Organizational change typically includes a large or wide range of changes within a company. Examples may include restructuring operations, layoffs or downsizing and reorganizing teams. Many organizations even include mergers, new technologies and reengineering into their organizational change. All of these changes reorient the way an organization does business. According to author Gareth Jones (2010), "the goal of planned organizational change is to find new or improved ways of using resources and capabilities in order to increase an organization's ability to create value and improve returns to its stakeholders". No matter what the change is, the new process is incorporated to help everyone in an organization do their jobs and better contribute to their company's current needs.
Why does an organization need change and why is it important? In today's fast moving markets, any business that moves too slowly will be left behind. Businesses should welcome change as a way to better themselves. Change is very important to a business because without change, a business can lose their competitive edge and fail to meet the needs of their customers and stakeholders.
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There are many internal and external factors that influence change within an organization. The economy can have a huge impact on an organization. With a strong economy, companies might want to increase production of products and services along with possible expansion that might include hiring new employees. However, a slowing economy might force a business to make difficult decisions and downsize. This includes freezing salaries and even laying off employees.
Change that results from the adoption of new technology is common in most organizations and while it can be disruptive at first, ultimately the change tends to increase productivity and service Technology also has affected how we communicate (Richards, L., 2013). Businesses understand that with updated technology, they can explore new markets and have better opportunities. They have the ability to modify, enhance or create new products that will keep their customer base loyal.
Sometimes change results from within the organization. This may be due to growth pressures, identity pressures or power or political pressures. Some companies might go through an identity change due to the hiring of a new CEO. New ideas and concepts might be incorporated with new leadership. This can lead to new ideas and innovative concepts being generated.
With all these factors, the question that still has to be asked is why do organizational changes fail or succeed? Paula Morgan (2013), who holds several executive leadership positions in sales and marketing operations and is currently a member of the advisory board to the Women's Business Leaders in Healthcare, explains what is behind the struggle to change. Paula explains that there are some common themes why organizations fail. These same reasons are also the reasons why organizations succeed when they work in reverse.
Clear performance focus. Success comes from a tight, clear connection between change expectations and business results. Failures come when an organization is overly focused on activities, skills and culture, or structural changes without creating a tight linkage to business results.
A winning strategy. Projects and organizations succeed when the strategies play to strengths. Failure happens when there is an overestimation of strengths or no ability to document concrete wins.
A compelling and urgent case for change. Success happens because there is a widely accepted need for change. Failure occurs when there is no demonstrated commitment to the need for change.
Specific change criteria. In successful efforts, the underlying performance criteria and change requirements are clear, documented and not negotiable. If the rules shift or evolve or can be negotiated, failure will follows.
Distinction between decision driven and behavior dependent change. Some change can be decisive such as restructuring, purchases, hiring and firings. Other change is behavior dependent such as skills development, new processes or implementing new accountabilities. Organizations that over decide and underinvest in behavior changes fail.
Structure and systems requirements. Structure and systems changes may be required for change, but this is almost always overused as either the answer or the excuse. Overdependence on structure and systems results in confusion and sapped energy and is a great technique for stalling progress.
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Appropriate skills and resources. Successful change often demands new skills that are being created; requiring some level of transition resources until new skills are fully functional. Lack of the right talent or skills and resources against an opportunity is certain failure; yet organizations consistently repeat this shortcoming.
Mobilized and engaged pivotal groups. Organizations that succeed tap critical internal influencers to champion the change and actively engage staff in driving the change. Getting beyond basic change rhetoric requires a compelling employee value proposition such as, what is in this for me, achievable goals, tools and shared information.
Tight integration and alignment of all initiatives. Major change inevitably requires dozens of initiatives such as strategy projects, re-engineering efforts, training, leadership development, communications, technical redesign and new measurements. The result is a massive integration challenge. Failure results from locally and globally isolated projects, cross project conflicts, resource competition and confusion as to how projects do or do not relate.
