Change Management Definition

As Change management is a broad term that defines various management situations, there is no sole definition of Change Management. The business world is constantly developing, and to meet the ever changing demands that define the international market, businesses have to constantly adapt and redefine themselves with regard to the world surrounding them. Change Management is a tool that enables organizations to reach a desired future state by adjusting and redefining their infrastructure to the changing demands defined by the market. In this way, the definition of Change Management involves change on the individual as well as the corporate level. As the BNET Business Dictionary defines, Change Management is 'the coordination of a structured period of transition from situation A to situation B in order to achieve lasting change within an organization'. The definition of Change Management, in other words, is the application of a structured process, on the individual as well as the organizational level, to meet changing market demands and achieve desired results.


The History of Change Management

Change Management is a branch of thought that developed through the 1980s and was initially implemented by huge corporations, which particularly benefitted from defining a new approach to effective management of change. Among those companies that initially defined Change Management as a part of their leadership policies were GE, Ford, and AT&T. However, it was not until the 1990s that Change Management became adopted by such rapidly evolving sectors as information technology and human resource that it became broadly implemented in large as well as smaller companies. The risks and costs of implementing change without a structured approach had by then become too high and the possible benefits of Change Management too persuasive. Through the 2000s Change Management experts, whose previous employers had primarily been consulting firms, became integrated by companies. From the 2000s and onward the demand for Change Management experts has grown steadily while today Change Management is broadly implemented in business leaders' strategies for defining companies’ transforming processes to meet the changing market demands.


Change Management - A Definition of Kotter’s Eight Step Model

There are many definitions of the process of implementing change in organizations. One that has become particularly accepted, however, is Harvard Professor John Kotter's Eight Step Model of Change Management as defined in Leading Change (1996).


Kotter’s Eight Step Model - A Definition of Modern Change Management:


  • Create urgency
  • Form a powerful coalition
  • Create a vision for change
  • Communicate the vision
  • Define and remove obstacles
  • Define short-term wins
  • Build on the change
  • Anchor the changes in corporate culture


As change can often be a difficult thing for employees to accept, the demand for capable communicators of the definition of a company’s visions is, according to Kotter, crucial to a positive change process. Once employees see that there is a reason for change, the process has to be defined and employees need to be directed. Kotter argues that by recruiting a mixed group of individuals with potential for carrying out the change on employee level, a powerful coalition is formed. The group’s task, Kotter furthermore points out, is to communicate the definition of this change process, so employees understand the change's potential for creating a desirable future. Moreover, managers must communicate how change on the organizational level will benefit employees on the individual level, and this must be "lived out" by the managers. Also, managers must be able to define and remove obstacles for implementing the desired change by thinking strategically. Once subsidiary goals are reached, Kotter goes on to explain, they should be celebrated, and particularly important individuals should be rewarded. As real change runs deep, however, it is important to keep implementing improvements to initial successes. Finally, the structural changes should become implemented to define the organization's core structure.


Our definition of Change Management

To sum up our Change Management definition, Change Management functions on the people level of change in organizations to meet the demands of the ever changing market. If Change Management is executed sufficiently, workers, on the individual level, will feel engaged in the process of change, which will transform companies’ infrastructure to meet changing market demands. In our definition of Change Management, the common goal becomes implemented on the individual level which leads to an individual awareness of common goals and a collective effort to reach these goals throughout a company’s transformation process.