Change Management & It’s Types

According to Prosci, change management is described as an application of a structured process and a set of tools which are designed for leading the people’s side of change to achieve a desired outcome. Whereas according to Kotter J., ‘change management is as an approach to transitioning individuals, teams and organizations to a desired future state’. (Kotter, 2011)

Change Management is further divided into two types of change – first order change and second order change. First order change is incremental i.e. it involves improving or correcting a previously known skill and doesn’t involve any radical changes in the organization & can easily take place with the people’s consensus as it involves old skills that they already possess. The National Academy for Academic Leadership describes the difference between first order and second order change as reversible versus irreversible, non-transformational versus transformational.

On the other hand, second-order change is more intense and complex and involves people learning new skills and applying new knowledge to organizational processes. This change is comparatively difficult for organizations to achieve as it involves them changing their focus for the system to the people i.e. to switch from high levels of efficiency to high levels of effectiveness. (Waters et al., 2004).  First order change is easily acceptable within the organization and its people while second order change is not that easily accepted and whatever the case cannot be forced on the employees, it has to be accepted by them.

People usually resist change as they see it as devaluation of their skills as well as their knowledge. They start to see themselves as getting obsolete. Secondly, everyone is scared of the unknown. Other reasons include loss of control, poor communication, low trust in management & fear of being laid off work. Workers often associate change with extra work and no rewards.

To understand, first order and second order change let’s take the example of an educational institute. In the field of education, someone is always trying to change one thing or another i.e. they are always proposing a new program or a new practice even though most of the times those new programs and practices proposed are short-lived even though they have been well-articulated, well-researched and though-out. (Levy, 1986)

Some innovations like those pertaining to education require changes that are gradual and subtle rather than those which are drastic and dramatic. The gradual and subtle changes can be referred to as the first-order change whereas the latter to the second-order change.

For an educational institution, first-order change would be gradually introducing a new subject in their students’ curriculum or changing the teaching methods to adhere to international standards gradually and slowly. This type of change is incremental and will not be resisted by the staff as well the students as it would be though off as the next most obvious step to take for an educational institution. On the other hand, second-order is nothing like a subtle and gradual one and involves introducing something completely out of the blue or making a completely unexpected change. For instance, for an educational institution a second-order change would be making every one of their staff as well as their students converse as well as study in their national language rather than in a universally accepted language.

The managers of any organization before making a change need to determine if the organization is ready for change. For instance, if there are any gaps of culture in between the perceptions of the management and the employees or the manager can also look into the gaps in between the values and visions of an organization on its mission statement and how it actually functions in the real world.

The managers can overcome this initial resistance by including the workers in the change from day one, taking their views into account and getting rid of the ‘us versus them syndrome’, making workers understand that change does not mean devaluation of their skills. This can be done through personal counseling sessions that alleviate any change related fears. The senior management of an organization can also provide training as well as skills up gradation courses and other education so that the transition will be easier for their employees. The managers can also make transition easier all round by re-enforcing the reward system i.e. making sure that the benefits and rewards of change are seen as more than enough by the employees so that they are willing to go with the flow rather than resist it.


Kotter, John. (2011). Change Management versus change leadership-what’s the difference. Retrieved from Web.

Waters, J. T., Marzano, R. J., & McNulty, B. (2004). Leadership that sparks learning. Educational Leadership. Pp. 61(7), 48. Retrieved from ect=true&db=eric&AN=EJ716739&site=ehost-live. Web.

Levy, A. (1986). Second-order planned change: Definition and conceptualization. Organizational Dynamics. Vol, 15. Issue 1. pp. 5, 19-17, 23. Print.

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