Changemanagement qmbase

Introduction to the concepts of change management

"The only constant in the universe is change."Heraklit

In other words, permanent changes are part of normality, especially in the day-to-day running of a company. Changes within a company are influenced by several factors. External factors include technological and demographic change, changes in the labor market and competitive conditions, and the development of the economic cycle. Current examples of technological change are increasing digitalization and automation. Within a company, restructuring, the introduction of new technologies, changes in corporate strategy, or cost reduction programs can lead to significant changes. Many of these changes are necessary or simply unstoppable. Therefore, changes should not be rejected, but actively confronted using change management.

However, how you react to the change depends on the change itself. Regardless of the influencing factors, each change can take on a different scale. For this reason, it is advisable to differentiate between first-order and second-order change as an introduction to the concepts of change management.

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What exactly does this mean?

In order not to lose the overview in the multicomplex area of change management, the cause of a change process should be known. It should be possible to assess the fear of the employees and the order of the change.

In any case, the personnel manager should be able to face the employees in a confident, credible, and informed manner.

From classics to latest models

The origin of change management goes back to organizational development in the USA in the 1930s. During research on performance improvement, the scientists Roethlisberger and Mayo discovered that the observed performance of employees was more strongly influenced by the attention of the researchers than by changes in working conditions.

More extensive research was carried out by Kurt Lewin in the 1940s. His pioneering theory deals with the phases of change within the framework of organizational theory. While Lewin's phases do not deal with individual steps of management during a change, John P. Kotter identified eight phases of change management. According to Kotter, these phases are critical to the success of change management and must be adhered to by every change manager.

Three phases of a change project according to Kurt Lewin

Change processes pose challenges for the entire staff. To ensure that the process is successful, it is advisable to divide it into three phases.

Phase 1: Defrosting

At this point analysis and communication are in the foreground to identify the need for change. The analysis is based on the following core questions: What problems and potentials can be identified? What are the causes of the problems? What are the possible solutions? And: how to design the change based on the most suitable solution?

It must be communicated within the company that the processes or products no longer meet current expectations or requirements. Only then does the necessity for a change enter the consciousness of the employees and the current processes and products can be actively questioned by the employees.

Phase 2: Move

In the actual change phase, the goal of the company is to communicate in such a way that as many employees as possible are motivated to participate in the process. Informed and motivated employees are the key to successful change management. To support communication, further training courses are offered at this point. Employees should be professionally and socially able to cope with the change and the challenges it brings.

Phase 3: Freezing

To integrate the initiated change into the company, you should check and critically evaluate the new developments for their impact. This evaluation allows you to optimize the results.

Eight steps of a change project according to J.P. Kotter

Building on Lewin's phase model, Kotter says that to initiate successful change, an organization must go through all the steps of his 8-step model.

In a study, John P. Kotter proved that more than half of the changes he examined in companies still fail in the initial phase. According to his thesis, to prevent the failure of the change and frequent mistakes, the following stages must be passed through:

1. create a sense of urgency

 Create awareness of the urgency of change among managers and employees.

2. build-up management team

Unite the leaders in a coalition and ensure mutual trust.

3. developing a vision

An overall vision of change and strategies for its implementation serves as a positive pulling force for the company.

4. communicate the vision

To convince the employees, the presentation and change approaches should be communicated on a broad basis.

5. obtain approval and adapt structures

Motivating employees to act according to the vision is essential to make it a reality. This should go hand in hand with adopting the internal structures and systems to the requirements of the new vision to make the employees capable of acting.

6. ensure short-term goals and success

Formulate short-term, clear goals that lead to motivating success in a short time. Far-reaching changes take a lot of time.

7. secure achieved goals and successes and ensure further changes

Once the short-term goals are achieved, formulate further short-term goals. In this way, you can achieve a big goal in small steps.

8. anchor the achieved changes in the corporate culture

Only when this has been achieved can we speak of a successful change management process.


A key difference to Lewin's change management theory is that the 3-phase model is based on the micro-level, where the individual "organization" is the focus of the analysis. Kotter's model, on the other hand, refers to the macro level and deals with relationships between organizations and their environment. Critics criticize the empirical validation of Kotter's model. In empirical studies, for example, six of the eight levels can be identified, but they found no evidence of the fifth and seventh levels. A further criticism is that regressions cannot be explained with the help of the model and J.P. Kotter immanently emphasizes the "top-down" perspective, which means that the effect of the processes is initiated and controlled from the top management level. This perspective neglects, for example, initiatives by employees, the so-called "bottom-up" perspective.

Despite these points of criticism, Keller's 8-step model represents a further development of Lewin's model and is also widely used in research.

The Krüger Five Phase Model

In a critical examination of the points of criticism of Kotter's model and building on his surveys, Krüger identifies five phases of change in his Change Management Model. He explicitly allows for flexibility in the design of the change management processes.

Stage 1: Initialization

The need for change is determined; internal and external systems and situation analyses are carried out to make the situation assessable and predictable. At the same time, those responsible for the change process, such as managers and consultants, are activated.

Stage 2: Conception

During the conception of the change process, goals are defined and the corresponding measures are determined and specified.

