Essential Guide to Everything Change Management

By Diana Ramos | January 17, 2017

Many organizations struggle through times when inertia takes hold and creates a culture that says, "It can't be done." Others fall prey to forces that create a critical need to adapt. Both must change to stay competitive. Today, finding help and structure for needed organizational change is an industry unto itself that provides numerous frameworks, models, and methods. These frameworks are designed to streamline both planning and implementation to improve the deployment and success of a company’s change management objectives.

This guide provides details on change management plans, processes, and models that will help you successfully implement organizational change management. 

A Brief Change Management History

From the beginning of the change management revolution, emphasis has been placed on the psychological components of change that cause resistance and resentment. The Kubler-Ross Grief Model is one of the early and best examples of the emotional impact of change acceptance, and an element of this model can be found in most change methodologies. Today, there are numerous structured frameworks that can be used for either individual or group change initiatives. Finding the right method and utilizing the clear, step-by-step processes can make change as painless as possible.

Even with the extensive number of structured frameworks or models, the fact remains that change is not easy. Most people tend to resist change and have a strong preference for the status quo. In the area of personal change, we see a quick abandonment of New Year's resolutions, broken diet plans, and expensive exercise equipment doubling as clothes racks. And as hard as individual change is to implement, it's even harder to move a large group through organizational change in the workplace. According to the book Change Anything, the authors identify workplace change initiatives as one of the largest causes of stress for today's employees. Therefore, the first step is understanding the different change management models so you can select the methodology most appropriate for your team or company.

Change Management Models

Reasons for workplace stress include both a lack of understanding of why change is needed, and of the methods used to achieve long-range change. To assist individuals or organizations through the process, there are numerous models that can be adopted to strategically implement and simplify organizational change management. Some of the most well-known methods are listed below and described in more detail in this article

The popular personal and organizational change management models include:


Each model focuses on processes that are fairly easy to implement and measure. However, the models also provide structures for developing good communication, skills enhancement, and leadership to assist with the difficulties encountered through resistance, reluctance, and even hostility to the change process. 

Too often, organizations initiate broad sweeping changes before they understand what is truly needed. A good place to begin a discussion on effective change management can be found in the article 8 Elements of an Effective Change Management Process. This article walks the reader through the intricacies and importance of the change management process by starting with the question, “why?”   

In addition to the methods found in the cited articles, here are other tools for managing change initiatives: 

  • Beckhard and Harris' "why change?" model provides a mathematical analysis that quantifies the cost of change through a lengthy upfront analysis. The formula is used to identify "if" and "what" needs to be changed. 
  • Another method of quantification is found in SIPOC which stands for Suppliers, Inputs, Process, Outputs, and Customers. The process improvement table that is built for analysis is a staple in Six Sigma and lean manufacturing process management
  • The DICE framework is a simple framework that works to force conversations at multiple levels of an organization for clarity and ease of implementation. The framework also provides a "score" to predict project success. 
  • Burke Litwin's 12-step system focuses on dealing with resistance through motivation, culture, leadership, mission, and work unit climate. 
  • ITIL change management can tackle those unique challenges that are inherent in technology changes. A good overview of this model can be found here.

Challenges of Change Management

Even with the use of the best methodologies and processes, change management continues to present numerous challenges in its implementation. Managing change is complex, requires constant revision, and in many cases, fails. In addition, the human factor is extremely difficult to overcome because people simply do not like change or the risk of failure.

A Willis Towers Watson research study found that "…only 25% of organizations are able to keep the momentum going over the long term." In the study, poor communication from top management was identified as a leading cause of momentum loss. In about half of all cases, middle managers were unsure of the "why" for major organizational decisions - this number was found to be even less for "first-line" supervisors.  The Willis Towers Watson study concludes that understanding the need for change by all stakeholders is a key factor in long-term success. In summary, the major challenges of change management include:

  • Resistance 
  • Complexity of managing change
  • Risk of failure
  • Poor communication
  • Lack of understanding the ‘why’

Tips for Change Management Success

Most change management models already advocate effective leadership and provide goals that focus on the outcomes of good leadership. But it is instructive to identify elements that work in any change management system. Below are some universal leadership concepts found in most change methodologies that can help guide an organization's long-term success. 

