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4 Strategies of Change Management

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Almost every organization has to go through the process of radical change at some point in its lifetime to survive and to remain relevant, because the business environment is constantly changing and evolving.

Change Management, also referred to as Organizational Change or Organizational Change Management, is the process of implementing new policies, processes, or structures within an organization.

Organizational Change Management is the process of keeping this Change under control so as to achieve the desired business objectives.  Change Management is often needed as a consequence of changes in the business environment, such as movements in market demand, new technologies, changes in leadership or management, shifts in customer preferences, alterations in regulations, and a host of other factors.

Managing Change is crucial, since it assists the organizations in adapting to varying conditions.  Thus, it enables organizations to remain competitive as well as responsive to the requirements of their customers, key stakeholders, and the market environment in general.

The study of Change Management has an extensive history, dating back to the 1960s.  Along the way, several experts have presented their Change Management Strategies.  These Strategies vary based on different underlying assumptions and selection factors.

Change Management Strategies can be categorized into 4 general buckets as follows:

  1. Empirical-Rational.
  2. Normative-Re educative.
  3. Power-Coercive.
  4. Environmental-Adaptive.

Of these 4 Change Strategies, the first 3 are abridged versions of standard approaches used in Change Management, from the work of Kenneth Benne and Robert Chin.  The last Change Strategy—i.e., Environmental-Adaptive—is pioneered by Fred Nickols.

Let us delve a little more deeply into some details of these strategies. 


The basic supposition for this Strategy is that people are logical creatures and will look after their own interests when they are shown to them.  Effective Change, in this approach, relies on effective communication of information and the offering of incentives.


The basic supposition for this Strategy is that people are social individuals and will follow social customs and values.  Effective Change, in this Strategy, hinges on defining and decoding prevailing customs and values anew and developing commitments to them.


The basic supposition for this Change Strategy is that people are fundamentally acquiescent and will usually act on what is asked of them or can be made to do so.  As per this strategy, successful Change is based on the exertion of authority and the application of sanctions. 


The basic supposition for this Strategy is that although people reject loss and interruption, they adapt to changing conditions.  The approach to Change here is to build a fresh organization and progressively relocate employees from the old to the new.

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"The only constant in life is change." – Heraclitus

Such is true for life, as it is for business. The entire ecosystem our organization operates in—our customers, competitors, suppliers, partners, the company itself, etc.—is constantly changing and evolving. Change can be driven by emerging technology, regulation, leadership change, crisis, changing consumer behavior, new business entrants, M&A activity, organizational restructuring, and so forth.

Thus, the understanding of, dealing with, and mastery of the Change Management process is one of the most critical capabilities for our organization to develop. Excellence in Change Management should be viewed as a source of Competitive Advantage.

Learn about our Change Management Best Practice Frameworks here.

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About Mark Bridges

Mark Bridges is a Senior Director of Strategy at Flevy. Flevy is your go-to resource for best practices in business management, covering management topics from Strategic Planning to Operational Excellence to Digital Transformation (view full list here). Learn how the Fortune 100 and global consulting firms do it. Improve the growth and efficiency of your organization by leveraging Flevy's library of best practice methodologies and templates. Prior to Flevy, Mark worked as an Associate at McKinsey & Co. and holds an MBA from the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago. You can connect with Mark on LinkedIn here.

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