuading employees to embrace this type of change process requires leadership to communicate their new strategy’s long-term value – a concept that is often explored when discussing change management.

2. Structural Change Management

Structural changes optimize how an organization runs internally. Some examples include fine-tuning the management hierarchy, redefining certain job descriptions, revamping key administrative procedures, or right-sizing staff. 

Structural changes are often spurred by the following types of circumstances:

  • Mergers and acquisitions
  • Market changes
  • Opportunities for expansion 
  • Regulatory updates

Structural change can impact employees' daily work. For example, a merger may result in layoffs if the merging companies have redundant job positions. In turn, employees often require more communication and reassurance throughout the implementation process of this change management strategy. 

3. Cultural Change Management

Culture can influence a company's long-term success considerably. Companies with strong company cultures boast up to 72% higher employee engagement.2 Additionally, highly engaged employees are more productive and less likely to leave their jobs for other employment opportunities. 

Businesses can enact cultural change management to foster a stronger culture. During this process, leaders may encourage their employees to embrace new mindsets and behaviors. For example, a company may host diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) workshops to cultivate a more inclusive culture. 

Since cultural change management involves changing the hearts and minds of employees, it can take longer to achieve. To that end, managing change should be done slowly and gradually with continuous reinforcement.

4. Technological Change Management 

Technology continues to develop at a rapid pace. Companies that fail to keep up with key innovations may end up falling behind. Thus, understanding how to implement technological change management is crucial. 

Employees can be reluctant to embrace new technologies—they may not want to go through the hassle of overcoming the learning curve involved. For this reason, an effective technological change must start by explaining why the new technology is beneficial for both the company and the employees who will be using it. 

Leadership should also provide adequate training and support during the transition and showcase empathy and patience throughout the process. 

Understanding Different Approaches to Organizational Change

No matter what type of organizational change management method a company is trying to implement, it can do so using several approaches. 

Here are some common approaches to change management, along with their motivations and challenges: 

  • Incremental change takes place slowly. It uses small steps to gradually reach a larger goal. By making minor adjustments over time, employees may have an easier time acclimating to change. In turn, they may be less likely to resist normal change. This approach is also less disruptive to day-to-day operations, enabling a company to maintain its stability throughout the change management process.
  • Developmental change involves continuously optimizing an organization to set it up for sustained success. This method of managing change doesn’t have a clearly defined endpoint. Instead, it often involves proactively investing in innovative systems and employees’ professional development on an ongoing basis. Enacting developmental change is easier to do when the company culture values innovation, creativity, and continuous learning. 
  • Transitional change aims to take a company from one state to another within a set period of time. The steps involved in getting from the first state to the next are clearly defined. Leadership knows that the transitional change is complete once the company reaches the new state. This type of change can induce uncertainty and resistance among employees, so addressing their concerns is of utmost importance. 
  • Transformational change aims to alter one or more foundational components of a company. It’s typically employed in response to destabilizing external events. It may include overhauling a company’s culture or shifting to a remote workforce. Once the transformational change takes place, the company will likely look and feel very different to its employees. While necessary in certain scenarios, the radical nature of this change can make it the most challenging for employees to accept.

6 Popular Change Management Models

After selecting the appropriate approach, companies can employ effective change by using effective change management models as a part of change management planning. Some of these models include:

  1. Lewin’s Change Management Model divides change into three steps: unfreeze, change, and refreeze. It asserts that similar to an ice cube, companies must unfreeze to remold themselves before they refreeze and cement new changes. 

    In this model, the “unfreeze” stage occurs when leadership analyzes their situation and communicates their desired change to employees. The “change” stage sets in once the company starts implementing change. The “refreeze” stage involves checking in regularly to ensure the change is maintained long-term. 

