Change management in organizations

Change management in organizations

Every project or organization goes through changes. Change management is the responsibility of every project manager and director.

What is a change? A change is any change in the position or state of the organization

The problem of change in organizations is especially relevant in the dynamically evolving environment of our time and at the same time is quite complex. This complexity stems from the fact that major changes take place in all processes (social, economic, political, interpersonal, and personal) that directly and indirectly affect the external and internal environment of the organization. These changes lead to new expectations, claims, requirements relating to the overall activities of the organization.

In the twenty-first century – the century of dynamic development, adaptation to change, and the perception of innovation are equivalent to survival, the opportunity to continue the existence of the organization and its further development.

And if the change is not felt? If you cannot sense change, it is dangerous. Then the “boiled frog” syndrome appears. The sensory organs of the frog are arranged in such a way that they do not react to gradual smooth changes of sound, pressure, visual image, and heat. If you put a frog in a pot and the water heats up slowly, the frog will boil without even noticing it, and at the same time happy and happy that you are a “frog” in the heat.

The “boiled frog” syndrome will be observed more and more often in all companies that have not created or have lost contact with the environment, or if they have created them, have not adjusted them to a low sensitivity threshold.
Every organization, to survive, must be adaptable, ie. be able to change to respond to changes in the environment. For this reason, change is not only one of the most important processes in an organization, but also the only possibility for its survival.

Types and properties of change

Modern society is facing the challenge of change, and change in the organization is happening all the time: layoffs, mergers, transfers, reorganization, new priorities. The only constant thing is change and it has an increasing impact on organizational life. The greater the desire of organizations to learn and use new ways of working in changing markets, to introduce new technologies, to meet new customer needs, and to survive in a situation of fierce competition, the more important it is to be able to manage the process of organizational change. There is also stable change management in project management and control processes for change management are often created. Reference: “The change control process in project management”,

To survive in modern conditions, any organization must be above all adaptive, ie. to change to respond to changes in the environment. For this reason, change is not just one of the most important processes in the organization, but the only opportunity for its survival.

Every organization is an open, dynamic and complex system. The main means of its survival and resilience is the maintenance of a dynamic balance (homeostasis) between it and the environment. Equilibrium is the state in which the characteristics of the system and the characteristics of the environment are such that they lead to an equivalent exchange between them, ie. a situation in which the interests of both parties are taken into account. As both the environment and the system are constantly changing, the characteristics of the equilibrium state also change, which is why it is dynamic. In other words, to always be in a state of equilibrium, the system must be constantly changing. From what has been said so far, it follows that change has two main objectives. The first goal is to ensure the selection and implementation of such characteristics of the system (goals, structure, processes) that bring it as close as possible to a state of dynamic equilibrium. Naturally, the change creates difficulties in the organization, but its lack can lead to entropy or gradual disintegration of the system, ie. every organization must change or cease to exist. In project management, a popular term is “project scope”. The project manager prepares the scope of the project. If the scope changes in the future, these changes must be managed carefully. By preparing a change management plan, the project manager protects the scope of the project from frequent changes. Reference: “Scope change management”, (

The second goal of any change is to create and implement conditions for new principles of behavior, harmonized with the changes in the goals, structure, and processes in the organization. For this reason, every change must be realized by those who will implement it, which means that they change.

In general, change takes three main forms: evolutionary, cyclical, and dialectical.
Evolutionary change is an objective process. The main thing about it is that once they become useless or non-functional, the elements of the structure and behavior of the system fall away from it. New elements and behaviors become applicable when they become useful, functional, and necessary. Computer scientists describe the change in computer technology as an evolution.

Cyclical change is a historical process and is usually predictable. An example of such a change in the economic cycle. Each cycle lasts for 50 years and has two phases: stagnation (about 20 years) and growth (about 30 years). At any given time, professional managers and economists can indicate for the economic system at which point in the economic cycle it is located, which gives an advantage to the organization for which they work.

