Change is the process of altering a current state described by several key measures into another state where the measures are different, usually for the better.
Change management is the set of techniques which coordinates and manages the organisation as the process works through transitional states so that the new state appears within the constraints and with minimum penalties.
We can see some of the difficulties of change right away. One person or a small group has decided that the current state is not good enough. It’s unlikely that this has come about painlessly and that everybody agrees with the analysis – or even knows about the decision.
From the start, there is pressure to get the results quickly. A feeling exists that something or someone has to be sacrificed to get the desired end.
Although change may be pervasive and vital in modern society, it would be a mistake to treat all change as the same.
For our purposes, we concentrate on major change where the stakes are high. Continuous improvement, small changes drip fed into an organisation, is important. But the real management challenge is making radical shifts in structure, systems and processes which generate large improvements against the clock and other odds.
Big changes demand big decisions. The question is whether a choice has to be made in approaching different types of change. The answer is disturbing because not all the decisions can be made prior to the change starting. We can set objectives and measures but we cannot determine the actual approach at the outset.
The reason is that everything has an influence on everything else when major change is on the agenda. These relationships may appear fixed but no amount of analysis will reveal the effect of change activities.