Management of change vs. change management

Management of change is technical, while change management is about people.

By Dave Berube, Life Cycle Engineering

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In brief:

  • When dealing with change, there are two terms that are often used, misused, and misunderstood. These terms are “management of change” and “change management.”
  • Management of change is about dealing with the technical side of change, often seen in a manufacturing or industrial setting, but it can be applied anywhere.
  • Change management is about dealing with the people side of change, or changing people’s behavior.

Everything flows, nothing stands still.
Everything gives way and nothing stays fixed.
All is in flux, nothing stays still.
The only thing constant is change.

These sayings have their roots attributed to the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus, known for his doctrine of change being central to the universe. Regardless of which translation you choose from ancient Greek, these words still ring true today. Whether it is our personal life, business, or the world around us, we are constantly experiencing change. Change or die. We get it! But knowing this is just the start. More importantly, we must be able to manage change. We must manage change to improve the way we operate our business, support the changing needs of our customers, and manage change for our personal survival.

Although many people say they “get it,” do they really understand it? When dealing with change, there are two terms that are often used, misused, and misunderstood. These terms are “management of change” and “change management.”

When working with organizations, we find some that have a basic understanding of change management (CM), some that only know about management of change (MOC), and others that have never heard of, or practice, either. In simplified terms, management of change is about dealing with the technical side of change, often seen in a manufacturing or industrial setting, but it can be applied anywhere; and change management is about dealing with the people side of change, or changing people’s behavior. Extremely successful organizations are able to effectively manage both. To effectively manage both of these critical terms we must have a deeper understanding of what they mean.

Management of change

While effectively managing the technical side of change contributes to being a successful organization, the inability to manage the technical side of change can have disastrous effects.

Changes to the manufacturing process, equipment configuration (modifications, alterations, or new equipment), and procedures can all have adverse effects if not adequately controlled and reviewed. Despite a number of standards in place driving the requirement for the existence of these processes such as OSHA 3132, Process Safety Management, and OSHA 1910.119, Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals, many companies have no formal process in place. The need to effectively manage technical changes applies not only to manufacturing, but to all businesses such as pharmaceuticals and medical, power generation, metals and mining, food and beverage, agriculture, and telecommunication.

There are many terms that you may hear used for dealing with these types of changes: MOC, change control, configuration change management, and even change management. And we wonder why people are confused. MOC is a structured process that is used to review all proposed changes to equipment, raw materials, processes, and procedures before the changes are implemented to evaluate the impact and risks associated with the change. Impact and risk could be associated with personnel safety, customers, productivity, and total cost. A typical MOC process has the following components.

Change risk analysis: An analysis of the proposed change needs to be conducted, assessing the risks and impact associated with the change, including benefits, costs and return on investment (ROI), costs and risk of not applying the change, safety and environmental, customer, reliability impact, labor, productivity, availability, feasibility, and side effects.

Review and approval: Changes should be reviewed and approved by the proper level of change authority. This would depend on the type of change, size of the change, size of the organization, cost, technical aspects, safety aspects, and risk. For example, organizational global-wide changes may need to be reviewed and approved by a high-level authority such as the board of directors.

Test and validation: Changes should be thoroughly tested to validate that they actually work, especially if analysis determined the changes to be high risk. This is often done either off-line or through the use of a small pilot area. Starting small allows close observation of effects of the change prior to full implementation.

Implementation: As proof of concept is achieved, implementation of the change can be rolled out to additional areas in a controlled manner that can be supported by the project team.

Post-implementation review: A review of the change should be conducted to determine if the change met all of its objectives and benefits with no adverse effects. Audits and feedback should continue to be conducted until the new change is ingrained in the organization.

Document, document, document: One of the most commonly skipped steps of the change process is revising all required documentation. Documentation includes process documents, procedures, training requirements and materials, manuals, and drawings.

Change management

Many changes occurring in organizations require individuals to change their behavior. Since resistance to change is a normal human response, implementation of planned changes is difficult. The inability to manage the people side of change can lead to project failure. According to Prosci’s 2012 Best Practices in Change Management benchmarking report, only 17% of companies that poorly managed the people side of change met or exceeded their project objectives. The companies that managed the people side of change well were nearly six times more likely to meet or exceed their objectives.

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