Leader ability and willingness to change. The ceiling on any attempt to change at the project, department or organization level is set at the leader's willingness to embrace and embody the change. Whatever behaviors individual project or leader team members cannot adopt, become effectively impossible for the organization.
(Paula Morgan, 2013)
Most people who have been in the workforce long enough understand that change is inevitable. However, when it does come time for change, there is still a resistance to it. Many employees will comment on how they like the way things are now. They want to keep the status quo the way it is. Change effects people emotionally and physically. Mangers need to show how change can be helpful to the organization as well as the employee.
Resistance to change is sometimes referred to as tridimensional, involving affective, behavioral and cognitive components (Palmer, 2009, p.161). This relates to how a person actually feels about change. It is very common for employees to dislike change within the comfortable environments. There is much uncertainty, negative perceptions, certain attachments and a perceived breach of psychological contract. Sometimes employees will even bring up an experience with a previous change that went bad. No mater the reason, it is up to the manager to become the change resistor.
According to the Communication Toolbox web site (2008), here are the top reasons organizational change is often met with resistance.
Apprehension that skills will not be valued
Numerous changes occur too frequently
Similar ventures have already failed
Insufficient chance to influence things oneself
Routines, habits and safety is disrupted
Existing networks are done away with, this creates uncertainty and anxiety
Disruption from professional focus
(Communication Toolbox, 2008)
Managers must learn how to manage resistance and one great way is to use Kotter and Schlesinger's approach. Kotter and Schlesinger have established six change approaches to deal with change resistance (Toolkit, 2013).
Education and Communication. Sometimes there is an absence of information or erroneous information. The best way to overcome this is to inform and educate employees about the change in advance. Communication and education will benefit employees and reduce unsupported rumors concerning the effects of change in the organization.
Participation and Involvement. It is very important to get the employees involved in the change effort. Employees will be more accepting to change when they become a part of it.
Facilitation and Support. Mangers should be supportive of employees during these difficult times. Managerial support helps employees to deal with their fear and anxiety during a transition period. Mangers can set up special training classes as well as counseling to help employees through the transition.
Negotiation and Agreement. Managers will be able to reduce resistance by offering incentives to employees. For example, the employees who are resisting change can be offered incentives to leave the company through early buyouts or through retirements in order to avoid the change effort.
Manipulation and Co-option. Kotter and Schlesinger propose that an effective manipulation technique is to co-opt with employees who are resisting the change. This option brings a person into a change management planning group for the sake of appearances rather than their substantive contribution. This often involves selecting leaders of the people who are resisting the change, to participate in the change effort. These leaders can be given a symbolic role in decision making, without threatening the change effort. However, if these leaders feel that they are being tricked, they are likely to push resistance even further than if they were never included in the change effort leadership.
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Explicit and Implicit Coercion. This generally happens when survival of the company depends on speed. It should only be used only as last resort. Managers can explicitly or implicitly force employees into accepting change, by making clear that resistance to change can lead to jobs losses, dismissals, employee transfers, or not promoting employees.
Another analysis that is helpful in employee resistance is Force Field Analysis, created
by Kurt Lewin (Mind Tools, 2013). This kind of analysis is great when analyzing the forces for and against a change and it helps you communicate the reasoning behind your decision. Although it was created in the 1940's for social psychologists, force field analysis is used in businesses across the United States as a way to make decisions. Managers make a list of all the factors for and against the change. They will then score each factor based on its influence and add up the scores for and against change to find out which of these wins. Managers then look at all the supporting forces that promote the change and control the forces against the change so you have a successful outcome.
After resistance has been oppressed, it is time to decide how to implement organizational change. One way is to make sure leaders help employees understand and connect to the change. Some managers use what is called authoritarian leadership. They simply dictate the change that is needed to the employees (Vaughn, M., 2012). In the authoritarian leadership style, employees might actually do as they are told; however, they might not give a one hundred percent effort. This kind of style generally tends to motivate through negative consequences. Results from employees tend to be limited and unproductive.
