Understanding organizational change

Organizational change is a funny thing. In many cases, everyone in your organization will have a different view of the same change.

A CEO may see change in terms of organizational structure & strategy. A manager in operations may see change in terms of processes. A manager in technology may see change in terms of systems & tools.

In some cases a change is so complex that no one person has a true end-to-end view of it.

It can be a significant challenge to align the different types of change across an organization. The following ten types of organizational change endlessly overlap. It’s rare to have a change that impacts just one area.

1. Mission & Strategy

In theory, all changes in an organization are aligned to the organization’s mission and strategy. In reality, changes may be difficult to map to strategy or may even contradict it.

When mission & strategy change the impact may reverberate throughout the organization.

2. Organizational Structure

Organizational structure refers to the objectives, roles and responsibilities of departments, teams and individuals.

Major changes such as mergers & acquisitions are considered structural changes. However, structural changes may also be relatively minor (e.g. establishment of a small new team).

3. People

Hiring, turnover, roles & responsibilities, training and other individual changes.

People changes may seem minor but taken as a whole they represent a critical focus for change management. For example, training is critical to the acceptance of change.

4. Culture

Changes to the principles, expectations, norms, working habits and symbols of an organization.

Culture is important to strategic objectives such as productivity, innovation and compliance.

5. Knowledge

Changes to the knowledge assets of an organization.

Knowledge supports every program, project, initiative, process and product. Organizations increasingly identify knowledge as a important asset and target for change.

6. Policies & Legal Agreements

A change as minor as a new rule or policy can have a big impact on an organization. New rules (or changes to legal agreements) aren’t always popular with employees and customers — implementation and acceptance can be a change management challenge.

7. Processes

Changes to business process and tasks represent amongst the most common type of change. Many organizations have implemented continuous improvement programs that change processes on a regular basis. Processes also need to change to support new strategies or to leverage new technologies.

8. Technology

Changes to technology infrastructure, systems, automations and tools. Some firms focus on technology change — letting it drive other change within the organization. It’s common for change management to be highly focused on technology changes.

9. Products, Marketing & Customer Relationships

Changes to products, marketing and sales are a critical focus for many organizations. For example, new product development is often key to strategy execution.

10. Integration

Processes need to work with technology. People need to work with processes. Rules apply to processes. Rules align with cultures.

Most changes require integration. Integration is aligning things so that they support, compliment and add value to each other. It’s often the most complex type of change.