The Difference Between Change & Change Management – How to Address Organisational Confusion

    Mar 6, 2018 | Posted by Michael Campbell


    Change and change management are terms which have historically been used interchangeably. This has led to some confusion and a general lack of clarity for those involved in the discipline. There are significant and important differences between the two and the better we define these terms and address both change management and change, the better position we will be in as change managers.

    Change is about moving forward, moving to a future state, whereas change management is about supporting the individuals that have been impacted by the change, throughout the transition from where they are now to their place in the future state.


    In the Oxford Dictionary change is defined as to “make or become different”. It is the movement out of a current state, through a period of transition to a future state. Change is never-ending, it happens in our home lives, within our communities and at work. It can be a drastic move away from what we know or it can be something minor, it can be unexpected or highly anticipated. In all cases, it is a movement between three states – the present, a transition and the future. These three states appear extensively throughout change management literature and in other disciplines.

    Examples of organisational change include –

    • Going through a merger or acquisition
    • Taking a new product to market
    • Merging disparate systems

    These examples all have a clear current state and a clear future state. Let’s look at merging with another organisation, you are two separate companies currently but in the future you will be one entity. It’s a clear project in transporting you through a transition to the future. Every organisational change will ultimately affect employees. A merger like in the example above may alter the way 100s or 1,000s of people do their jobs, and this is where change management comes in.

    Change Management

    Change management is necessary as it supports and manages the people side of organisational changes and helps them to continue on with their job as the company transitions from its current state to its future state.

    While change is about moving to a future state, change management is about supporting individual employees during the transition of the organisational state and supporting them through their own personal transitions. Some employees will embrace the change, whereas others may be reluctant; some will be thrilled and others may be furious. Some employees will adapt to the change quickly; while for others it may take some time and you may even come across a group of employees who simply refuse to accept the change. Change management provides the necessary tools, processes and principles to support those individuals through their own personal experience of the change and to adapt better to their shifting environment.

    The changes which occur within our organisation demand new the implementation of new approaches to how employees operate. To reach future states, individuals will have to work differently. The sustained success of the changes depend on each individual reaching their own personal future state and this is where we see the link between organisational changes and change management.

    The point here is that in order for a change initiative or project to be successful, depends on employees actually accepting the change. Thus, change management is the essential tool in delivering the results and taking us from our current state to our future state.


    If you are a change manager who is currently working to support employees experiencing confusion around change and change management here are a number of tips you can utilise to help support those individuals.

    1. Identify where the confusion is

    Is someone your are supporting struggling, or are they confused? Have you noticed a lack of clarity around the terms? If so who is this confusion affecting? Is it team leaders, designers, executives or business leaders?

    1. Use the states of change

    Introduce the states of change and position change management as the solution to help the organisation transition through these states at both an organisation level and an individual level. Begin the conversation around the current state and the problems or challenges that you are experiencing due to this. Then move to discuss the transition state and outline how you aim to solve these challenges by implementing change. Finally, explain how these changes, once accepted will improve the working environment in the future state.

    1. Introduce the notion by asking simple questions:

    Ask yourself who will actually be affected by the change and who will need to do their job differently? This is how you can begin segmenting out the impacted groups and from there understand how to address their unique experience from a change management perspective. By asking and helping answer the question, you are establishing a relationship right at the very start of a change initiative, this provides a solid foundation for the duration of the initiative and the future state of change.

    If you are looking to develop your skills as a change manager, register for one of our courses to become a Certified Change Management Practitioner today.

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    Or for more insights into how Change Management might help your organisation overcome the difficulties of implementing sustainable change, download our eBook: Seven Compelling Reasons for Change Management Deployment. 

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    Topics: change management