With the ever changing business environment, change management and strategic planning activities are increasingly becoming issues of focus in the modern business environment. This is because of the significant role they play in helping organizations adapt to the turbulence of change. In this paper, I explore change management and strategic planning in terms of definition, inter-relationships and the impact of change on individuals and organizations.
Change management refers to the manner in which top-level managers shape the way organizations adapt, respond to, anticipate and learn about change which occurs within them and the environment.
This is a central tenet to organizations as it enables us understand how these organizations help people (internally and externally) to embrace change. Therefore, change management is the way organizations are designed to positively and proactively anticipate and react to the external environment which is ever-changing and competitive.
Change management also involves institution of internal structures in the organization to enable it to respond better to the turbulence of change (Johnson 1998). If change management is effectively undertaken, it results in creation of a learning institution where employees continuously broaden their capacity to create truly desired outcomes and nurture new and expansive thinking patterns (Johnson 1998; Jager 2006).
Change management also involves equipping employees to acquire knowledge and skills to learn in institutions they encounter. In this context, change management is enhanced by encouraging deep commitment where employees build required skills through out the work place. In addition, change management requires commitment especially at the absolute pinnacle of the organization.
Various authors e.g. Jager and Johnson have pointed out that change management involves the regulation of speed, breadth and depth of learning which should be managed at different levels (Jager 2006; Johnson 1998).
On the other hand, strategic planning refers to long-range planning undertaken to set goals, objectives and policies of the organization and to determine tactics, strategies and programs under which these goals will be achieved. Strategic planning is undertaken by top-level managers who make plans to chart the best courses of future action.
Therefore, strategic planning activities involve defining the mission of the organization using the organizational purpose as a key tool for identification of products, services and customers. Strategic planning also involves setting objectives i.e. purpose, goals and desired outcomes for the organization and its parts (Johnson 1998; Bryson 1995).
When objectives are set, it is important that strategies are developed. These strategies involve activities which enable the organization to adapt and achieve its strategic objectives. Therefore, strategic planning has a longer time horizon and it deals with the interface of the organization and its external environment. In strategic planning, top-level managers use an instrument called SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats).
SWOT analysis is usually used as a framework for organizing the way the organization consumes data and information derived from a situational analysis. When applying the SWOT analysis, top-level managers assess the internal environment (strengths and weaknesses) and external environment (opportunities and threats).
Therefore, during this process, top-level managers carry out long range planning (strategic planning) which is enhanced by considering organizational strengths (positive attributes internal to the organization and within its control), weaknesses (factors which distract the organization and are within its control), opportunities (factors that represent the reason for organizational existence and development) and threats (external factors which risk the mission or operation of the organization but are within its control).
Studies have revealed that if top managers plan strategically by putting up contingency plans to address threats that have a likelihood of recurrence, the organization will be better placed to benefit as it is enabled to withstand the turbulence of change (Johnson 1998; Bryson 1995).
Organizational change has been regarded as a venture that is incredibly difficult for majority of organizations. Although organizations may be aware of the need to communicate change, most of them lack the knowledge, skills and competencies necessary in communication.
Therefore, in the context of these organizations, change management involves communicating of change that is implemented within them. In addition, change management will involve ability of these organizations to define change in great detail.
Therefore, communication of change during change management is a pre-requisite. Authors e.g. Jager have also pointed out that most organizations are unable to define the change they are implementing and as such, they are pushed to the brink of collapse especially if the change implemented cannot be communicated effectively. This implies that the ability to communicate change is crucial to the success of organizations (Jager 2006).
Johnson (1998) mentioned the overwhelming impact of change on individuals and organizations by exploring the importance and awareness of people adapting to change and their response to inevitable consequences of change. Different studies have also demonstrated that change limits individuals and organizations as they encounter difficulties in prophesying the future.
For instance, Johnson (1998) argued that organizations have encountered numerous challenges due to inability to adapt or shift to configurations that come with change. In addition, organizations have had other challenges as a result of change. These include difficulties in creation of new internal structures and rigidity in letting power balances move with change (Johnson 1998; Bryson 1995; Jager 2006).
Authors like Johnson (1998) have used water analogies to depict the ebb and flow of change in the economy. These studies point out that various industries such as telecommunications and consumer electronics have encountered technological change with increased frequency and absorption of major market shifts at a rapid pace.
Under these circumstances, organizations that are more stable are able to sustain rapid change over a short period. Furthermore many organizations face imminent collapse if they do not move with change that is taking place in the economy and in competing organizations. Therefore, if change is not managed effectively, it hinders growth of organizations in the global economy (Johnson 1998; Bryson 1995).
If change is not effectively managed, rigid organizations encounter numerous challenges and are likely to collapse. This implies that organizations that will be prosperous in future are those that have an understanding of change and proactive recognition and embracing of this change (Jager 2006).
In addition, authors e.g. Johnson (1988) have used Lewin’s Model of unfreezing, changing and refreezing to explain the effect of change on individuals and the organization. In line with this model, contemporary life is full of constant and accelerating change and therefore individuals and organizations that speculate and anticipate future events are likely to be more effective and successful. In addition, the model establishes the link between change management and strategic planning.
This is based on the argument that the effective management of intensity, speed and direction of strategic plans and organizational change results in a future difference between those who win and those who lose. Consequently, the losers lose because they are unable to recognize, respond to and manage change while the winners win because they are able to recognize, manage, respond to and propagate the rate of change in the organization in an attempt to survive (Johnson 1998).
Therefore, if organizations are to withstand the turbulence of change, the extent of learning should be more than or equal to rate of organizational change. If this is not the case, organizations risk falling back and collapsing due to loss of market for their products. Furthermore, organizations with higher survival chances during times of change are those which manage competencies, structures and leadership processes effectively (through strategic planning).
This is because of lexibility which is present in such organizations, hence they effectively adapt to change (Jager 2006). Research studies e.g. by Johnson have revealed that bureaucratic practices hinder ability of organizations to move with change. Therefore, If top-level managers stick to bureaucratic practices and do not own change, a “not invented here” syndrome occurs in lower organizational levels (Johnson 1998, p. 10).
In this paper, I explored change management and strategic planning as inter-related factors which affect individuals and organizations. Strategic planning has been perceived as a process which involves systematic use of criteria and rigorous investigations to formulate and control organizational expectations.
On the other hand, change management has been perceived as the way organizations are designed to positively and proactively anticipate and react to the external environment which is ever changing and competitive (Jager 2006; Johnson 1998; Bryson 1995)
List of References
Bryson, J 1995, SWOT Analysis: A Facilitation Tool for Identifying Strategic Issues, viewed 7 April 2012,
Jager, P 2006, Seven Ways to Communicate Change, viewed 4 April 2012,
Johnson, J 1998, Embracing Change: A Leadership Model for the Learning Organization, viewed 4 April 2012,