  2. Kotter’s Change Management Theory was put together by Harvard change management expert, John Kotter. It emphasizes the importance of human psychology in change management. Kotter recommends companies follow these eight steps when enacting change:
    1. Instill a sense of urgency
    2. Designate a “change team” of qualified people
    3. Define a strategic vision for your change initiative
    4. Communicate with affected parties and clarify their roles
    5. Pinpoint potential obstacles to change
    6. Break down your overarching goal into actionable steps 
    7. Maintain your momentum until the final goal is reached
    8. Ensure the new changes are sustained 
  3. The ADKAR Change Management Model was formulated by the founder of Prosci, Jeff Hiatt. It lays out five goals to pursue during the change management process. These goals are as follows:
    1. Awareness – Make everyone at the company aware of the need for change.
    2. Desire – Explain your motivations behind the change to get others to support it. 
    3. Knowledge – Clearly define each person’s role in the change implementation. 
    4. Ability – Ensure that each employee is adequately trained to fulfill their role. 
    5. Reinforcement – Support employees throughout the process to ensure the change sticks. 
  4. The McKinsey 7-S Model was created by McKinsey & Company consultants. It encourages change leaders to consider these seven components as they pursue change:
    1. Change strategy
    2. Company structure
    3. Business processes and systems
    4. Company culture and values
    5. Style of work
    6. Affected staff
    7. Employee’s skill sets
  5. Bridges Transition Model was put together by change consultant William Bridges. It recognizes the emotional transition employees must go through to reach a place of acceptance of organizational change. This transition includes three stages:
    1. Ending, losing, and letting go – At first, many employees may feel fear, uncertainty, and discomfort towards unplanned change. 
    2. Neutrality – After some initial implementation, employees may start to warm to the change while still harboring mild resistance to letting go of the old ways. 
    3. New beginning – With effective change management practices, employees can start to embrace the change and get comfortable with the new processes, policies, systems, or structures. 
  6. The Kübler-Ross Change Management Framework was created by Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. It was originally made to describe the stages of grief involved in losing a loved one. However, it can be applied to a wide variety of changes, including organizational change. 

    This framework includes the following stages:

    1. Denial
    2. Anger
    3. Bargaining
    4. Depression
    5. Acceptance

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The Psychological Aspects of Change Management

While the right models can guide change management, their efficacy ultimately comes down to employee and stakeholder buy-in. For this reason, organizational psychologists play a vital role in facilitating change management. 

Using their expertise in human behavior, organizational psychologists can help guide leadership as they:

  • Identify obstacles that may hinder change
  • Address employees’ resistance to change
  • Build trust throughout the change implementation process
  • Alleviate employees’ uncertainty
  • Cultivate enthusiasm for new goals, policies, processes, and systems
  • Communicate about change effectively
  • Resolve conflicts that arise along the way

Implementing These Change Management Strategies in the Workplace

Interested in change management? If so, you can put these change strategies and models to the test as an organizational psychologist. 

To prepare for this dynamic career path, consider studying organizational psychology at Alliant International University. We offer two robust programs in this area of study:

  • Master’s in Organizational Psychology – This one-year, 33-unit master’s program is offered online and on-campus. If you prefer to attend class in person, we have campuses in San Diego, Los Angeles, and Fresno. 
  • Ph.D. in industrial and organizational psychology – If you’re in a position to pursue a Ph.D., this program can help you garner a valuable skill set in change management. During this program, you’ll learn how to navigate organizational diagnosis and intervention and conduct applied research.

Want to learn more about our organizational psychology offerings? Talk to our admission officers for opportunities at Alliant International University today. 


Sources:

  1. Susan McQuillan. “Why Do Humans Resist Change?” Psychology Today. October 21, 2019. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/cravings/201910/why-do-humans-r…. Accessed October 24, 2023.
  2. Paula Morgan. “Understanding The Importance Of Corporate Culture After The Great Resignation.” Forbes. August 19, 2022. https://www.forbes.com/sites/paulamorgan/2022/08/19/understanding-the-i…. Accessed October 24, 2023.

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