How to Differentiate Between a Planned & Unplanned Change in an Organization

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Organizational change is the alteration or adjustment of a company’s current business operations. Business owners and managers may need to direct unplanned or planned change. Differentiating between these two change processes can help owners and managers understand the internal and external forces affecting the company. Planned change typically has an expected result that improves some portion of the business. Unplanned change may be chaotic and lead to an unknown result.

Review the actions of business owners and managers. They should have a clear understanding and knowledge of change. If they seem unsure of the situation or unclear about its outcome, the changes were probably not expected.

Assess the reaction by employees. Similar to owners and managers, employees have an opinion on resulting changes. Employees who can't complete tasks as needed or who have new difficulties in their job may face unplanned change.

Look at a competitor’s actions. Major planned changes in a business may be the result of economic shifts in the local market. Competitors who are not adjusting operations may be a signal that unplanned change is occurring in the business.

Monitor the outcome of the change, whether planned or unplanned. The outcome of change should result in improved operations and better productivity. While minor adjustments may be necessary, these are normal. Unplanned changes may result in continual changes or alterations to the business, and major issues.


  • Change management usually involves using certain individuals in the company who will complete these tasks. Companies going through unplanned change won't have a team assembled and may be unaware of information related to the change. Having a team ready can help avoid unplanned change.


  • Failing to plan for change can result in lost market share or higher than normal operating costs. Companies may find themselves on the outside of major shifts in the market or find that economic resources are unavailable, resulting in delayed operations.


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