Mangers that use the Laissez-faire method will empower employees to figure out change for themselves. This is only attainable with employees who are capable and have the tools in which to do so. However, if there is even a slight chance of resistance left, this method is subject to failure. Overall, the Laissez-faire method has a very low success rate and should be avoided.
There is one effective leadership method that does have a high success rate. The most effective way to implement organizational change is to use Connective Leadership Behaviors (Vaughn, M., 2012). This includes working as a team to define the change and providing continuous support during the change. Managers are encouraged to coach and mentor employees through the change along with rewarding individuals and teams on their successes. Employees, managers and the business all benefit when everyone is involved in the change. It should be noted that when the organization has communication, supportive organization structures and aligned management plans, it provides a collaborative environment for employees to work together and to see how their efforts impact others.
Once an organization has chosen their leadership method, managers should have a check list ready to ensure they do not miss anything. According to author Kristen Hamlin (2013), she describes the following steps to clarify the goals of the change and obtaining employee buy in that will ensure change goes smoothly and moves the organization forward. "Managers have to demonstrate the importance of the change. Employees will resist change unless they understand why it is needed. From this managers can include representatives from every department to help with the change being performed".
Managers will need to create a clear vision of the change that needs to occur. Everyone needs to understand why the change is taking place. Communication must remain constant and often. Allow employees to feel empowered when making decisions that will move the business forward to its goals. Managers must also monitor the change and make adjustments when necessary. Finally, reward employees and celebrate the progress along the way. This helps prevent loss of employee enthusiasm and maintains momentum.
The changes and analysis that have been discussed throughout this paper should be applied professionally and effectively to ensure the best results. Managers should be empathetic and implement realistic goals to ensure employee realization and success. Remember, employees are more willing to commit to the change at hand when they feel their input matters. All goals should be written out and training as well as support should be available to every employee during the transition. Lastly, managers must maintain a progress report and reward success when attained.
Organizations and managers today are encountering numerous rapidly changing settings and are attempting to keep up with these changes. Managers are tasked to meet these organizational variations head on with the intent to assist and conform to the new environments. Organizational change is a constant process within most organizations. The successful implementation of any change depends upon the willing and effective cooperation of employees and management. With the correct change analysis, appropriate change implementation and prevention to resistance, an organization will have the best chance to prosper and flourish well into the future.
Communication Toolbox, (2008). Communicating Organizational Change. Retrieved February 2013 from http://www.communicationtoolbox.com/organizational_change.html
Hamlin, K., (2013). How to Implement Change Effectively. http://www.ehow.com/how_2181271_implement-change-effectively.html
Jones, G., (2010). Organizational Theory, Design, and Change. Pearson-Prentice Hall Publishers. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey. Retrieved February 2013 from http://www.slideshare.net/anky123/ch10-organisation-theory-design-and-change-gareth-jones
Mind Tools, (2013). Force Field Analysis. Retrieved February 2013 from http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTED_06.html
Palmer. I., Dunford, R., & Akin, G. (2009). Managing organizational change: A multiple perspectives approach (2nd ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Paula Morgan, (2013). 10 reasons organization change fail or succeeds. Retrieved February 2013 from http://www.aveus.com/constructive_thinking/2012/03/20/182/10_reasons_organization_change_failsor_succeeds.
Richards, L., (2013). Why Is Change Important in an Organization? Houston Chronicle. Retrieved February 2013 from http://smallbusiness.chron.com/change-important-organization-728.html.
Toolkit, (2013).The Six Change Approaches of Kotter and Schlesinger. Retrieved February 2013from toolkit.peterbromberg.com/...docs/changemgtnotes_from_web.doc
Vaughn, M., (2012). How to Successfully Implement Organizational Change. Retrieved February 2013 from http://sandhill.com/article/how-to-successfully-implement-organizational-change/