The Change Management Process: What Is It and Who Is It For?

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Learn what the change management process is, who benefits from it, and the types of change management roles, salaries, and certifications.

[Featured image] A male, wearing a dark shirt and a female, wearing a dark jacket, are working in front of a desktop as they discuss the change management process.

Change management is a part of every business. With expectations and requirements to keep up with technology and regulations, businesses and organizations must constantly make changes and adjustments to their practices in order to keep business processes efficient and cost-effective. 

These changes need an effective strategy, planning, and management, which change management professionals are responsible for. Working in change management requires that you have excellent problem-solving abilities, workplace skills, and love a challenge. If you enjoy collaborating with others, solving problems, and project management, then change management could be a rewarding career choice for you.

In this article, you'll learn more about what change management actually is, how the change management process works, and different types of change management. You'll also explore careers in the field, learn what they do, and encounter some suggested cost-effective courses that can help you gain job-relevant skills today.

What is change management?

Change management is the process that businesses and organizations use to implement changes through building and delivering effective change strategies. It includes reviewing reasons for change, implementing changes, and helping people adapt to these changes. This could be staff structure, introducing new technology, reducing costs, increasing profits, or a combination of these to reach a desired goal. 

Read more: What Is Management Science? + How to Enter This Field

Situations that require a change management process

We need change management in an organization for a number of reasons. Common situations include:

  • Implementing new technology

  • Leadership or management turnover

  • Change in work culture

  • Mergers and acquisitions

  • Current processes are not working

  • Changes in staff and structure

  • A time of crisis

What is the change management process?

The change management process refers to the stages involved in any change management strategy and its implementation. Having a strategy and steps helps transformations become successful and ensure that all factors are considered. 

For example, implementing new technology into a business will not just involve the technology change itself. It may affect staffing levels, require structural changes, new recruitment drives, or even redundancies. It may involve significant means for training and impact business costs. Change management processes are all-encompassing.

At a glance, the change management process breaks down into the following five steps:

1. Prepare for change.

This step involves understanding the necessary changes and preparing staff members and stakeholders for what’s to come. It’s an important part of the process, ensuring the change manager supports staff through any concerns and manages resistance by communicating the process and getting buy-in from employees.

2. Create a vision for change.

This stage is about creating the strategy to reach transformation once stakeholders have agreed for a change. Those involved set goals, delegating key performance indicators (KPIs) and tasks to the relevant parties. The change management team makes plans to account for possible problems and helps everyone understand their role in managing processes at each level. 

3. Implement changes. 

This step puts the change plans into action. Excellent management and communication are key here, and change managers need to make sure everyone is doing their duties and that employees are still happy and empowered, to ensure everything runs smoothly. 

Read more: 9 Key Management Skills: How to Show Them on Your Resume

4. Embed and solidify changes.

Once the changes have been made, it’s vital to make sure the transformation is in place so that staff members don’t slip back into old ways. This step ensures systems are in place to train staff and clarify new structures, workflows, and rewards. 

5. Review and analyze.

The final stage of the process is important to make sure that changes continue and are beneficial. Change managers review what worked and what didn’t work to make adjustments accordingly. 

A lecture from the University of Pennsylvania's Removing Barriers to Change.

4 Types of change management

Just as change can take many forms, so too are there different approaches to the change management process. The four main types of change include the following:

1. Anticipatory

Anticipatory change is when an organization makes changes in response to something expected to happen. For example, environmental concerns or new trends the organization wants to capitalize on can cause stakeholders to anticipate the need for change. 

2. Reactive

Reactive change happens in response to an event that impacts the business. This could be new industry regulations or changes to deal with a pandemic like Covid-19. 

3. Incremental

Incremental change is a series of changes, usually at a micro level, that adds up to wider overall changes. Examples include implementing a reward system, introducing new flexible working policies, or changing office hours. 

4. Strategic

Strategic changes are made at and filtered down from a higher level and impact the whole organization. An example of this would be a change in leadership or organizational structure. 

Why choose a career in change management?

Change management roles offer challenges, flexibility, and excellent job prospects. Jobs in management analytics, which includes change management positions, are expected to grow by 11 percent between 2021 and 2031, adding 101,900 new jobs a year throughout the decade, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) [1]. Change managers typically work in an organization or independently in a consultancy capacity. 


What does a change manager do?

