Change Management: Tools To Cope With The Uncertainty Of The Future

  • AS Team
  • Nov 06, 2021
Change Management: Tools To Cope With The Uncertainty Of The Future title banner

According to this source, Change management is what it says on the tin, a term that encompasses all of the ways you can prepare and support your organisation for changes that happen thanks to future events. 


As the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, it isn’t always possible to completely predict changes that might need to be made, however with change management you can make the restructuring or re-organising as quick and painless as possible. 


As a blanket term, change management can be broken down into three types that need different responses and tactics: 


  1. Individual change management, 

  2. Organisational change management and 

  3. Enterprise change management.

Suggested Read: Big Data in Supply Chain Management: Impacts and Applications


Individual change management is exactly what it sounds like, managing changes made on the level of a single employee or unit of employees - small scale, easily planned and easily implemented. 


Organisational change management is on a larger scale, a framework for implementing new business processes, restructuring your organisation and similar. 


Enterprise change management plays a role on a similar scale to organisational, however instead of being focused on the what it focuses on the how, aiming to ensure that changes are implemented smoothly across all levels and divisions of your organisation. If organisational change management can be thought of as laying the foundation for a building, enterprise is akin to making sure it is completely level. Both are important when making business-wide changes, and it’s rare that you do one without the other.


Planning Change Management Strategies


When you’re making a strategy for dealing with changes, there are several steps you need to follow. These have to be done in order, as one step needs to the next or will help you with the next step. Below you’ll find the three steps to creating a successful strategy:


  1. Identify the Change: Identifying the change isn’t just about what needs to be changed, but how quickly it needs to happen, who will be impacted and how will your processes be impacted. It’s about identifying the scope of what needs to be done, by who and in what way.


  1. Assess your Business: Change isn’t easy for anyone to deal with, especially when it comes out of the blue. You therefore need to assess your organisation and see how it will respond to your planned changes, what pushback or difficulties there might be and how well you think it can be implemented. 


There’s also the factor of differences between locations, after all, a shared vision will be successful only if it takes into account the needs and specifics of each location. Be sure to consult with branch management and local workers if need be - someone on the ground will have a better idea of what’s going on and what can potentially go wrong than a person who deals with the hypothetical.


  1. Create Your Strategy: Once you’ve taken into account the above, you can put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and start constructing your strategy. It’s crucial that you create flexibility in your planning however, as different factors that you hadn’t foreseen are likely to come into play.


As the saying goes, no plan survives contact with the enemy, and in this case the enemy is all of the nuances and niche details that you can’t foresee from afar. Allowing local management or workers to adapt the changes to their situation is crucial, however this needs to be balanced with making sure they don’t stray too far from your initial plans and upset the entire thing - an organisation which can’t share values/principles between departments will fail.


Keeping Effects In Mind


When you’re in the planning stages (steps one and two) there are a few questions you can keep in mind to really keep the changes relevant and useful to your business. These are informally called the Seven R’s of change management, and are as follows:


  • What is the reason for the change?

  • What risks will develop if you go through with this?

  • What resources are needed to implement it?

  • Who raised the request?

  • What return are you expecting from the change?

  • Who is responsible for planning and implementation?

  • Is there a relationship between the suggestion and other suggestions in the past or present?


While these don’t cover all of the things that you might want to think about, they do cover the most fundamental ideas that you’ll need to keep in mind. 


Remember, no business protocol exists in a vacuum and no change can be made without knock-on effects, so let’s delve into the Seven R’s and see why they’re important!


  • Reason: The reason for the change is the simplest, but also the most deceptive question. Change comes because of new developments, perhaps someone has seen new ways of doing things that are more efficient, perhaps new technology has become available. You need to examine the reasoning and see if there is another, simpler way that the problem can be solved.


  • Risk: Risks are another factor that is especially important. The bigger the change the bigger the risks that come with it, as a general rule. Of course, risk is associated with everything in business so don’t let it daunt you - risk/reward analysis will help you understand if the change is worth going through with.


  • Resources: Resources are key to any element of a business, and in this case you’re looking at cost. You need to decide if the change is worth the resources, time and money it will consume to implement. If unsure, trial runs can be made within small sections of a business such as individual stores or departments - these will still need their own plans! You should also re-evaluate your rejected changes later down the line, after all implementing a new, costly technology is a questionable act, but refusing to implement a technology even once it becomes common-place and even expected of you is just a bad business move. Computers, barcode scanners, the internet, all these were once new fads of technology but have since developed into absolute necessities!


