What is change management and why is it important?

Importance of a structured approach

Change management is the process of transitioning an organisation or workgroup to a planned future state. It requires a structured approach to help align the organisation or workgroup with the change.

In its simplest form, change management involves helping stakeholder groups to understand what the change means for them, and helping them make and sustain the transition while working to overcome any challenges involved.

From a management perspective, it involves the organisational and behavioural adjustments that need to be made to accommodate and maintain change. The effect on supervisory requirements also needs to be considered before any changes are made. New risks and how they relate to the activities of affected workgroups should be understood.

Successful change also requires workers to adapt to and work effectively in the changed environment.

If workers understand the benefits of change, they are more likely to willingly participate in the change.

Responsibilities

Responsibilities for management and supervisors undertaking change management include:

  • identifying potentially significant change and considering related safety and health risks to minimise the risks
  • managing organisational and workplace change, and developing change management standards
  • systematically inspecting and auditing workplace systems, procedures, conditions and practices in their area of responsibility to ensure standards are met
  • assisting in the management of workplace change.

Organisational responsibilities for change management are discussed in the guideline below.

Effective safety and health supervision in Western Australian mining operations - guideline - 1819 Kb

Effective safety and health supervision in Western Australian mining operations - guideline: This guideline highlights the importance of frontline supervision within workplace safety and health systems, and the role of management.

How can change affect safety and health outcomes?

When planning to alter a workplace or processes within a workplace, potential changes to the risk profile of the workplace should be considered. For example, the effectiveness of control measures may be affected.

A risk assessment should be undertaken to identify hazards in the workplace, whether existing or new, and the potential exposure to each hazard. Supervisors and the workforce should be consulted to ensure nothing is missed.

Where the risk profile is affected, this information needs to be clearly communicated to affected workers as part of the change management process. Additional instructions, training and supervision may be necessary.