Models for change management in projects and organizations

Models for change management in projects and organizations

Change in organizations and projects leads to development and adaptation. Every project manager and organization director must be able to manage change flexibly.

Changes in projects usually concern the scope of the project. And the changes in the organizations refer more to the future development and direction of the business. Change is a term both in project management practices and in general management. Whether you are a project manager or a company manager, you need to know this concept well to deal with real situations.

Change management is one of the biggest challenges facing today’s leaders.

To manage change, you must:

  • Analyze the forces that influence change;
  • Understand the main mechanisms of change;
  • Know the main factors that influence the change;
  • Know the main factors and reasons that give rise to resistance to change and the main strategies for overcoming and.

Numerous models for change management have been derived in the literature.

Richard Beckhard offers a model containing the following basic elements:

  • Goal setting and determining the desired future state after the change;
  • Analyzing the current situation given the goals;
  • Defined activities and responsibilities of people;
  • Development of strategies.
  • Winford Holland derives the following model;
  • Formulation of vision;
  • Modification of work processes;
  • Modification of the complex equipment;

Change in management or activity

Models for change management are also developed by Donnelly, Gibson, and Ivančević, who propose a “generalized model of change management”, consisting of five stages: identifying the need for change; identification of problem areas; determined by the restrictive conditions; choice of technique and strategy; conducting and evaluation. In project management practices, one of the most popular terms is “project scope”. The scope of the project refers to what exactly needs to be developed and delivered. The scope changes when the client or other stakeholders at some point want a change that is not defined in the original plans. Reference: “Scope change management”,

Approaches for implementing change

“What should be the sequence of actions for change?” This question is asked by most professionals working in this field.

There are three main approaches: “bottom-up”, “top-down” and “upstream” (both top and bottom).
The creators of the first approach are M. Beer, R. Eisenstadt, and B. Specter, who identified six steps, which are called the critical path. According to this approach, the most effective way for lasting change is the movement of tasks from the periphery to the corporate center.  In project management practices, the term “control processes” is known, which refers to the control of the change process, which is different from the creation of a management plan. Reference: “The change control process in project management”,

According to these authors, starting the change from the top is too risky. According to them, the orientation of the tasks is most easily carried out in small units, where the goals and tasks are clear and precisely defined. It follows that the main problem of corporate change is how to stimulate the many diverse divisions. The six steps to successfully achieving this goal are:

  • Mobilize participation in change through joint diagnosis of problems.
  • Get an overview of how to organize and manage competitiveness.
  • Assist in reaching consensus on the new vision, skills for its implementation, and agreement on its study.
  • Distribute the updated policy to all departments, but without enforcing it from top to bottom.
  • Institutionalize renewal through formal policies, systems, and structures.
  • Monitor and adjust strategies in response to emerging issues that are not in the upgrade process.
  • J. Cotter and D. Cohen justify the top-down approach through the “eight steps for large-scale change.”
  • Step 1. Increase the sense of urgency – people start saying to themselves: “Come on, we need to change things!”.
  • Step 2. Build the leadership team – a group of people with enough power is formed to lead the big change and they start working well together.
  • Step 3. Form the right vision – the management team develops the right vision and strategy for change efforts.
  • Step 4. Communicate it so that they accept it – people begin to accept the change and this is reflected in their behavior.
  • Step 5. Give strength to action – most people feel capable and act based on vision.
  • Step 6. Create short-term victories – momentum accumulates as people try to realize the vision and fewer and fewer people resist change.
  • Step 7. Don’t give up – people make wave after wave of change until the vision is realized.
  • Step 8. Make change sustainable – new and profitable behavior continues, regardless of the strength of tradition, the emergence of new leaders of change, and more.

We mentioned the scope of the project above. In addition to scope, projects often include detailed requirements. These requirements specify more clearly and in detail what exactly needs to be developed or delivered to the end customer. Requirements such as scope must be managed to avoid possible misdevelopment. Reference: “Requirements change management in project management practices”,

Resistance to change and methods for overcoming it

Resistance to change is a response to a real or imagined loss of familiar environment and benefits (reduction of wages, loss of position, loss of competence). Resistance is a normal human reaction to change, because one finds oneself in a new environment and conditions, in hitherto unknown circumstances. Most people are probably driven by fear because change is not a guarantee of success. Resistance is characteristic not only of the lower levels in the hierarchy of the organization but very often of the leaders themselves. Many of them are resisting changes that would “shake the boat.” Others prefer the security of the established situation to the risk, and others fall into real paralysis due to insecurity, lack of self-confidence, etc. Not every case of change generates resistance. However, it is important to identify the causes that give rise to it. According to J. Cotter and L. Schlesinger, they can be grouped into four groups. Read more: Change management in organizations,

Reasons for resistance

Personal and group interests. The most frequently affected personal and group interests in the event of a change are:

Power held – no change does not affect the power of the various participants, whether it is an individual or a group.

