“Where Do We Come From?”— A Change Management Profession Timeline

What makes the emergence of change management as a recognized profession so compelling? Why is it important for us to look back at the same time we are craning our necks to look forward? Other professions have gone through the evolution to a formal discipline with standards and credentialing—medicine, accounting, physical therapy, and more recently project management. Why is change management unique?

When we unravel the complex practices, tools and thinking that are part of change management, we find many disciplines that have contributed to its principles and practice. “Where Did We Come From?” is designed to remind those involved in change management of the threading of complex thought that has developed into what professionals do today to help our clients navigate the choppy waters of change. As the names and brief biographical summaries are introduced, you will see the contributions of fields such as:

  • Social Sciences
  • Management Science
  • Organizational Development
  • Management and Leadership Development
  • Industrial and Organizational Psychology
  • Management Consulting
  • Systems Engineering
  • Project Management

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We will feature seminal thinkers who have already contributed to, as well as those who continue to provide, thought leadership in the change management profession as it’s significance increases. It is important for practitioners to understand the thought contributions to the profession as they help to explain the why, what, and how of accepted principles and practices.

“Where Did We Come From?” is not the first attempt to provide insight into the history of the change management profession. There are several other individuals who have presented specific information that helps to provide additional insight to the formalization and future of the profession. Among these are:

  • A series of writings from Prosci which began with a co-authored piece by Jeff Hiatt and Tim Creasey, “The definition and history of change management” and was updated earlier this year by Tim Creasey, “The History and Future of Change Management”. Creasey introduces a Change Management Timeline of four eras contributing to the growth of the profession. He also discusses key contributors and hallmarks of each era.
  • Limbiczen, a blog writer (both a neurologist and an organizational change manager) who in 2011 asked “What is Change Management?” and offered a third discipline (leadership) to the disciplines of engineering and psychology offered earlier by Hiatt and Creasey.
  • Before her retirement in December of 2015, Jeannenne LaMarsh of LaMarsh Global wrote “A Brief History of Change Management,” in which she traces the foundations of LaMarsh’s Managed ChangeÔ model and the first instances of formal workshops offered in change management, as well as offering a tool for selecting a change management approach.
  • Vicente Gonçalves of the Human Change Management Institute in Brazil (HUCMI, 2014) has written a white paper entitled “3G Management: The Human Factor in Project Leadership in the Third Millennium” in which he outlines three generations of the human component of change projects—early theorists (1G), emergence of frameworks (2G), and popularization of the human factor connected more closely to the discipline of project management (3G).
  • Irak Blake of Uncommon Expertise, Ltd., United Kingdom, has written a white paper for the Change Management Institute, “Evolution and Themes in Change Management: Change Management 2.0,” in which she continues the topic of the 2015 CMI Conference ‘Change in the Age of Disruption’. Blake suggests that a “perfect storm” of environmental and organizational drivers is moving change managers toward a much needed paradigm shift and that the current work of change managers should be to challenge all the current concepts, structures and frameworks in order to prepare for the future. https://www.change-management-institute.com/change-management-news

There are probably other histories of change management that should be among those mentioned here. Help us build both lists—the histories and the contributors. If you know of an individual who should be on our Timeline, please let us know who and why and we will surely add them into their rightful pace in our profession’s genealogy. You can send your ideas and information to Change Management Review by sending an email to our editor at editor@changemanagementreview.com. We look forward to hearing from you!