Product Management Dictionary

The Product Management Dictionary: change management

Discover the importance of change management in product management with our comprehensive guide.

The most successful product managers know that change is the name of the game. From feature updates to market pivots, product development is a constantly evolving field that requires the ability to adapt quickly to unexpected challenges and opportunities. That's where change management comes in. In this article, we'll explore what change management means in the context of product management, why it's important, and how you can implement it effectively.

Understanding Change Management in Product Management

At its core, change management is the process of guiding an organization or team through any transformation that impacts their ability to operate effectively. In the context of product management, this can include anything from a shift in strategy to a redesign of the product's user interface.

Change is inevitable in any product development process. It can be driven by market trends, user feedback, or internal factors such as budget constraints or technological advancements. However, managing change effectively is crucial to the success of any product. Without proper change management, teams can face costly delays, reduced product quality, and missed opportunities for growth.

The Importance of Change Management

Change management is crucial in product development because it helps teams prepare for and navigate the many inevitable changes that arise during a product's lifecycle. By proactively planning for change, teams can minimize disruptions and ensure that the product remains on track to meet its goals and objectives.

Effective change management can also help teams identify new opportunities for growth and innovation. By staying ahead of market trends and user needs, teams can continuously improve their products and stay competitive in a rapidly evolving landscape.

Key Principles of Change Management

Change management can be a complex process, but there are some key principles that can help you approach it more effectively:

  • Communication: Open and honest communication is essential in change management. All stakeholders should understand what is happening and why. This includes team members, executives, customers, and other key stakeholders.
  • Planning: A well-developed plan can help ensure that change is implemented smoothly and efficiently. This includes setting clear objectives, identifying potential risks and challenges, and developing a timeline for implementation.
  • Flexibility: Change is inherently unpredictable, so teams need to be able to adapt quickly when unexpected challenges arise. This requires a culture of agility and a willingness to experiment and iterate as needed.

The Role of a Product Manager in Change Management

Product managers are uniquely positioned to lead change management efforts within their teams. They are responsible for understanding the market, the customer, and their organization's goals and objectives. By leveraging this knowledge, product managers can help ensure that change initiatives are aligned with the broader product strategy and that all stakeholders are on board.

In addition to leading change management efforts, product managers can also play a critical role in identifying and prioritizing areas for improvement. By staying up-to-date on market trends and user needs, product managers can help their teams stay ahead of the curve and continuously improve their products.

Change Management Process and Frameworks

Change management is the process of managing changes within an organization to ensure they are implemented smoothly and effectively. There are many change management frameworks that product managers can use to guide their change initiatives. Let's explore a few of the most popular:

The ADKAR Model

The ADKAR model is a change management tool that focuses on individual change. It stands for Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement. The model suggests that change can only be successful if individuals are ready and willing to adopt it.

The first step in the ADKAR model is to create awareness of the need for change. This involves communicating the reasons for the change and the benefits that will come from it. The second step is to create a desire for the change by showing individuals how it will benefit them personally. The third step is to provide knowledge and training to individuals so they have the skills and understanding to implement the change. The fourth step is to provide the resources and support needed to enable individuals to make the change successfully. Finally, the fifth step is to reinforce the change to ensure it becomes a permanent part of the organization's culture.

Kotter's 8-Step Process for Leading Change

Developed by Professor John Kotter at Harvard Business School, this process is a framework for leading major change initiatives. It includes eight steps, including creating a sense of urgency, building a coalition of support, and sustaining the change over time.

The first step in Kotter's model is to create a sense of urgency by communicating the need for change and the consequences of not changing. The second step is to build a coalition of support by identifying key stakeholders and getting their buy-in. The third step is to create a vision for the change and communicate it to the organization. The fourth step is to communicate the vision and the plan for achieving it. The fifth step is to empower others to act on the vision by removing obstacles and providing resources. The sixth step is to create short-term wins to build momentum and demonstrate progress. The seventh step is to consolidate gains and produce more change. Finally, the eighth step is to anchor new approaches in the organization's culture.

Lewin's Change Management Model

Lewin's model is a three-step approach to change management that focuses on unfreezing the current state, moving to a new state, and then refreezing the new state to make it part of the organization's culture.

The first step in Lewin's model is to unfreeze the current state by creating a sense of dissatisfaction with the status quo. The second step is to move to a new state by introducing new ideas, processes, or systems. The third step is to refreeze the new state by making it a permanent part of the organization's culture.

McKinsey 7S Framework

The McKinsey 7S framework is a holistic approach to change management that looks at seven key areas of an organization: strategy, structure, systems, shared values, style, staff, and skills. The framework suggests that all seven elements must be aligned for change to be successful.

The first element, strategy, refers to the organization's overall plan for achieving its goals. The second element, structure, refers to the way the organization is organized, including its hierarchy and reporting lines. The third element, systems, refers to the processes and procedures used to carry out the organization's work. The fourth element, shared values, refers to the beliefs and values that guide the organization's behavior. The fifth element, style, refers to the leadership style and culture of the organization. The sixth element, staff, refers to the people who work for the organization and their skills and capabilities. The seventh element, skills, refers to the skills and knowledge needed to carry out the organization's work.

The McKinsey 7S framework suggests that all seven elements must be aligned for change to be successful. For example, if an organization wants to implement a new strategy, it must ensure that its structure, systems, shared values, style, staff, and skills are all aligned with that strategy.

Implementing Change Management in Product Development

Now that we've explored what change management is and some popular frameworks for implementing it, let's take a look at how you can implement change management effectively in your product development process:

Assessing the Need for Change

The first step in any change management initiative is to assess the need for change. Ask yourself: why is this change necessary? What benefits will it bring? What risks are involved?

For example, let's say you're developing a new software product and you realize that the current design is not user-friendly. You've received feedback from customers that the interface is confusing and difficult to navigate. This feedback indicates a need for change in the product design.

Developing a Change Management Plan

Once you've identified the need for change, it's important to develop a plan for implementing it. This plan should outline the steps you'll take, the resources you'll need, and the timeline for implementation.

In the case of the software product, your change management plan might include conducting user research to better understand what changes need to be made, hiring a UX designer to help with the redesign, and setting a timeline for the redesign process.

Communicating the Change

Effective communication is essential in change management. Make sure all stakeholders, including employees, customers, and partners, understand what the change is and why it's happening.

For the software product, you might communicate the change to customers through a blog post or email newsletter, and to employees through a company-wide meeting or email. It's important to explain the benefits of the change, such as a more user-friendly product, and address any concerns or questions stakeholders may have.

Overcoming Resistance to Change

Resistance to change is common, but it's important to address it proactively. Work to understand the concerns of those who are resistant to the change and address them openly and honestly.

For example, some employees may be resistant to the software redesign because they're used to the current design and don't want to learn something new. In this case, you could offer training sessions to help employees learn the new design and emphasize the benefits of the redesign, such as increased customer satisfaction.

Monitoring and Evaluating the Change

Finally, it's important to monitor and evaluate the change to ensure that it's having the desired effect. Collect feedback from stakeholders and make adjustments as needed.

In the case of the software redesign, you could collect feedback from customers through surveys or user testing. If the new design is still not meeting customer needs, you may need to make additional changes or improvements.

Overall, implementing change management in your product development process can help ensure that your products are meeting the needs of your customers and stakeholders. By following these steps, you can effectively manage change and drive success in your organization.


Change management is a critical skill for product managers. By understanding the principles and frameworks of change management, as well as how to implement it effectively, product managers can ensure that their teams are well-equipped to navigate complex changes and continue delivering value to their customers.