The economic situation – people take for granted the danger to their economic well-being in the event of a change, whether or not it exists.

Prestige – changes always affect the status of people in the organization, so change is difficult to perceive, especially if it is associated with a change of government.

Security – each individual or group builds a model and way of behavior and action in the work environment, which brings him security, and in the event of a change, this security disappears.

Professional competence – after the change, things change a lot here, because it leads to the requirement of new knowledge and skills.

Lack of understanding and trust

People resist the proposed changes because they do not understand the goals, mechanisms, and consequences. This situation usually occurs when there is no trust between the parties involved in accepting and proposing the amendments.

Differences in assessments

Everyone perceives change as a whole (its goals, potential outcomes, and consequences for them) in a different way. That is why the assessment of each individual is different. He who gives the idea of ​​change sees more positive aspects of its implementation, while those who are affected by it and do not have direct involvement in its initiation, see mostly costs and losses. The main mistake of the initiators is that they assume that those affected by the change have at their disposal the same information needed to analyze the situation. This is what caused the resistance.

Intolerance of change

Some people, even if they clearly understand the need for change, oppose its implementation. This is because they are afraid that they will not acquire the new knowledge and skills that are needed after its implementation. Intolerance of change is found in people who are afraid of losing their reputation, because, in the event of a change, their previous mistakes may come to light.

Factors that lead to resistance to change

Once the causes of resistance to change have been identified, it is important to consider the factors that influence the level of resistance. The main factors are:

Authoritarian (despotic) leadership style

This style of leadership leads to increased resistance to change. This is because people do not like to be forced to change. People usually approve of the change, but resist it because they are not given a choice, and it is directly imposed on them as mandatory. The authoritarian style of leadership creates a high degree of resistance and not only that. It leads to high costs of forcing change and to loss of staff independence, ie. people cease to have self-initiative.

Incompatibility of the change with the current culture of the organization

A negative attitude towards change can also occur when it conflicts with the current norms and values ​​in the organization. The current organizational culture influences the expectations of the people within their work in the respective unit. If the change conflicts with their expectations, resistance arises. Therefore, the elements of organizational culture can be one of the most important factors determining the success of any future change.

Efforts for great change

Efforts for big change can lead to much more resistance than for smaller changes. This is because big changes affect many more people and elements of the work environment. In addition, they lead to a greater impact on the goals, values ​​, and expectations of the individual. This can lead to conflict and resistance.

Fast change

People also tend to resist change made too quickly. Individuals and units tend to tolerate change at a certain rate. Implementing the change gradually, step by step makes it easier for people to adapt to it and monitor the results of management. However, this approach is not suitable for every situation, because some changes require quick and immediate implementation. In addition, the introduction of a gradual change requires time that cannot be “provided”. In this situation, strong management support, good communication, group meetings can be effective methods to reduce resistance and increase efficiency.

Ineffective communications

This is usually the result of management’s assumption that subordinates are resisting any kind of change, which is wrong. People are resisting some changes, and most often – forcing them. In this way, the leadership unknowingly contributes to the emergence of resistance. This bad practice includes:

Failure to provide sufficient information. In this case, management accepts that “what people do not know will not harm them” and deliberately withholds information. The result is spreading rumors and gossip, making guesses, developing a sense of mistrust.

Failure to provide additional information. This situation occurs when management does not notify subordinates continuously and on time of changes. This omission creates resistance and undermines the positive steps taken.

Selective sending of information to certain persons. Once the information about the change appears and the rumor slips, it gives rise to the idea that management keeps secrets. The result is the alienation of employees from each other.

Negative experience with change

A person’s negative experience of change can increase resistance to a new one. People who have experienced losses such as dismissal, loss of a higher position, salary reduction, etc. as a result of a change, tend to react negatively to a possible new one.



Every organization needs to change not only because it needs a new vision or a new way of working, but also to be in sync with the constantly changing external environment, and this synchrony will lead to more efficient work and maximum achievement of goals. . Every leader faces the challenge of change. He must identify the need for it in time and impose it on his subordinates so that they perceive it as something necessary and positive. Initially, any change is accepted with distrust or even rejection. However, it is always possible.

To make effective changes in the organization it is necessary:

The manager should consult, inform and lead a dialogue in the best way.
The manager to act based on “strategic analysis”, ie. to examine subordinates face to face the changes he wishes to undertake.

Change is risky. It must be assessed, decided, and done consistently. The changes vary in different situations, but the general trend is the institution of responsible management, which goes against the flow of the old functioning.

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