Open Search
Open Navigation

Change seems unavoidable. As individuals, we change as we age, grow, and learn more about ourselves and the world around us - and the same can be true for business. Every organization, no matter how big or small, will likely have to adapt at some point. But in order to do that smoothly and successfully, there may be a need to have people in charge of organization change management. An organization development program can prepares you for this role. Most organization development students have a background in business, making this excellent leverage for a career shift as mid-career professionals. Job opportunities in this area of discipline can range from consultancy, teaching in higher education, upper levels of HR, entrepreneurship, and running a non-profit among many others. 

The link between organization development and organizational psychology, also known as Industrial & Organizational Psychology, is that the latter studies how people behave at an organization or workplace. Professionals in OP apply the best practices in psychology to boost fairness, problem solving, productivity, inclusive work environments, and job satisfaction while those in OD focus on the people-side of business through identifying the changes to be made, designing plans needed for the adjustments, and assessing the progress along the way.

This guide will help you understand what these changes look like, why organizational change management matters, and determine if it’s the right career path for you.

Get your Organizational Psychology Degree

What Is Organizational Change?

Before answering what is organizational change management, it’s important to have a grasp of what exactly organizational change is.

The term organizational change refers to the actions that an entire organization, company, or business takes when it alters something within its own practices and structures-whether that's the workplace culture, organizational structure, new technology, infrastructure, or internal operations and logistics.1

What Causes Organizational Change?

Organizational change, and being in charge of organizational change, can seem intimidating due to its vagueness, but not all changes have a massive impact. Here are some applied examples of what might cause organizational change to take place:

  • Interviewing and onboarding new employees
  • New leadership in a company or department
  • Adapting to a new employee team structure
  • Shrinking or growing a specific department
  • Altering internal processes so they stay to scale
  • Implementing a new technology initiative
  • Developing newer business models
  • Creating another business within the brand
  • Merging with a separate organization

Not only are many of these examples unavoidable parts of any operating business, but when leveraged in an advantageous way, it can be a huge opportunity for growth and success—both for the business and the person handling organizational change management.2

What Are the Different Types of Organizational Change?

In the same way that there are different causes of organizational change, they also have different demands, time frames, and outcomes. Change happens on a wide spectrum, but on either end of the scale there are two classifications that can be made: 

  • Adaptive change 
  • Transformational change

Adaptive Change

Adaptive changes are smaller, incremental shifts that evolve as an organization’s needs change over time. Think: upgrading the technology in the workplace to newer models, updating operating systems, or creating a way for departments to learn about and transition to a new software program.

In these situations, the organizational change management team is presented with these modifications or tasks and expected to figure out how to implement them in the most efficient way. As an organizational change manager, you'll oversee the strategic plan, every small detail of the change and prepare for different outcomes-good and bad-requiring meticulous attention to detail.

Transformational Change

On the opposite end, you’ll find the changes that are larger on scale and scope. These transformational changes are often two-fold. For instance, a business may experience a shift in more than one area simultaneously—like brand mission and business strategies, employee onboarding and team structure, business performance and internal processes.

With such large-scale issues, transformational changes take more time and energy and cause more disruption than adaptive changes. However, the biggest difference between the two is that the catalyst for transformational change is often caused by an external factor, whereas adaptive is caused by an internal factor. 

An adaptive change can be thought of as a strategic change and is often associated with preemptive action, whereas transformational change is more likely to be a reaction. 

A transformational example would be a business responding to a disruption in the supply chain, a process that the organizational change management team would be heavily involved in.3

What Does Organizational Change Management Do?

Working in organizational change management most likely means you're given the responsibility of facilitating a seamless change process and transitions. An effective change management requires good preparation, planning skills, and structured approach, as well as the ability to implement plans and then adapt during execution.

Within a corporate structure, there are several positions that typically make up the organizational change management team: consultants, leaders, and managers.

Leaders vs. Managers

In an organizational change management team there is either a leader and a manager, or simply a manager who fills the role of both—if a company does have two separate titles, here’s how their roles can differ:

  • Leaders – In management, a leader looks at the overall picture and is able to articulate the changes happening within the company. This includes what's happening and why, as well as what needs to be done to ease the transition. A change leader may also take part in the planning process if a manager gives them a change management plan and they think something needs fine-tuning.
  • Managers – Managers focus less on communication and more on the business side, identifying the exact steps that need to happen and in what order. After designing the change process, they'll also usually have directing duties like allocating resources, adapting the process if necessary, and determining a way to measure success.

