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Types of change management for individuals - CITI
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Types of change management for individuals

Types of change management for individuals

Our highly popular blog on the types of change management that you might have encountered has raised some thought-provoking questions,  particularly with regard to the disciplines of project, programme and portfolio management (P3M).

Whilst change is a universal condition for all life; that experienced by individuals falls into four broad categories.  For organisations the classification is, possibly, simpler with only three categories.  However, there are two factors that can muddle this simplification.  Firstly, from one perspective organisational change is the sum of all individuals’ change which can make it quite slippery to manage and secondly, of the three categories of organisational change one has three discrete sub-types that are of direct interest to the P3M community.

Types of change management – individuals

Individual Change
Types of change management - Exceptional

Exceptional change management – In ‘exceptional change’ an individual experiences an isolated event in their life, it causes a difference, possibly significant, but it doesn’t tend to spill over into other parts of their life, so the impact is relatively limited.  At a simplistic level, breaking your leg might represent such a change.

Types of change management - Incremental Change

Incremental change management – A common change experience for many people.  Often unnoticed at first, there is a persistent, gradual introduction of numerous small factors and ‘newness’ that results in the replacement of a previous state with a new one, but the insidious nature of the change means that defences to protect the old way are never triggered.  An example might be the change from the use of cash and cheques to the adoption of contactless-card and phone financial-transactions whilst shopping.

Types of change management - Pendulum change management

Pendulum change management – The third types of change management is when there is a swing, often sudden, from one state to another. This ‘pendulum change’ can result in an individual adopting quite an extreme point of view that can be the diametric opposite of what was held before.  Changing one’s residency from rented to owned is an individual example!

Types of change management - Paradigm change management

Paradigm change management – The fourth type is the one most often discussed as being ‘proper’ change and is called a ‘paradigm change’. This occurs when information, tasks and behaviours are, re-integrated and lead to a new belief and value system.  It represents the ‘gold standard’ for individual change because when value systems  are modified, the change is fully internalised and future attitudes and performance can be predicted with some reliability.  A new role with increased responsibilities, authorities, new methods of working and the internalisation of this and its value might be an individual example; you might hear comments like “she/he’s really ‘grown up’ since they became a parent” which of course they have!  Their paradigm has been compelled to shift.


The outcome of these different types of individual change management is that the mechanisms, processes, extent and durability of the change differ with each type.  A richer understanding of the type of change management required will lead to less costly and more reliable outcomes in trying to achieve individual change.

As our original blog stated, at one level the sum of these individual types of change and their management may constitute an organisational change.  However, the management of organisational change is different and more complex, partly because it is an aggregation of a number of these individual categories; one, some, or all of them, might be ‘at play’ differently across multiple individuals in the course of a single organisational change.  Also, in part, because the management of the change at an organisational level is as much, or more, of a challenge than the change itself.  So, perhaps it’d be helpful to take a look at types of change management at the organisational level and the challenges that they pose.  If you think so, please visit our next blog Types of change for organisations.

If, however, you are more interested in the management of individual change we’d welcome your views and to extend this discussion.  What are your perspectives?

Nick Dobson

Nick Dobson, Principal Consultant

Nick is a highly experienced consultant in project and programme management and the sponsorship of such initiatives. A practitioner, with over 25 years of experience, he has been deeply involved in projects, throughout the lifecycle, as well as discharging operational management functions in a variety of sectors. Nick can be contacted via email at


If you are involved in change management, you should think about gaining industry recognised accreditation with the APMG Change Management Foundation. By purchasing the distance learning option you can study at a time and place that works for you, and gain accreditation without having to leave your home!