In an ever-evolving business landscape, change is the only constant. As organizations grow and adapt to new market conditions, technological advancements and shifting customer expectations, they often undergo significant transformations. These transformations can range from structural overhauls to IT system upgrades with each bringing its own set of challenges. 

Change management, the structured approach to transitioning individuals, teams, and organizations from a current state to a desired future state, is a critical component of this journey. It is the bridge that connects the chaos of change with the order of a well-functioning, efficient organization. Without effective change management, organizations risk falling into disarray, with employees feeling disoriented and disconnected, and strategic objectives becoming blurred.

However, change management is not just about processes and systems; it’s about people. As organizations grow, leaders must consider the human side of change. They must understand how change impacts their employees and what they can do to support them through the transition. This is where effective change management comes into play.

In this article, we will delve into the importance of change management as organizations grow, focusing on the critical role of leadership and the necessity of considering the people side of change. We will explore strategies for effective change management and provide insights that leaders can use to guide their organizations from chaos to order.

The Necessity of Change in Growing Organizations and the Inevitability of Resistance

Change is an integral part of growth. As organizations evolve, they inevitably encounter the need for change. This change can manifest in various forms, from structural alterations to IT system upgrades. Each type of change presents its own unique challenges and, quite often, resistance from those it impacts the most – the people within the organization.

The first place that most organizations experience resistance is at the individual level. People are creatures of habit, and any disruption to their routine can be met with resistance. This resistance is not necessarily a negative reaction; rather, it’s a natural human response to the unknown. It’s a protective mechanism that kicks in when we’re faced with uncertainty.

Resistance to change can take many forms. Here are some of the most common ways people resist change:

  • Denial: People may deny the need for change, insisting that the current way of doing things is still effective. This is often the first stage of resistance, where the reality of the impending change has not yet sunk in.
  • Anger: As the reality of the change sets in, people may express anger or frustration. They may feel that the change is unnecessary or that it’s being imposed without their input.
  • Bargaining: In this stage, people may try to negotiate or bargain to keep things the way they are. They may propose alternatives that they feel are less disruptive.
  • Despondent: If the change continues despite their resistance, people may feel overwhelmed, helpless, or despondent. They may withdraw and reduce their productivity.
  • Acceptance: Eventually, most people come to accept the change. They may not like it, but they recognize that it’s inevitable and start to adapt.

Understanding these forms of resistance is crucial for effective change management. Leaders need to anticipate resistance and plan for it. They need to communicate clearly and empathetically, addressing concerns and providing support to help individuals navigate through the change.

The People Side of Change

Change, no matter how beneficial or necessary, can be daunting. It disrupts the familiar and propels us into the unknown. As we’ve discussed, this often leads to resistance, especially in the workplace where changes can impact roles, routines, and relationships. As such, an essential aspect of managing change is understanding and addressing the people side of change.

When we talk about the ‘people side of change’, we’re referring to the human elements that are affected by organizational change. This includes the emotions, behaviors, and attitudes of the individuals within the organization. It’s about understanding that each person will experience and react to change differently, and these reactions will significantly impact the success of the change initiative.

Here are some key considerations for managing the people side of change:

  • Communication: Clear, consistent, and transparent communication is crucial during times of change. Employees need to understand why the change is happening, what the change will entail, and how it will impact them. This helps to reduce uncertainty and alleviate some of the fear associated with change.
  • Empathy: Leaders need to empathize with their employees, acknowledging their concerns and validating their feelings. This helps to build trust and shows employees that their well-being is a priority.
  • Involvement: Whenever possible, involve employees in the change process. This can help to reduce resistance, as people are more likely to support change that they’ve had a hand in shaping.
  • Support: Provide support to help employees navigate through the change. This could include training, resources, or simply a listening ear. Remember, it’s normal for productivity to dip during times of change. Be patient and give your team the time they need to adjust.
  • Recognition: Recognize and reward efforts to embrace change. This not only encourages positive behavior but also helps to foster a culture of adaptability and resilience.

The Role of Leadership in Change Management

Leadership is the cornerstone of effective change management. As the catalysts of change, leaders are tasked with the responsibility of steering their organizations through the often tumultuous journey of transformation. Their approach, communication, and actions can significantly influence the acceptance and success of change initiatives within the organization.

However, leading change is more than just announcing new directives and expecting employees to follow suit. It demands a comprehensive understanding of the change process, empathy towards the human aspects of change, and the ability to inspire and rally others towards a shared goal.

Here are some key strategies leaders can employ to effectively manage change:

  • Craft a Clear Narrative: Leaders should be able to articulate a clear and compelling narrative about the change. This narrative should explain why the change is necessary, what the future will look like, and how the organization plans to get there. A well-crafted narrative can inspire support and commitment towards the change.
  • Demonstrate Commitment: Leaders should embody the change they want to see. Their actions, attitudes, and behaviors should align with the change, serving as a model for their teams. If leaders appear resistant or indifferent to the change, it’s likely their teams will mirror this behavior.
  • Maintain Open Lines of Communication: Effective communication is crucial during times of change. Leaders should provide regular updates about the progress of the change, address concerns, and answer questions honestly. This transparency can help alleviate anxiety and build trust.
  • Provide Necessary Support: Change can be challenging, and employees may need additional support to navigate it successfully. Leaders should ensure that resources such as training, coaching, or counseling are available to help employees adapt to the change.
  • Recognize and Manage Resistance: Resistance to change is a common and natural response. Instead of ignoring or suppressing resistance, leaders should acknowledge it and seek to understand its source. This understanding can provide valuable insights into potential obstacles and how to address them.
  • Celebrate Progress: Recognizing and celebrating milestones along the change journey can boost morale and reinforce commitment to the change. It’s a way of showing appreciation for the efforts made and the progress achieved.

