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What is the Difference Between Change Management and Continuous Improvement

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Posted 15 November 2013 by Chris FarmerChris Farmer

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You may find the following will help with your change management skills.

The difference between change management and continuous improvement

Some people get two similar concepts confused.

And to be in a state of confusion is not good.

It is important to define your major concepts.

Let us therefore clarify the meaning and the differences between.

  1. Change management and
  2. Continuous improvement

1. Change management

Change management is the broader term

Since "Change" is a universal phenomenon that occurs all the time, to everything, then change management is "the process of coping with the effects of altered circumstances".

These changes (altered circumstances) may be caused by three sets of causes:

  • Nature. (A hurricane may wreck your house).
  • Other people. (The government might bomb your house).
  • Yourself. (You might leave the gas on and blow up your own house).

But change can be both negative and positive change; things can get better or worse, as a result of the change.

Change management is the process by which one manages variations in circumstances initiated by nature, other people or yourself, either for good or for ill: meaning:

  • How one manages the impact of a disaster.
  • How one manages the impact of an alteration in the law.
  • How one manages the impact of a new technology.

Change management is a description of how one modifies ones actions to accommodate the ever changing environment; for the good or for the ill.

Contrast that to continuous improvement.

2. Continuous improvement is a sub-category of change management

Continuous improvement is driven only by yourself.

It is not imposed by others.

Nature will not make you improve yourself.

Continuous improvement is pre-emptive action designed to improve upon the current situation, by means of self-generated and self-organised planned action.
Continuous improvement implies only positive, self-generated change.

Continuous improvement comes in two types: evolutionary and revolutionary.

  • Evolutionary modifications of the existing design.
  • Revolutionary introduction of a new design (and the discarding of the old design).

Evolutionary continuous improvement is by definition:

  • Small modifications.
  • Numerous modifications.
  • Over long periods of time.
  • Continuous and easy to do.

Revolutionary continuous improvement is:

  • Large changes
  • In one decisive movement
  • Over a short period of time.
  • Periodic and not easy to do.

Continuous improvement is self-initiated planned and pre-emptive action designed to improve the current situation by means of evolutionary or revolutionary change.

Summary

  1. Change management is the broader term. It covers both progressive and regressive change.
  2. Continuous improvement is the narrower term. It covers only progressive change. And the progressive change is subdivided into evolutionary and revolutionary progressive change.

I hope that clarifies the two concepts for you.

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