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Change management, systematic approach to dealing with the transition or transformation.

Updated: Oct 25, 2021

Change management is a systematic approach to dealing with the transition or transformation of an organization's goals, processes, or technologies. The purpose of change management is to implement strategies for effecting change, controlling change, and helping people to adapt to change.

To be effective, the change management process must take into consideration how an adjustment or replacement will impact processes, systems, and employees within the organization.

Types of organizational change

Change management can be used to manage many types of organizational change. The three most common types are:

  1. Developmental change - Any organizational change that improves on previously established processes and procedures.

  2. Transitional change - Change that moves an organization away from its current state to a new state in order to solve a problem, such as mergers and acquisitions and automation.

  3. Transformational change - Change that radically and fundamentally alters the culture and operation of an organization. In transformational change, the end result may not be known. For example, a company may pursue entirely different products or markets.

How change management works

To understand how change management works, it’s best to apply the concepts and tools to a specific area of business. Below, are examples of how change management works for project management, software development, and IT infrastructure.

Change management for project management

Change management is an important part of project management. The project manager must examine change requests and determine the effect a change will have on the project as a whole. The person or team in charge of change control must evaluate the effect a change in one area of the project can have on other areas, including:

  • Scope: Change requests must be evaluated to determine how they will affect the project scope.

  • Schedule: Change requests must be assessed to determine how they will alter the project schedule.

  • Costs: Change requests must be evaluated to determine how they will affect project costs. Labor is typically the largest expense on a project, so overages in completing project tasks can quickly drive changes to the project costs.

  • Quality: Change requests must be evaluated to determine how they will affect the quality of the completed project. Changes to the project schedule, in particular, can affect quality as the workforce may generate defects in work that is rushed.

  • Human resources: Change requests must be evaluated to determine if additional or specialized labor is required. When the project schedule changes, the project manager may lose key resources to other assignments.

  • Communications: Approved change requests must be communicated to the appropriate stakeholders at the appropriate time.

  • Risk: Change requests must be evaluated to determine what risks they pose. Even minor changes can have a domino effect on the project and introduce logistical, financial, or security risks.

  • Procurement: Changes to the project may affect procurement efforts for materials and contract labor.

  • Stakeholders: Changes to the project can affect who is a stakeholder, in addition to the stakeholders' synergy, excitement, and support of the project.

When an incremental change has been approved, the project manager will document the change in one of four standard change control systems to ensure all thoughts and insight have been captured with the change request. (Changes that are not entered through a control system are labeled defects.) When a change request is declined, this is also documented and kept as part of the project archives.

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