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Main Sources Of Resistance To Organizational Change Management Essay

Change is inevitable for modern organizations and increasing rapidly in the world due to internal and external triggers (Refer to Appendix 1) (Buchanan and Huczynski, 2010). For survival, organizations must be able to anticipate change and keep reconfiguring themselves as it is critical determinant for their success although it has difficulty and challenges. Organizations that wait for an overwhelming mandate to engage in change efforts are very likely to be left behind and may struggle to survive (Lawler and Worley, 2009). For example, Nokia has already been through one successful change; turning itself from an unfocused conglomerate into a focused mobile phone producer in the 1990s. But, lack of accountability, poor leadership and complacency those came from mobile phone success has caused less competitive in the market due to customer transition from mobile phone to smart-phone (Riley, 2012). According to Nauss (1999), Jacques Nasser, Ford Motor’s CEO also argued that "any business that is satisfied with the present state of affairs is deluding itself. Sitting still or moving at a snail's pace is effectively moving backward".

Organizational change must be based on intention and goal-oriented and come from within the organization to be effective (See Figure 1 and 2) according Cumming and Worley (Hellriegel, Slocum and Woodman, 2001).It also need very careful assessment of individual and organizational capacity for change since they are potential resistance to change.

In this report, we will first discuss various causes for resistance to change from those who affected positively or negatively using Arthur Bedeian’s four common causes for resistance to change, Kotter and Schlesinger’s six practical techniques to overcome these resistances and Kurt Lewin’s 3 phase change management model.

2.0 Resistance to Organization Change

Buchanan and Huczynski (2010) define resistance to change is unwillingness or an inability to accept or discuss changes that are perceived to be damaging or threatening to individual. Carr et al also claim that its significance can be measured by those affected perceive and react to it (Salawu, 2011). As a result, change efforts are often found resisted by individuals and groups overtly and covertly due to their negative perceptions to some extent. Hellriegel, Slocum and Woodman (2001) suggest a variety of sources of resistance in Figure 3 (Detail in Appendix 2).

To overcome resistance to change, managers and employees must understand its reasons and sources. Arthur Bedeian cites four common causes for resistance to change (Buchanan and Huczynski, 2010).

2.1 Parochial self interest

Individuals are so comfort and content with their current situation and they fear that any change in organization may threaten their vested interests. It is one of major reason that people resist organizational change.

According to Desler (2004), there are 4 types of organizational change: its strategy, technology, structure and employees. Structural change requires reorganizing organizational chart involving replacing, dismissing or adding personnel (Salawu, 2011). When this situation comes, employees fear to lose their existing positions. E.g. Current Burmese government involves liberal and conservative. Reorganization needs for democratic change process. It is good and can improve the status of its people, but most conservatives fear reorganization as they think that it is a threat to their status quo and interests. For these reasons, Burma’s change processes encounter resistance longer time than desired and resulted as a poor country.

2.2 Misunderstanding and lack of trust

Buchanan and Huczynski (2010) suggest lack of understanding the reasons and consequences can create resistance to change because it might cost them more than what they will gain. Such misunderstandings most likely occur where there is lack of trust between manager and employees.

My former Singapore based Japanese construction announced to his managers an implementation of a flexible 5 days work for all site staffs. No managers resisted because they were introduced the concept of that change in management meeting. Shortly after circulating announcement, various resistances arise from site staffs who do not understand and trust the meaning of flexible working days. One rumor is that they might need to work extra hours in the evening. They were not satisfied with management decision at the beginning.

According to Kotter and Schlesinger (1997), only few organizations have a high level of trust between employees and managers. So, it is easy to develop misunderstandings when organizational change is introduced. If managers do not clarify them in time, this can lead to resistance.

2.3 Contradictory assessments

Another reason people resist to change is evaluation of costs and benefits differently. According to Buchanan and Huczynski (2010), it is the result of poor communication and inadequate information that causes contradictory assessments. But such resistance to change may lead to constructive criticism and improved proposals to achieve better outcomes since people have different perceptions and knowledge. E.g. My previous project director of Construction Company was shocked by his design team members who made value engineering of structural column. Although this value engineering can achieve design requirement while saving cost, he thought that it can damage the company’s reputation. So he didn’t allow the design proposal submission to owner’s consultant. He had reorganized the design team immediately that caused resistance from the people involved. As a result, company lost two good designers and crippled the design team.

Different people have different skills and knowledge that may lead to resistance. For the above case, design team has more skill and knowledge than director. And resistance resulted from reorganization will be good for company’s future.

Low tolerance for change

Buchanan and Huczynski (2010) suggest that people respond to change and uncertainty in different ways. Some are more readily to accept and adapt to changes. Others may have a low tolerance to adapt to changes since they have different abilities compared to others. Drucker (2010) also argue that the managers are the major obstacle for organizational growth since they are unable to change their attitude and behavior rapidly to meet organizational requirement. It is the result of people’s limited tolerance that lead to oppose potential beneficial changes even they know that it is positive change.