Case Studies – Learning from Real-World Experiences

Real-world examples provide invaluable insights into the complexities of change management. They offer a glimpse into the strategies that work, the challenges that arise, and the lessons learned along the way. One such example comes from Stephen Wayland, a supply chain leader at Merck, who recently was involved in a supply-chain automation project.

Wayland’s experience underscores the importance of the human side of change, particularly when implementing an enterprise system that impacts the entire organization. In an interview, he shared insights into the change management strategies employed during the project and the lessons learned.

“We had change management as part of the project, and it was a couple of elements. Number one, we needed to make sure people understood why we were doing this. So, as change agents, we needed to identify who our change stakeholders were, who our change targets were, so we also needed to understand the change impacts of what we were doing,” Wayland explained.

This highlights the importance of clear communication and stakeholder identification in change management. Understanding who will be affected by the change and how, and then communicating the reasons for the change to these individuals, is a crucial first step in managing resistance and fostering support for the change.

Wayland also discussed the need for subject matter expert (SME) change management, a strategy they realized was necessary as the project progressed. “We have very talented people who know how to plan in the systems. And we were actually challenging their paradigm, in terms of how do people own data, how do systems, you know, people do transactions in systems?”

This shift from people-driven transactions to system-driven transactions was a significant change that required a specialized approach. It involved not just teaching new skills, but also changing mindsets and attitudes towards work. “How do we get them to be thinking about less people driven transactions to more system driven transactions, and really getting them to see the value of doing that, as opposed to making everything that we do within our supply planning systems people-centric,” Wayland added.

This case study underscores the importance of understanding the human side of change and the need for tailored change management strategies. It also highlights the need for flexibility in change management, as new needs and challenges may emerge as the change process unfolds.

Strategies for Effective Change Management

Change management is a complex process that requires careful planning, clear communication, and a deep understanding of the human side of change. Drawing from the insights shared by Stephen Wayland and other leaders who have navigated the challenging waters of organizational change, here are some strategies for effective change management:

  • Understand the Change: Before implementing any change, it’s crucial to understand its scope and impact. Identify who will be affected by the change, how they will be affected, and what support they might need. This understanding forms the foundation for your change management strategy.
  • Communicate the Why: People are more likely to support change if they understand why it’s necessary. Communicate the reasons for the change, the benefits it will bring, and how it aligns with the organization’s vision and goals.
  • Involve Stakeholders: Involve stakeholders in the change process as much as possible. This could include seeking their input, keeping them informed of progress, and addressing their concerns promptly. This involvement can help reduce resistance and foster ownership of the change.
  • Provide Training and Support: Change often requires people to learn new skills or adopt new ways of working. Provide the necessary training and resources to help them make this transition. Also, consider providing emotional support, as change can be stressful and challenging.
  • Manage Resistance: Resistance to change is normal. Instead of trying to eliminate it, seek to understand it and address its underlying causes. This could involve providing more information, addressing concerns, or making adjustments to the change plan.
  • Celebrate Success: Recognize and celebrate milestones and achievements along the change journey. This can boost morale, reinforce the positive aspects of the change, and encourage continued support for the change.
  • Be Flexible: Change management is not a linear process, and unexpected challenges can arise. Be prepared to adapt your change management strategy as needed, and always be open to feedback and learning.


Navigating the path of change is a journey that every growing organization must undertake. From structural adjustments to IT system upgrades, these changes, while necessary, can often be disruptive and challenging. However, with effective change management, organizations can transition from a state of chaos to a state of order, ensuring that growth and transformation are not only achievable but also sustainable.

The human side of change is a critical aspect that leaders must consider. As we’ve learned from Stephen Wayland’s experience at Merck, understanding the impacts of change, communicating effectively, involving stakeholders, providing necessary support, managing resistance, celebrating success, and maintaining flexibility are all key strategies in managing change effectively.

As leaders, it’s essential to remember that change is more than just new processes or systems; it’s about people. The success of any change initiative is largely dependent on how well the people within the organization adapt to the change. Therefore, leaders must prioritize understanding and addressing the human side of change.

In the words of business author William Bridges, “Change is an event but a transition is the process that you go through in response to the change. It is when we are in transition that we are most completely alive.” As leaders, your role is to guide your team through these transitions, providing support, direction, and reassurance along the way.

As we conclude, we encourage leaders to reflect on their change management strategies. Are you considering the human side of change? Are you effectively communicating the reasons for change? Are you providing the necessary support for your team to navigate the change? Remember, mastering change management is a journey, not a destination. It requires continuous learning, adaptation, and most importantly, a focus on people.

From chaos to order, the journey of change is a challenging yet rewarding one. With effective change management, you can guide your organization through this journey, ensuring that you emerge stronger, more resilient, and better equipped for the future.