6 Change Management Stages

A Management Checklist to Guide Your Efforts in Managing Change

Employees review the stages in change menagement as they begin a planned change to their organization.
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Experience 6 Stages to Effectively Manage Change

Change is a complex process. You must consider many issues when approaching an opportunity to change or bring about change. The need for change management skills is a constant in the quickly changing world of organizations. 

The following six-stage model of change will assist you to understand change and to make changes in your work unit, department, or company effectively. The model also helps you understand the role of the change agent, the person or group that is taking primary responsibility for the accomplishment of the desired changes. For change to occur, you do need leadership to communicate, provide training, and share constancy of purpose.

An organization must complete each of the steps in the model for changes to effectively transpire. However, completion of the steps may occur in a somewhat different order than appears here. In some situations, the boundaries between the stages are unclear.

What Affects Change Management?

Organizational characteristics such as the level of employee involvement and empowerment affect how changes proceed. Units that desire and/or have experience with a greater degree of people involvement can bring people willingly into the change process at an earlier stage.

Characteristics of the changes such as size and scope, also affect the change process. Large changes require more planning. Changes that involve a total organization will require more planning and the involvement of more people than making changes in a single department.

Changes that have widespread support, as well as those that employees view as a gain rather than as a loss, are easier to implement.

When you take the right steps, involve the appropriate people, and tend to the potential impacts of change, resistance to change is reduced. These change management steps will help your organization make necessary and desired changes.

This favorite quote about change from the book, "Flight of the Buffalo" is particularly apt.

"Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have—and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving it up." -- Belasco & Stayer

Make sense? Fit your experience? Now, on with the change management stages.

Change Management Stages

These change management stages will assist you to approach change in your organization in a systematic manner that will help you effectively implement the change.

Stage 1: Initiation

In this stage, one or more people in the organization realize the need for change. There is a nagging feeling that something is not right. This awareness can come from many sources, both inside and outside of the organization. It can also occur at any level in the organization.

The people who are most familiar with the work often have the most accurate perceptions about the need for change. Organization members may experience the need to change by viewing other organizations, benchmarking, or bringing in new senior leaders with experience in other organizations.

In large organizations, sometimes changes are imposed from outside of the immediate work unit. And, any size company may need to change because of changing customer needs.

Stage 2: Investigation

In this stage, people in the organization begin to investigate options for change. They begin to create a vision or picture of what the organization could look like after the changes. They should also determine, at this stage, the readiness of the organization to change.

Stage 3: Intention

In this stage, the change agents in the organization decide upon the course of change. They create a vision of where the organization should be and could be in the future. Planning and definition of major strategies occur during this stage of the change process. Recognition that change always requires a change in the organization's culture is important.

Stage 4: Introduction

In this stage, the organization begins the changes. The organization must have goals for the change and strategies for reaching those goals. This is the stage where personal reactions are more likely to occur.

Leaders must begin the change by changing. Leaders and other change agents must establish clear expectations for changes. Involve as many of the employees in the organization as possible in initiating and implementing the change plan.

Stage 5: Implementation

In this stage, the change is managed and moves forward. Recognize that all will not go perfectly. Change always takes longer than anticipated. Change activities are ignored as employees tackle their day-to-day responsibilities.

Maintain constancy of purpose. The organizational systems must be redesigned to support the change. Provide recognition and rewards (positive consequences) for people who exhibit changed behaviors. Fire people who don't participate in and support the changes sooner rather than allowing them to remain and poison your progress.

One Vice President at a scientific manufacturing company said that his biggest mistake when he was trying to transform his workplace was to allow non-supportive managers to stay 18 months. He should have fired them much sooner was his conclusion.

Stage 6: Integration

In this stage, the changes become the norm and are fully adopted. This may not happen for 18 months after changes are initiated. A total organizational change can take 2-8 years. When the changes have been successfully integrated into your organization, a new employee would not realize that the organization had changed.

The Bottom Line

Follow these stages to implement changes, even organizational transformation, to ensure that the changes you want to implement are successfully integrated into the fabric of your organization.