Ideally, there would be one person in the team who can be both a leader and manager, bridging the gap and streamlining the transitional process. They would be able to come up with a plan, execute it, and communicate exactly what their intentions are to their team members, fellow employees, and executives.4

How Much Do Organizational Change Managers Make?

Within the organizational change management sector, you can expect a high-earning salary, especially if you’re operating in technology or political organizations. The salary range for organizational change managers is wide, spanning from $60,000 to $145,000, with a median salary of $97,330, according to the salary reporting site PayScale

While this position offers a substantial entry-level salary, pay dramatically increases as you gain work experience. 

How Do You Become an Organizational Change Manager?

The qualifications for organizational change management positions vary among companies and positions, but managers typically need a bachelor’s degree in one of the following areas, according to ZipRecruiter:

Earn your degree in business administration at Alliant University today!

What Skills Do You Need as an Organizational Change Manager?

Beyond a bachelor’s degree, there are personality traits and skills that may show you’re fit for the job, including:

  • Strong communication skills – Communication is a must, especially when organizational culture and large transformational changes are taking place. If you are a calm and confident speaker and an active listener, these are great skills for an organizational change manager.
  • Timeliness and organization – Being able to work on a deadline, keep things moving according to plan, and stay organized are key parts of the job.
  • Paying close attention to detail – This kind of work is detail-oriented because small oversights can amount to massive speed bumps in your plans. Being thorough means you aren’t focused only on avoiding risks, but have a plan to mitigate, handle, and solve them if they arrive.
  • Problem-solving and decision-making skills – Whenever you're in a position of change initiative leadership, you have to be comfortable with the fact that other people will turn to you to make decisions in high-pressure situations.
  • Task delegation without micromanaging – One of the most important skills of all is to be able to give instructions and delegate tasks to others. Not only that, but you also must supervise without micromanaging, trusting your colleagues to do good work.

In addition to these strengths, showing proof through relevant work experience and degree specialization are great ways to gain the knowledge and reputation of someone capable of getting the job done. Successful change management professionals know that leading change requires both strategy and diligence.5

Why Is Organizational Change Management Important?

When a person, organization, or business is faced with change, the ways in which things are handled is incredibly important. In order to experience positive growth and ongoing success, you may have to be able to adapt efficiently and effectively.

If transitions have a lot of bumps along the way or are expensive in terms of time, energy, and resources, it can affect more than an organization's future goals. It can immediately change the work environment, lowering employees' morale, meeting employee resistance, and damage business by leaving customers dissatisfied.

This recent migration to work-from-home offices has shown how companies can dramatically change in a matter of weeks. Without someone in charge of the transition, a lot of questions can go unanswered, and a lot of inefficiencies arise in the course of a strategic change.

Companies understand the value of organizational change management and want focused, trustworthy people to take charge of the moments that can make or break their business.6

Becoming an Organizational Change Manager

If working in the field of organizational change management is something you’re interested in, an excellent path to get there is through education. With online and in-person schooling, getting an education in this field can be accessible.

At Alliant International University, you can participate in accredited academic programs and choose from degrees such as Organizational PsychologyOrganization Development, or Business Administration.

With Alliant, you’ll gain hands-on, real-world work experience and have the opportunity to pursue a lifelong career you’ll love.


  1.  “What Is Organizational Change? Definition and Meaning,” Market Business News, accessed November 23, 2021,….
  2. Hitesh Bhasin and Charly kizz, “What Causes Change in an Organization? 10 Factors Explored,” Marketing91, accessed November 23, 2021,
  3.  “Types of Organizational Change & How to Manage Them: HBS Online,” Business Insights - Blog, accessed November 23, 2021,
  4. William Arruda, “9 Differences between Being a Leader and a Manager,” Forbes (Forbes Magazine), accessed November 23, 2021,….
  5. Prosci, “Change Management Job Description,” Prosci, accessed November 23, 2021,….
  6. Eric Kimberling and Name *, “Why Is Organizational Change Management so Important?,” Third Stage Consulting Group, accessed November 23, 2021,….

You might also like

Back to Blog
Learn More
two women shaking hands

Does it Matter Where You Get Your MBA?

It’s a valid question. It’s true that some employers value MBAs from prestigious business schools and may give preferential...

Learn More
business people talking together

A Guide to Business School Accreditation

When it comes to choosing a business school and MBA program, one of the most important factors to consider is whether the school...

Learn More
man showing two women a paper

6 Benefits of an MBA Degree for Students & Professionals

C-suite executives, investment bankers, and fund managers may have wildly different responsibilities. Still, many top...

Request Information

  • 1
    Current Select Interests
  • 2
    Provide Information