E.g. an engineer in my former construction company received a significant promotion due to expansion. New position required new skill set, relationships as well as loss of some satisfactory current situation. It made him uneasy to give up certain aspects of current situation and resist changing since his tolerance for change was low and he did not understand wisely the reason of change.

3.0 Overcoming Resistance

Many managers underestimate not only the variety of ways people can react to organizational change, but also the ways they can positively influence specific individuals and groups during change ( Kotter and Schlesinger, 1997, p-454). E.g. Singapore construction industry has been unable to achieve better productivity due to past experience of managers who don’t understand advantages and disadvantages of the methods which they are familiar. So, organizational change becomes management’s responsibility. And coping resistance resulted from organizational change becomes the haunting question for today’s manager because it determine the success or failure of organization (Martin, 1975). Kotter and Schlesinger identify six practical techniques for managing and overcoming resistance (Buchanan and Huczynski, 2010):

3.1 Education and Communication

Education is one of most common way that communicates ideas to reconcile opposing views. Kotter and Schlesinger (1979) discuss that this program can be ideal when resistance is based on inadequate or inaccurate information and analysis especially if the initiators need the resistors’ help in change implementation. Afferson, M. (2010) argue that this program requires face to face communication to discuss sensitive issues since email or written notices are very weak at conveying and developing understanding. E.g. former Philips’ CEO, Timmer used this program to explain the future of Philips to his employees. As a result, its operating income has increased (Strebel, 1998). Moreover, Buchanan and Huczynski (2010) also highlight requirement of mutual trust to overcome misunderstanding.

3.2 Participation and involvement

According to Buchanan and Huczynski (2010), it can reduce opposition and lead to employees’ wholehearted commitment if the managers who initiate this program address to their concerns. And it will provide employees a sense of belonging to successful implementing of change. E.g. Coch and French (1948) experimented to examine the efficiency and effectiveness of participation to overcome resistance to change involving: introducing by managers to employees, employees’ representative participation and all employees involvement. Based on their experiment, all employees’ involvement was the best for overcoming resistance. But Buchanan and Huczynski (2010) also highlighted that it is time consuming and will be useful if employees’ skill and knowledge has ability to cope the changes.

3.3 Facilitation and support

Buchanan and Huczynski (2010) suggest facilitation and support can overcome resistance when it is caused by fear or anxiety. Such approaches include new trainings or simply listening or emotional support. According to Kotter and Schlesinger (1979), one rapidly growing electronics company devised this program for its employees to adapt frequent organizational changes. They employed four counselors to spent most of their time in talking, listening, educating and training to employees.

3.4 Negotiation and agreement

It is another way to deal with powerful individuals or groups who create major resistance such as offering incentives to facilitate changes (Buchanan and Huczynski, 2010). But they also alerted that it may become expensive for change and take more time to negotiate. E.g. Former Burmese military general have strong power to resist political reform in Burma. Current government has to negotiate with them to reach an agreement for successful change such as protecting their interests.

3.5 Manipulation and co-optation

It involves covert attempts to sidestep potential resistance. Management puts forward proposals that appeal to the specific interests of key stakeholders. This information is selective, emphasizing benefits and playing down disadvantages. Co-optation involves giving key resistors direct access to the decision-making process, perhaps giving them well-paid, high-status management positions (Buchanan and Huczynski, 2010, p-573). E.g. A local manager in my former Japanese Construction Company invited Japanese manager to analyze one missing item in the design. Due to busy schedule, he was unable to do proper analysis. It limited his influence on the analysis. But his commitment was subsequently very important during discussing with Japanese director. Generally, he did not like someone trying to make changes. After discussion with Japanese manager, he did not try to block the change.

3.6 Implicit and explicit coercion

Although many researchers advocate supportive approaches to overcome resistances, managers have to deal with resistance coercively such as firing or transferring to facilitate change. Buchanan and Huczynski (2010) discuss such situations as where the target group is profound disagreement, has little chance of shifting their ground, and the speed is essential for survival. But Kotter and Schlesinger (1979) argued that using coercion is risky because people will resent forced change inevitably.

4.0 Conclusion

Strong resistance to change may root deeply in some organizations, but change has become inevitable for today’s modern organizations in fast changing business environment for survival. In Figure 1, effective change management program should be implemented properly by the managers who understand the firm’s culture to facilitate the change process while protecting the interests of affected person.

In this report, we applied Kotter and Schlesinger’s approaches to manage change. Since these approaches have their limitation, they may not be likely to be effective under all conditions and circumstances. There are many prescriptive models or approaches for successful change. In reality, appropriate approaches can be implemented based on the primary cause of resistance. So, manager may need to combine various techniques to manage organizational change.

Finally, we would like to suggest Kurt Lewin’s 3 phase change management model: unfreezing, moving and refreezing because present approaches or technology may be unsuitable in future. We can learn from the failure and success of Nokia and Apple. Apple was able to unfreeze the old technology or mind set that are outdated, develop new process and technology to move on from the old ways of doing things to the new and refreeze again when all seem okay. And they start Lewin’s process again since refreezing stage may be temporary in future (see figure 4) where Nokia didn’t.

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