Guide to the 5 Types of Change Management

Every organization experiences change, but too many organizations respond reactively and never develop a change management strategy. Change management is a strategic approach that plans for change and creates the standards by which change should happen.

Not only does change management make for a smoother transition for a company’s leaders, it also helps an organization remain transparent and trusted by its employees and customers. Read on to learn about the five main types of organizational change that businesses face, and how different change management strategies can assist with moving the company forward.

The 5 Types of Organizational Change

Organizations are constantly changing as they grow into new markets, add and lose personnel, and strategize on additional products and services to offer. When considering how organizational change happens and how to respond, break down your changes into these five main categories of organizational change:

  1. Organization-Wide Change
  2. Personnel Change
  3. Unplanned Change
  4. Remedial Change
  5. Transformational Change

1. Organization-Wide Change

Organization-wide change is a type of change that affects every team member in a company, regardless of their role or department. This type of change can apply to personnel, company technologies, policies, and overall business strategies. Most frequently, organization-wide changes are communicated by the executive team or the HR team to the rest of the company.

Examples of Organization-Wide Change

  • A division of a company, or a whole organization, merges with or is acquired by another.
  • The HR department rolls out a new anti-harassment policy.
  • The entire company is switching to a new office suite technology provider.

Top Strategies for Organization-Wide Change Management

  • Be transparent, prompt, accessible, and kind when communicating major changes to the team. Consider calling a face-to-face or virtual all-hands meeting to discuss it.
  • Clearly explain why the change was made, as well as the hoped-for outcomes.
  • Create an open forum for employees to ask questions about the change.
  • Offer training, HR guidance, and other relevant resources to support employees while they navigate the change.

Learn more: What Is IT Change Management?

2. Personnel Change

Personnel changes happen when employees join or leave an organization. Employee changes can happen on a small scale, when one person joins or leaves the team, or can happen on a much larger scale, when a company acquires a company and retains its staff.

Whether it’s a positive or negative change for the organization, fear and uncertainty almost always accompany a staff change. Employees may wonder: Are more layoffs coming? Will I report to someone new? Is our department going to grow after this acquisition? Will my responsibilities change?

Examples of Personnel Change

  • The CEO or another top executive decides to step down from their role.
  • A member of the team has been promoted to manage a new department.
  • Your company has acquired a team of 30 salespeople from another organization.
  • A member of the team has been fired for misconduct.
  • A longtime employee has decided to pursue a new career outside of the company.
  • A member of the team has passed away.
  • The company is struggling with budget and has to lay off employees to stay afloat.

Top Strategies for Personnel Change Management

  • Executives should develop long-term hiring and departmental goals. Knowing this information in advance can help to prepare for both expected and unexpected personnel changes.
  • Do regular pulse checks on the company’s culture, especially if the company is growing or shrinking rapidly. Send out regular, company-wide surveys, or ask employees to give a Net Promoter Score (NPS) to see how they feel about the company.
  • Develop and update an organizational chart as employees join and leave over time. Make it easy for employees, especially remote employees, to access this information and learn more about their teammates.
  • Ensure that new employees are offered structured training, resources, and guidance on who to contact when they have questions. Make them feel welcome and supported from the beginning.
  • Talk to the team members who will be directly impacted by a personnel change first. Find out if they have any questions or concerns, and address those during a smaller forum before making any announcements to the wider company.
  • Be honest when communicating with all staff, but don’t say anything that unnecessarily damages a former team member’s reputation.
  • If a legal issue is involved in a personnel change, seek out legal advice before communicating the change or handling its aftermath.

Expert advice on growing your global personnel footprint: Meeting Tech Talent Where They Are: An Interview with Clay Kellogg at Terminal

3. Unplanned Change

An unplanned change is exactly what it sounds like: a change that you did not fully consider or strategize for in your business plans. Although unplanned changes are typically seen as negative to the organization, some unplanned changes can be positive or neutral.

Examples of Unplanned Change

  • Your enterprise network was breached and important data was compromised. Your organization decides to update its security infrastructure and policies as a result.
  • A natural disaster or another unexpected external event, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, changes where and how your team will work.
  • Your team wasn’t quite ready to hire an additional recruiter, but this candidate’s resume and interview were great, so you decide to bring them onto the team.

Top Strategies for Unplanned Change Management

  • Engage in risk management and contingency planning so that you’ll have policies in place when responding to unplanned change. Work with insurance, legal, security, and tech experts as needed to develop plans that consider all scenarios and appropriate responses, even planning an exit strategy may be necessary.
  • Technology and tech users are often the sources of unwanted, unplanned change. Prevent some of these problems with user training, regular network and network security audits, and updated tech use policies.
  • Build out a budget that leaves room for unexpected additional expenses.

Creating positive change in security and IT: ITIL Incident Management: What Are Best Practices?

4. Remedial Change

Remedial change is a change made in response to a performance or culture problem in the organization. Although these changes may seem punitive to the affected individuals or teams, remedial change is designed to provide constructive feedback, offer support in a difficult situation, or clear out toxic workplace elements before they become bigger issues.

Examples of Remedial Change

  • A member of the software development team has missed their goals for three consecutive months, so their manager has decided to implement a performance improvement plan to address problems and potential solutions.
  • The marketing department uses a tool that costs a large sum of money, requires constant troubleshooting, and is rarely used. The department director decides to scrap the tool in favor of a new solution.
  • A newer member of the executive team is causing friction with their direct reports and does not work well with other execs on the team. After several performance discussions, the CEO has decided to let this team member go.

Top Strategies for Remedial Change Management

  • It’s much easier to set and hold people accountable to goals that are measurable and actionable. Consider using the SMART goals framework and having regular goal progress meetings with your team to keep them on track and stay abreast of potential issues.
  • Do your research before moving on from an existing tool or person. Troubleshoot, invest, and consider the alternatives before making a major change.
  • Be transparent and host regular performance meetings and reviews with teammates who are struggling. Never blindside an employee with bad news if you can help it.

More on goal setting strategies: How to Write SMART Project Management Goals

5. Transformational Change

Transformational change is intended to transform the way a company operates or serves its customers. This could be anything from a change in products or services to a change in how the company engages with the local community and global issues. Most often, transformational change starts at the executive level.

Examples of Transformational Change

  • The executive team decides to restructure the company’s five-year business growth plan.
  • A top cloud provider has decided to invest more heavily in artificial intelligence and machine learning development.
  • A retail company decides to change its suppliers and go public with a sustainability initiative.
  • A company decides to partner with an external organization to expand its offerings in a new market.

Top Strategies for Transformational Change Management

  • Transformational changes take time and pivot as they evolve. Adopt an agile project management strategy so that change happens in a productive, flexible way.
  • Create a task force of teammates who will be the biggest stakeholders in the change. Make sure there’s a constant flow of communication amongst this team as changes roll out.
  • Consider using a project management tool to help your team stay organized as they handle subtasks within the greater change project.

Find additional resources to help your change management efforts succeed: Best Change Management Tools for 2021

Shelby Hiter
Shelby Hiter
Shelby Hiter is a writer with more than five years of experience in writing and editing, focusing on healthcare, technology, data, enterprise IT, and technology marketing. She currently writes for four different digital publications in the technology industry: Datamation, Enterprise Networking Planet, CIO Insight, and Webopedia. When she’s not writing, Shelby loves finding group trivia events with friends, cross stitching decorations for her home, reading too many novels, and turning her puppy into a social media influencer.

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