  • Raised: A tricky one to analyse by itself, the question of who raised the change request is once that is especially important. 


Does the request come from a senior management figure who wants better statistics

Does it come from a front-line worker who knows the ins and outs of the process/asset in question? 


There’s an old saying that comes in handy - in matters of boots refer to the bootmaker. Your employees who are down in the nitty-gritty of the front line will have better insight than one who is layers above it and only understands it through reports. 


Similarly, administration is best understood by those who perform it - the office and management members.


Nowhere is this more evident than in the cautionary tale of the automatic switchboard, where you are greeted with a list of options and can press a number to be forwarded to the correct department. 


Now this may simply be an urban legend, however the story goes that line management in call centres at the time were distraught over the implementation of these as their workers were spending less time in calls and it made their efficiency reports look bad. However, they were actually processing more calls in less time, so the overall efficiency was increased. In short, get your facts straight from the source.


  • Return: The other side of cost/benefit analysis, what return you’ll get from this change will determine whether or not it’s worth it to implement. Now, return can be measured in solely financial means, however customer satisfaction, employee morale and overall process efficiency are other forms of return - the world isn’t just made up of numbers after all. 


  • Responsibility: Upper-level management is likely to be involved here, but in some cases where there is a large gap between them and the necessary processes to implement the change that won’t be possible. Finding the right person to take responsibility for the change is a balance, someone who knows the details and who has the authority to carry the change out is a good fit.


  • Relationship: For obvious reasons, you need to keep in mind the effect that your change will have on other planned changes - if the two are in opposition then it’s highly unlikely that you’ll get anywhere. You might also find that several changes are dependent on each other, for instance using new software and training your staff to use it are two things that can’t be done separately.


Underneath it all however, you could see patterns emerging. No one person has a view of the entire picture after all, they only see bits and pieces that are relevant to them. If your suggested change links to other suggestions that have been made in the past, it might indicate an underlying problem/detail that you need to tackle rather than simply being standalone.


Suggested read: What is Vital Statistics? Types, Uses and Examples


Change Management Models

If you’re unsure of how to proceed, and stuck for a plan, don’t fear! There are several models that you can use to kick-start your planning and get the ball rolling. Here are some of the most common:


  • AKDAR: AKDAR is a model that keeps its focus on the people involved, starting with individual change. The acronym stands for Awareness Desire Knowledge Ability Reinforcement, all key aspects of the process. The process emphasizes the need for change, how to support and participate in the change and how to sustain the change over time. Employees often don’t understand the importance of a change if it comes from above them, so the AKDAR model helps you engage with them in order to drive individual changes and thereby see organisation-wide results.


  • Lewin: Lewin’s Change Management is based on an analogy, developed by psychologist Kurt Lewin back in the 1940s and goes as follows: Imagine a block of ice, one that you want to make into a cone of ice. To achieve this you need to unfreeze the ice, mold it into the cone shape, then refreeze it. Similarly, in organisational changes you need to prepare yourself for what is coming by managing the transition period; a block won’t become a cone simply because you will it to, and neither will change happen inside an organisation simply because you desire it! 


Unfreezing in this case is the process of breaking down the existing status quo, the molding is the transition period and finally the refreezing comes when you solidify your changes and stabilise the new way of doing things.


  • Kubler-Ross: The Kubler-Ross Change Curve is something you might not expect to find in business management, after all it’s better known as the Five Stages of Grief. It’s a series of stages that help people undergoing loss or great change in their lives, but can also be applied to changes on the individual level. After all, if a business is prepared for the knockback reaction that their workers will have to planned changes, it can better help them through the stages.

The five stages are known as Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance, and are generally thought to be gone through step by step in that order, though some personnel may skip stages entirely. By analysing the reactions your employees may have to your plans you are better able to both adapt the plans and boost morale. Remember, while some might think that employees are there to do as management says no-one likes changes in the way things are done, especially not unforeseen ones.


  • PDCA: PDCA stands for Plan-Do-Check-Act/Adjust. It’s a cyclical process that one could compare to the scientific method or discovery-driven planning. First one plans an action, then tests it to see it’s efficiency/effectiveness. Once data has been recorded, the plan is re-evaluated and improvements made. It’s best utilized for small-scale changes or in the initial testing stages of change management, where constant re-design won’t mean you’ve wasted lots of resources. As an ongoing process, improvements can always be found however it’s up to you to decide where to draw the line and say that your plan is sound.