Stage 3: Mobilization

The impending change is communicated to those affected. Krüger emphasizes the special importance of change management communication to gain the acceptance of all those involved and also to prepare them for the changed conditions with suitable measures. This stage prepares the implementation.

Stage 4: Implementation

The planned changes will be implemented and possible follow-up projects initiated. Each project is then checked for success, evaluated and, if necessary, corrected.

Stage 5: Consistency

In the final stage, the results of the change process are anchored and consolidated to ensure that the organisation does not fall back into old patterns. In the course of the consolidation, the readiness for future changes should also be ensured.

Phases of Change Krüger, qmBase Changemanangement

Phases of Change apapted from Krüger


Krüger's 5-step model allows the possibility of reorganization measures and flexible adjustments to the respective situation within the different phases, thus also explaining regressions. In addition to the success factors for change, concrete recommendations for the design and direct application of the change processes can also be given here.

Kaizen as continuous change management

In the 1950s, kaizen emerged as a management philosophy in Japan. It is made up of the terms "Kai" meaning change, transformation, and "Zen" for the better. Change for the better is translated in the USA as the "Continuous Improvement Process" (CIP), which has been further developed in Europe into the "Continuous Improvement Process" (CIP). In the narrower sense, this means continuous improvement of corporate processes. Although Kaizen is also a classic quality management tool, it is also used in change management. However, it must be distinguished from the above-mentioned methods in that the concept does not deal with extensive and abrupt changes, but rather with incremental changes or improvements.

According to the philosophy of Kaizen, it is not the sudden improvement through innovation, but the gradual perfection of the proven product that points the way to success. It is based on the assumption that economic success is the result of products and services that achieve the highest customer satisfaction with excellent quality. The constant search for improvement at all levels of a company is derived from this conviction as the core function of a Kaizen program or continuous improvement process (CIP).
This includes, for example

  • Perfecting the company suggestion scheme
  • Investment in the further training of employees
  • Employee-oriented management
  • Process orientation
    Introduction of a quality management system

Overall, Kaizen or a CIP is intended to achieve a higher level of employee identification with the company, which should contribute to a steady improvement in the competitive position.

Kaizen as a philosophy of life

The term Kaizen runs like a red thread through systems and methods up to problem solutions. It is assumed that there are problems in every company. Kaizen solves these problems by establishing a corporate culture in which every employee can express problems.

The philosophy of Kaizen is based on the assumption that there is always room for improvement in both professional and private life.

Small steps and observations are the key features of kaizen. In companies, the entire work process is examined, from development to production. The employees play a very important role in this. They are motivated in workshops and special training courses to actively participate in process improvements. A corporate mission statement serves as an orientation for the employees. They should also look for improvement opportunities across the entire organization beyond their workplace.

Kaizen can thus not only be a way of improving processes within the company but also represents a philosophy of life for the employees, in whose focus is the striving for constant and infinite improvement. In the process, processes or products are perfected or optimized in specific areas. A higher identification of the employees with the company should be achieved, which should lead to higher motivation and willingness to perform.

Five central principles of Kaizen

Process orientation

Among other things, the mindset of Kaizen represents a departure from the pure result orientation. The resulting process orientation also includes process documentation to further improve the process standard. The essential point is to try to optimize profit. However, this is only possible if customer satisfaction is high since customer acquisition is more expensive than customer loyalty. To ensure customer satisfaction, the above-mentioned factors are in the foreground.

Customer orientation

Kaizen divides customers into internal and external customers. The external customer is the classic buyer of a product or service. The internal customer is the recipient of service within an organization. This can be, for example, a different department or location. If organizational unit A manufactures a product that must be processed further in organizational unit B, B is the internal customer. If B detects defects in the product, it informs A to avoid subsequent errors. Problems often occur at these interfaces in the company. So that's where one tries to start to implement the goals of Kaizen: Quality assurance and increase, customer satisfaction and cost reduction by the employees, and early detection of defects.

Quality orientation

Within the framework of quality management, regular quality controls are carried out, during which quality is permanently monitored during production using a complex measuring procedure. The quality indicators and measuring procedures are described and defined by demanding quality standards.

Critical orientation

In Kaizen, criticism is seen as an opportunity for continuous improvement. Therefore, criticism is not only allowed, but desired. Every employee is requested to make suggestions for improvement within the company; the management should take these up constructively and implement them as far as possible. The suggestions are checked for usability and evaluated, to incorporate them into the company processes if the overall assessment is positive. This results in a continuous cycle of planning (Plan), activity (Do), control (Check), and improvement (Act), the PDCA cycle. The aim is to constantly analyze and improve all processes in the company.


If an improvement has been implemented that has proven to be suitable, it is set as a standard and thus permanently integrated into the company's process model. For this purpose, the cycle is changed to SDCA (Standardize, Do, Check, Act). After a completely completed standardization, further improvement is aimed at.

In the second part of the Change Management series, we will look at practical examples of change management. We will present examples of change management in companies and take up the importance of change managers.

Source: We would like to thank initio Organisationsberatung for allowing us to draw on the content of change management models in comparison by the initio Organisationsberatung. There you will find numerous other interesting contributions to various aspects of efficient corporate development.

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