Change management roles and responsibilities vary depending on the organization and the change that’s being implemented. In general, a change manager is responsible for the following:

  • Communicating and liaising with management and stakeholders to drive the project forward

  • Consulting with staff and relevant parties to manage resistance 

  • Creating and overseeing a strategy and timeline for change

  • Creating training materials to embed change into company culture

  • Helping managers implement change and navigate resistance

  • Managing project budgets

  • Managing the change process to ensure the process meets its objectives

  • Monitoring change and coordinating any activities to support the process

  • Producing progress reports to direct any future change initiatives 

What skills do you need for change management?

Whether you’re looking for change management roles as an employee or a self-employed consultant, you need certain transferable skills and some specialist skills. These include:

  • Business management

  • Detail-oriented

  • Excellent communication with people at all levels

  • Leadership and management

  • Negotiation

  • Organization

  • Process improvement 

  • Proficiency with business management software 

  • Project management

  • Time management 

  • Training and coaching 

  • Trust and relationship building

Ready to start learning?

Join the Coursera Plus community and get unlimited access to over 7,000 courses, hands-on projects, and Professional Certificates on Coursera, taught by top instructors from leading universities and companies.


Examples of change management roles

Various types of employees within an organization can be part of the change management team, depending on the business. Smaller companies may only have one or two people assigned to these responsibilities, while larger companies may hire a large team with specific roles. Examples of specific job titles devoted to change management and their average base US salaries, according to Glassdoor:

  • Change management analyst: $79,003 [2

  • Change manager: $87,094 [3]

  • Organizational development consultant: $85,435 [4

  • Organizational consultant: $68,281 [5

  • Organizational change manager: $99,096 [6]

How do you become a change manager?

When considering a career as a change manager, you will need experience, a bachelor's degree, and further qualifications or certifications to verify your credentials.

1. Obtain a bachelor's degree

To start your career in change management, a minimum requirement will typically be a bachelor's degree in a business-related field, such as business, business administration, human resources, or organizational psychology. 

You are Currently on slide 1

2. Consider obtaining a certification

In addition to a bachelor’s degree, any certifications or courses in project management or change management may boost your resume and verify your skills and knowledge in the field.  Many professional change management certificates are available. These may enhance your employability, especially if you don’t have much experience.

  • ACMP Certified Change Management Professional (CCMP)

  • MSI Change Management Specialist (CMS)

  • Change Guides Managing Change in an Agile World

  • Prosci Change Management Certification

  • CMI Accredited Change Manager - Foundation

  • CMI Accredited Change Manager - Specialist

  • CMI Accredited Change Manager - Master

You can also pursue professional certificate programs and courses designed to help you improve your change management skills. Some include:

3. Gain work experience

Experience is essential to work in change management. Many professionals transitioning into this field have experience in at least a middle management role, where they learn how a business is structured and how to manage teams. It’s also possible to find work as a change agent, which may help you advance and gain knowledge and experience in managing change. 

Read more: How to Get a Job with No Experience: A Job Seeker’s Guide

4. Consider a master's degree. 

To really put yourself above your competition for change management roles, you might consider a master’s degree. An MBA is a great option, along with a master’s in organizational psychology. Some schools offer master’s degrees in change management specifically. 

Read more: What Is a Master’s Degree?

Considering a career as a change manager?

A change management career can be exciting, rewarding, and varied with above-average employment prospects. Start your career journey with some foundational courses to understand change management and build up your knowledge. In Macquarie University's Leading Transformations: Manage Change, you'll learn how to effectively influence change by developing a ‘change mindset’, creating a productive change cycle, and leading yourself and others on the change journey.

In the University of Pennsylvania's Removing Barriers to Change, meanwhile, you'll learn about the common barriers to change and how to become more effective in inspiring change within others and your organization.



Leading transformations: Manage change

We live in a globalised world of continuous change. Your ability to successfully manage change will allow you to have a positive impact on your work and ...


(1,260 ratings)

40,545 already enrolled


Average time: 1 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Article sources


US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Occupational Outlook Handbook, Management Analytics,” Accessed February 10, 2023. 

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

Develop career skills and credentials to stand out

  • Build in demand career skills with experts from leading companies and universities
  • Choose from over 8000 courses, hands-on projects, and certificate programs
  • Learn on your terms with flexible schedules and on-demand courses