• Ryan Smith

Demystifying Change Management

Introducing a Framework for Effective Organizational Change


When managed effectively, organizational change can be a powerful tool for moving companies forward to achieve goals and objectives.


But all too often, the change doesn’t lead to the outcomes the organizations are hoping to achieve. That’s because successful change typically goes far beyond restructuring a department or implementing a new tool.


So, what does make organizational change effective? It requires clear communication and a holistic look at the people and the processes that are affected. Before committing to timelines and deliverables, it’s critical for organizations to categorize, define and communicate change complexity.


We’ve set out to put a framework around that process, with clear definitions and criteria to help organizations do just that.


Categorizing Change

When organizations talk about change, they often use common terminology, but may lack fundamental agreement on precisely what those terms mean. It’s important to distinguish between terms because they provide the basis for understanding the road ahead.

  • Organizational Design is the optimized team structure to deliver corporate business objectives effectively and cost-efficiently. It involves proper definition of roles and responsibilities, integration of business units and role-based leadership considerations. Streamlined decision-making, clear accountability to the executive and elimination of duplicated roles/resources are key factors to consider.

Many people think that organizational design is, essentially, organizational change management. While it’s often an important part of any change project, organizational design is not synonymous with organizational change. Instead, it’s a piece of a much larger whole.

  • Management of Change is the core competency and capability of executive leadership. It involves defining and communicating the business objectives, the culture and the vision of the end state – the “why.” It includes establishing the working environment and appropriate sense of urgency required to achieve the change. And finally, it involves monitoring high-level indicators of change progress and consistently reinforcing and demonstrating the values and behaviours that will facilitate the change.

  • Organizational Change Management is a project designed to change people and/or process and/or tools. It is a properly resourced, temporary effort with a defined scope, schedule, and budget established to achieve a clearly defined end state – going from “this” to “that.” It includes all features of a project, such as objective progress reporting, management of risks and issues, stakeholder management and integration and objective milestones.

The table below shows how these concepts apply to different levels of change. You can apply this method to all different types of change, whether they are technological or cultural. The table takes a well-known practice to define scope – breakdown structures – and applies it to the concept of organizational change. You can start by using the table to categorize the change based on who initiates it.


Once you have categorized the change as a particular level, you can plan to require changes in all levels below it. For example, a Level 0 change will require Level 1, 2, 3 and 4 considerations and engagement to successfully implement. A Level 3 change may only require Level 4 considerations, and so on.


The upper levels of an organization don’t get involved in the machinations of organizational change management projects (Levels 2-4). But as noted above, they play a critical role in defining culture and vision.


And while Levels 2, 3 and 4 are typically internally driven, Levels 0 and 1 could be driven by either internal factors or external considerations such as major events, stakeholder demands, or political pressure.


Once you’ve identified the level of your organizational change and who’s involved, then you can apply that level to the matrix below to better understand and characterize the scope and complexity of your change: Who are the stakeholders? How much planning is required? How long will it take to implement?



Of course, categorizing your change according to this framework does not solve anything for you on its own. But it’s a good first step to developing a comprehensive and effective change management plan.


In an upcoming series of posts, we’ll dive deeper into strategies for effective change management and pitfalls to avoid. We’ll lean on this framework as we discuss assessing the risk involved in organizational change and the role of technology.



Interested in working together?

519.368.3385
  • LinkedIn

©2020 by Modus Strategic Solutions