How to Manage Change in the Workplace

by Heidi Cardenas

Change in business goes by many names, including re-engineering, rightsizing, restructuring, or turnaround. Whatever it's called, the goal is to change the way the company does business in response to challenging new market conditions. The effectiveness of change initiatives can mean the difference between surviving among tough competitors or losing market share and revenue. The most effective change agents know that successful change is an ongoing process, not a quick fix or a single event.

Understand Change

Understand what drives change in your work group, organization and industry to manage workplace change. Managers and leaders must know exactly why their organizational changes are necessary and they must effectively communicate that to the workforce to implement and sustain the required changes. Market analysis, direction from business consultants and management teams who are dedicated to strategic planning all contribute to understanding change.

Change is a Process

Recognize that workplace change is a process with a foundation in the need to respond to competitive challenges. Successful change is a process that includes establishing a sense of united urgency by identifying threats, crises and opportunities; forming a strong team to lead change with a vision and strategies; and removing obstacles to change in systems and structures. The first step in creating organizational change is clearly identifying the need for change.

Change Agents

Different types of change agents include leaders or senior executives who develop strategic organizational change; mid-level managers and specialists who implement and support change within specific areas; consultants who facilitate change; and strategic operational teams that are formed to implement change. Successful change initiatives require strong, unified support and teamwork from change agents to envision, implement, and sustain the necessary changes. This teamwork involves effective communication of the vision and operational processes to implement change, planning for short-term changes to create unity and establish trust in the change process, and anchoring the changes in the culture, from the top levels to the front lines.

Create Urgency

Successful change occurs when there is a persistent state of urgency to look for problems and opportunities and address them immediately. In “Leading Change,” John P. Kotter explains that urgency for change is created with information sharing, and the most effective change efforts require effective tools. He suggests tools such as good information systems that enable sharing data on customers, competitors, suppliers and financial results, and performance management systems that enable employees and managers to receive data on their performance, group or department performance and company performance.


  • Leading Change; John P. Kotter


  • Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change; William Bridges and Susan Bridges
  • Making Sense of Change Management; Esther Cameron and Mike Green
  • Change Ready; Rita Burgett-Maratell
  • HBR’s 10 Must-Reads on Change Management; Harvard Business Review

About the Author

Heidi Cardenas specializes in human resources, business and personal finance, small-business advice, home and garden and home improvement. Her professional background includes human resources and business administration, technical writing and corporate communications. She has studied horticulture and business administration, and enjoys guest blogging for publications including Herb Companion Magazine, Natural Home Living Magazine, and Mother Earth Living.

Photo Credits

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