  • Frequent and honest review of the process: Change management initiatives take time to be fully and successfully implemented, and most models call for patience in deployment. It is important to consistently identify elements that are not working and make the necessary adjustments for continual improvement. Too often this process is overlooked, short-changed, or is not done with honesty. Since there is no "one-size fits all" model, effective change leadership plans for and provides adjustments as it is implemented.
  • Good Communication: The "golden thread" of the entire change process is good communication. The Towers Willis Watson study illustrates that those implementing change must first understand why change is needed. Good communication starts with a well-defined vision and clear, achievable goals. Use one of these change management templates to help you visualize what needs to occur in your organization. Like process review, it should be consistently used to combat resistance and facilitate buy-in.
  • Accountable Change Management Leaders: One of the most difficult management responsibilities for leaders of change is a lack of enthusiasm for the process. It is important to choose leaders that are flexible, accountable, and able to lead through resistance. Leaders need to act as coach, mentor, sounding board, advisor, coordinator, and facilitators. They must also allow for adjustment, skills development, and feedback throughout the process. In many cases, they can also act as the chief investigator for what works or doesn't work. Good leaders adapt to the inevitable changes within the change management process. It is also critical that the leaders themselves are advocates for the change process. The process is significantly more difficult if the leaders themselves are not on board.
  • Executive Management Support: Not only does top management need to be clear in communicating what changes are needed and why, but they must also provide additional support through capital acquisitions, management initiatives, training, incentives, and leadership support. The article Expert Guide to Writing an Effective Change Management Plan calls for identifying stakeholders and effectively communicating changes that, to them, may seem “blindingly obvious.” Top leaders set the tone for change management and are charged with identifying and consistently supporting the best change management strategies.

How to Handle Change in Healthcare Organizations

Managing change in any professional business or organization is a challenging and complicated process. This is especially true for healthcare-oriented businesses, where change is often fast-paced, complex, and reliant on many change-averse individuals throughout the organization, who may be entrenched in their current processes.

As changes occur in healthcare organizations, these businesses are required to acquire and maintain the same expertise needed to carry out tasks and provide optimal care to patients and clients. Additionally, healthcare companies must abide by stringent security measures, ensuring that all data and health information is securely stored, tracked, and maintained. To handle and adapt to all changes in a healthcare organization, you need a powerful, real-time, and secure tool to maintain business efficiency and data security.

Smartsheet is a work execution platform that enables healthcare companies to improve work efficiency, scale repetitive processes, and securely store and share protected health information. Streamline documentation, improve communication of changes across your organization, and modify healthcare processes for the better, while also maintaining top-level data security compliant with HIPAA’s regulatory requirements. Track the progress of changes in individual processes with all-up reports and centralized dashboards.

Interested in learning more about how Smartsheet can help you maximize your efforts? Discover Smartsheet for Healthcare.


Create and Streamline a Change Management Plan with Smartsheet

Empower your people to go above and beyond with a flexible platform designed to match the needs of your team — and adapt as those needs change. 

The Smartsheet platform makes it easy to plan, capture, manage, and report on work from anywhere, helping your team be more effective and get more done. Report on key metrics and get real-time visibility into work as it happens with roll-up reports, dashboards, and automated workflows built to keep your team connected and informed. 

When teams have clarity into the work getting done, there’s no telling how much more they can accomplish in the same amount of time. Try Smartsheet for free, today.




Discover why over 90% of Fortune 100 companies trust Smartsheet to get work done.

Try Smartsheet for Free Get a Free Smartsheet Demo