Dialectical change is a revolutionary process and therefore radical. With this type of change, the existing situation changes completely, which leads to the emergence of a new system. An example of a system that is undergoing this kind of change is the political system. In the process of political change, two ideas compete in the system: the existing idea (thesis) and the new revolutionary idea (antithesis). The solution is not in either of the two ideas, but in the third, which arises from the interaction (synthesis) of the first two. Let’s give another example with project management practices. To successfully manage change, the project manager must control incoming change requests. The classic practice is to prepare a change management plan and data sheets with exactly what is required. Reference: “Requirements change management in project management practices”,

Types of organizational changes

Changes in the organization are classified according to various characteristics; an object of change; scope and depth of change; the speed of change, etc. According to Nadler and Tushman, the types of organizational change are:

  • Partial Strategic
  • Overtaking / Planned Overtaking Improvements Redirection
  • Subsequent / Reactive Adjustment Creation

Naturally, changes in the organization have different strengths. Hence, they are classified into two main groups: integrating and reforming.
Integrative changes are carried out within the existing goals and strategies and are aimed at the most efficient course of the processes under the conditions of moderately changing characteristics of the environment. Integrative change is an ongoing process, but its “strength” is relatively small. Organizations usually tolerate this type of change lightly. Everyone understands the need for them, offers options for dealing with problems, develops new knowledge and skills, etc. For organizations that have chosen their strategies correctly, ie. taking into account the characteristics of the environment, integration leads to increased efficiency and internal coherence between strategy, structure, people, and processes. Of course, integration can also have a downside. If the strategy needs to be changed, the created habits, culture, ways of action turn out to be not only inappropriate but often harmful.

The reform changes are a consequence of significant changes in the strategy, which means that to implement the new strategy, changes must be made in the structure, processes, and people. In other words, if the integrative changes are changes in the system, then the reforming ones are changes in the system.
The sources of this type of change can be grouped into two main groups:
First, changes in the macroenvironment. They are expressed in the emergence of new laws, changes in the political system or conditions, changes in the economic environment.

Second, changes in the internal environment of the organization. For example, if there are changes in the size of the organization that require restructuring; if leading leaders, defining the image of management, leave the organization or leaders with new views and ideas occupy important positions – all this can provoke reforming ideas in the organization.

What has been said so far can be summarized that when the organization works well and there are no significant changes in the environment, the integrative changes maintain or increase efficiency? But if the organization works poorly and/or significant changes occur in the environment, this type of change is the only way out of the situation.
Each type of change has catalytic properties, which is one of its biggest benefits. Every change in every part of the system changes all parts of the system because all parts of the system are interdependent and interconnected.

The properties of change are reminiscent of those of information. They are:

  • speed – degree of change;
  • direction – value shift;
  • magnitude – the size of the change;
  • form – structure, and content;
  • power – access to power through causing change and using change.

Basic models of change

Change in an organization can be done systematically and without a plan. Unplanned change is usually the result of accidental adaptation to changes in the environment. There are no management concepts or methods to control this change. The planned change is based on existing or emerging strategies within the change process. It is manageable, comprehensive, and long-term oriented. The goal is always to improve the activities of the organization.
Many models applied in the management field are considered in the literature. The main ones are:

Field theory

It was created by Kurt Levin and is the first fundamental model of planned change.
The process of change takes place in the following three phases:
Phase 1. Overcoming the established balance. Above all, readiness for change is created.
Phase 2. A transition to a new state. New ways of behavior and ways to regulate them are studied.
Phase 3. fixing the new balance. Changes are integrated into the individual as part of the whole organization.

Planned model

Authors of this model are Lipit, Watson, and Westley. They look at the amendment process from the consultant’s point of view. In this case, it is based on the fact that the organization is in a problematic situation, looking for opportunities to improve its functionality, or is forced by external factors to make a change. The planning model takes place in the following phases:

Development of the feeling that change is needed;
Establishing a connection between the organization and the consultant;
Condition examination;
Implementation of the respective decision;
Summarizing and stabilizing change;
Termination of the relationship between the consultant and the organization.

Model of research activity

According to this model, change is a cyclical – interactive process. Its creators, French and Bell, define it as “the process of purposefully collecting empirical data about a system; through feedback – from these data to the system and based on additional hypotheses actions are taken to change individual system variables; the results of these actions shall be verified and evaluated through additional data collection. ”

Integrative model

It distinguishes the phases that an organization goes through in the process of change, as well as the methods included in the individual phases. Plan change includes the phases of intelligence, planning, action, and integration. In the intelligence phase, the organization outlines problems and appoints an internal and external consultant. In the planning phase, an analysis is performed, consisting of data collection, diagnosis, and the search for a solution. In the action phase, the decision is implemented and evaluated, and possibly modified. If the decision is implemented, in the integration phase an attempt is made to make it an integral part of everyday work.

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