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A professional walks her team through an explanation of organizational change management. She stands next to a whiteboard in front of a group of businesspeople.

Change is an inevitable part of life in any organization. When change occurs, it can give rise to issues like disunity and low morale, or it can provide an invaluable opportunity for lasting improvement. That second scenario is ideal but typically doesn’t happen by accident—it requires careful planning and guidance. That’s where organizational change management comes in.

What Is Organizational Change Management?

Organizational change management is a strategic approach to navigating transitions to help companies adapt successfully. It involves meticulously planning, communicating, and executing changes to minimize resistance, enhance employee buy-in, and ensure a smooth transition.

Change can occur for various reasons. For example, a company may be experiencing one of these scenarios:

  • A change in organizational structure or leadership
  • A merger or acquisition
  • Shifts in business processes
  • New technology adoption
  • Initiatives to drive cultural change

In any of these instances, organizational change management helps control the process to bring about a positive result.

Who Is Responsible for Organizational Change Management?

Various members of an organization can play a role in effectively managing change. Everyone from executives to HR progessionals to middle managers can help lead positive change and ensure a successful transition.

In some cases, organizations bring in an outside expert qualified to help them navigate a transition or spearhead an initiative to improve. These professionals may have titles such as change manager, change management consultant, transformation manager, or change agent.

Even when a person or team leads the way in organizational change, every member of the company can play a critical role in making the change successful. A study from Gartner found that the best organizations reject the traditional top-down approach to leading change and instead rely on their workforce—not just executives—to lead the charge.

What Is Involved in Organizational Change Management?

Even if a change is much needed and stands to benefit everyone in a company, people are prone to resistance. The reality is that change is uncomfortable. Perhaps that’s why half of change initiatives fail

Effective change management is about helping people overcome the discomfort and the unknown to embrace something new. The practical ways that plays out can differ depending on the company and type of change being implemented, but it often involves:

  • Articulating goals and creating a plan to achieve them.
  • Engaging stakeholders and promoting buy-in across the leadership team.
  • Communicating the reason for change with employees and encouraging buy-in throughout every level of the organization.
  • Training employees in new processes.
  • Establishing a supportive environment that empowers individuals and teams to implement change successfully.
  • Listening to feedback and troubleshooting to remain on track.
  • Evaluating and reporting on progress toward goals.

Key Strategies and Approaches to Change Management

Change managers may follow a specific methodology in their practices. There are many of these models in use today. Let’s look at a few of the most popular.

Kotter’s 8-Step Process

One popular framework is Kotter's 8-Step Process, developed by Dr. John Kotter, a Harvard Business School professor. This model breaks down the sequential steps to successfully implement change:

  1. Create a sense of urgency.
  2. Build a guiding coalition.
  3. Form a strategic vision.
  4. Enlist a volunteer army.
  5. Enable action by removing barriers.
  6. Generate short-term wins.
  7. Sustain acceleration.
  8. Institute change.

McKinsey 7-S Framework

The McKinsey 7-S framework has been around since the 1970s and continues to be influential today. This model isn’t just about change management, but it can help companies better understand the factors that can make or break their ability to adapt and grow. 

Sometimes, an inability to embrace change uncovers a problem in one of these areas:

  1. Strategy
  2. Structure
  3. Systems
  4. Style
  5. Staff
  6. Skills
  7. Shared values

Better understanding an organization within these seven factors can help a company address underlying problems and improve.

Kurt Lewin’s Change Model

Another model that informs modern change management is Kurt Lewin’s change model, which boils the process of change down to three key stages: 

  1. Unfreezing: Acknowledge that a change is needed.
  2. Change/movement: Take active steps to implement the change.

Refreezing: Solidify the new way of being or doing things as the norm.

Why Consider a Career as an Organizational Change Manager?

If you’re interested in helping businesses succeed, you may thrive in an organizational change management career.

Here are some reasons to consider a career in this field:

  • Make a marked impact: As an organizational change manager, you can directly contribute to an organization's success and growth. Seeing your efforts pay off can be gratifying.
  • Take advantage of a versatile skill set: Change management is applicable in virtually every industry, from health care and finance to technology and manufacturing. This provides opportunities for specialization or the ability to work in diverse sectors. 
  • Join an in-demand career with long-term relevance: Change is a constant in the business world, and companies today are navigating change at an unprecedented pace. That means there will always be a need for professionals who can manage change effectively.
  • Challenge yourself: Organizational change managers often work on complex problems, requiring creative and critical thinking skills. If you enjoy tackling challenges and finding solutions, this field is an excellent choice.
  • Combine interdisciplinary skills: This role combines elements of project management, psychology, communication, and business strategy. If you want a holistic understanding of what makes organizations tick, from people to processes, change management is a great area to study.
  • Develop your leadership skills: Spearheading change initiatives allows you to develop and hone leadership skills. Developing strong leadership abilities as a change manager can be a great stepping stone to more senior roles within an organization.
  • Never stop learning: The field of change management is dynamic, with evolving methodologies and tools. This ensures that you'll be engaged in continuous learning and professional development.
  • Earn a competitive salary: Experienced change managers often command competitive pay due to their specialized expertise. According to Salary.com, change managers typically earn a six-figure salary!

Overall, a career as an organizational change manager offers a blend of personal satisfaction, professional growth, and the opportunity to make a significant impact on the success of organizations.

How to Become a Successful Change Manager

To become a change manager, you need a business degree. A great choice is the Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA). If you have business management experience, a BBA on your resume may be all the education you need (although earning a higher degree may help you advance in your career).

The best option to secure a top change management role is to earn a master’s degree. Consider a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or a Master of Science in Management (MSM). These degrees allow you to concentrate on an area of business you’re most interested in. If you want to be an organization change manager, consider choosing one of these concentrations:

Organizational Management

An MBA in Organizational Management, like the one offered at MVNU Online, is a great option for those wanting to further their business career. This program equips learners with general business and leadership skills and offers practical insight into change management. A similar degree option to consider is the MSM in Organizational Management.

Human Resource Management

Human resource management is another area you may want to study to better understand the people operations side of managing change. You can earn an MBA in Human Resource Management or an MSM in Human Resource Management online with Mount Vernon Nazarene University.

Lead the Way to Positive Organizational Change

Organizational change management is vital in today’s business world as companies navigate transitions of all kinds. A career in organizational change management offers the opportunity to make a significant impact, develop a versatile skill set, and remain in a high-demand field. Obtaining a business degree—preferably at the master's level—equips individuals with the knowledge and skills needed to lead successful change initiatives in a world in which change is constant and essential for organizational success.

Are you exploring your degree and career options? Check out MVNU Online’s interactive degree program finder!

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