  • Bridges: The Bridges Transition Model is another model based in individual psychology, focusing on the idea that change is the end of one era transitioning into the start of another. It proposes that the start of the change is letting go of what was, be it teams, methods, processes etc. and shifting towards the new. The theory proposes that it takes time for new processes etc. to become effective and for employees to become attuned to them, which is certainly true! By focusing on what your individual employees may feel during the process and aiding them in finding purpose in the new era you allow your people to play their role to the best of their ability.


  • Nudge: Nudge theory is the idea that by using subtle, less direct suggestions you can pivot employees/team members in the direction you desire. The idea is that by nudging the person in question, they feel more comfortable in conforming to the change that is occurring as they see the need for it and are guided towards the outcome you desire. It’s similar to that of a shepherd or cattle herder - a more gentle touch is often much more effective than a rigid directing hand. Nudge theory is more about how you go about supporting the change than actually implementing it, so is best used in tandem with another model.


  • Satir: The Satir Change Model is related to the Kubler-Ross Curve, but is more directly concerned with resistance and actual action than emotional response. The five stages it goes through are termed the Late Status Quo, Resistance, Chaos, Integration and the New Status Quo, with each describing the effect on employee performance. This model helps you prepare for change and what problems might arise, and acknowledges that sometimes things need to get messy before they can be whole again - many plans are abandoned at the Resistance or Chaos stages as performance drops, but this should be expected when any change occurs.


The Role Of A Change Manager, Tools and Principles


The change manager is the person who plans, develops and implements the changes that are deemed necessary, as well as the person who tracks their progress and analyses the effectiveness of plans. 


It’s to help personnel adapt to change and minimize the disruption that saif change causes to the daily goings on of the business, and isn’t one that can simply be done by ticking boxes and signing forms. 


It’s both an art and a science, requiring many different skills and lots of cross-checking and communication. This might seem daunting to someone who has never taken the initiative/lead on projects before, but this role can utilize a number of tools to make things easier:


  • Flowcharts and visual mapping are your friend, with the knock-on effects of change far easier to visualize from a graphic than from a block of text.

  • Cross-platform communication or an omnichannel communication device/software lets you keep track of all your information, requests and inquiries.

  • Gantt charts are a good way of keeping track of your schedule, allowing those who read it to see the links between their role and others, anticipate delays and problems and visualize overall progress.

  • Force Field Analysis is a method of visualising step by step your goals and the obstacles that stand in your way, allowing you to break down your problems into smaller, more manageable chunks.

  • Stakeholder Analysis is a method for determining who holds a stake in the change’s outcome, and lets you prioritize them by how much they are affected. By this, you are able to categorize them into a map that shows relationships and shared interests.


Of course, the greatest asset when dealing with change management is those who would be directly affected and/or the ones who would be carrying out the changes implemented - the employees. 


Take into account their view of things, how they view the change efficiency-wise compared to the old methods/processes. By doing so you will gain a much greater view of the nuances involved that might threaten your plan. This applies to different areas/departments too, with each having their own quirks that need to be accounted for.


For instance, say you plan to implement a new schedule for deliveries at warehouses that saves time and personnel costs, but the deliveries tend to be running late in a specific area because of bad road conditions. 


Those who take the deliveries will have a much better understanding of how much your plan can be stretched and how much leeway is required in order to stick to the new schedule. A warehouse in an area where road conditions are pristine will not require such deviation, and so can be set to a stricter timetable.




Change is a necessary feature for growth and adaptation, with many businesses either shrinking or not surviving as they refuse to adapt to the new age - the COVID-19 pandemic showed us this in great detail, with thousands of businesses sinking when they couldn’t adapt to the new restrictions and laws in time. While such an event is almost unprecedented in how rapid the changes needed to be made, it does exemplify the need for change management in today’s world. 


Change is a necessity, but it’s one that very few people like. It’s something that you often need to drag organisations kicking and screaming into the new age for, which is unpleasant to all involved. 


By taking into account change management strategies and understanding the knock-on effects your changes will have on both your business and those indirectly involved you stand a greater chance of successfully adapting to changes that come. Flexibility is key, as is empathy and critical analysis. 


Change management is something that you need to plan for, adjust for individual circumstances and to observe and report on if it’s going to be successful. There will always be resistance and difficulty when undergoing change, the key to overcoming them being successful planning and anticipation.

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