September 2018 — It is no mystery that rapid and complex change within organizations rattles the status quo and creates an undercurrent of insecurity among managers and employees alike.
This insecurity results in reduced commitment, loyalty, trust, and motivation among employees, as well as job insecurity among managers. These negative effects can be reduced through managing change better.
Types of Change
Collectively speaking, both administrative and technological changes may be classified as adaptive, innovative, or radically innovative:
- Adaptive change
- Least complex, uncertain, or threatening
- May include hiring new personnel or department consolidation
- Innovative change
- Medium degree of complexity and cost, uncertainty, and threat
- Met with moderate resistance; may include a new focus such as offering of flex time
- Radically innovative change
- High complexity and cost, extremely threatening in terms of job security and confidence
- Met with great resistance; may include reorganization, downsizing, and outsourcing
When Change Is Welcome
More often than not, employees ask for change, though usually indirectly. When employees want change, it becomes apparent in their overall behaviors. Since employees don’t always voluntarily announce they need changed conditions until the situation has gotten out of control, observation and management interaction are the best tools a manager has to identify when employees are beginning to desire change.
Change is most welcome when its impact is nonthreatening. Anticipated and/or resultant changes that support the organization, environment, and employees strengthen and empower the entity and its members.
Identifying and Defining a Need for Change
A collaborative effort between management and employees is advisable in order to identify the specifically needed change. Management may propose the need for change and then allow members to identify what that need specifically is.
Management then includes committed and responsible members in:
- Problem analysis
- Formulating alternative solutions
- The actual change program
- Monitoring and evaluating the change
The change process goes more smoothly when personnel are a part of the change planning process.
Forces for Change
Opposing forces influence organizational change. These are internal forces: one is a driving force, typically moving things forward; the other is a resisting force, generally the role of devil’s advocate, rather than a force intent on stopping the change altogether.
Typically, individuals respond to a driving force by resisting. Simply put, when people are pushed, they push back. For every driving force, there will be a resisting force. In the positive sense, this is an example of indirect checks and balances. Opposing forces (resistance) help ensure that change is not unfairly imposed on a group, or is not totally impractical. Group dissention will resist and even stop the change, or make certain it fails, under these circumstances. On the other hand, change is a necessary driving force that helps foster an innovative and creative competitive advantage for the organization, and a progressive work environment for employees and management. Driving forces encourage flexibility, which is necessary to meet current industry and organizational needs.
Change is the vitality of every organization. Change is necessary for organizations to remain on the cutting edge and to stay competitive. Organizational change goes beyond hiring a new employee or modifying an existing program. Organizational change is implemented to help the organization evolve. Change is not undertaken only for the sake of change, but must be purposeful. An action as confined as hiring or transitioning a new executive director can set off an organization-wide change scenario.
Typically, conflicting goals are involved in organization-wide changes. For instance, additional resources may be required to implement a change intended to cut costs. Due to this type of occurrence, cultural changes are needed, along with the primary change, to mitigate resistance. For the specific organization-wide change to be effective, employees’ values and beliefs must be challenged and altered.
Implementing Organization-Wide Change
Successful organizational change begins with top management. A visionary initiator presents a persuasive idea, which requires change from the top down. A change agent is responsible for translating the initiator’s message into a realistic plan and passing it further down to those who will implement it. The plan is best executed as a team-wide effort; communication with, and among, the members must be frequent.
To sustain the change, the organizational structure must be modified to accommodate new policies, strategic plans, and procedures. Changing the structural makeup involves Kurt Lewin’s model of unfreezing (employees are motivated to “unlearn” current behaviors), changing (employees learn new behaviors), and refreezing (employees are supported by management until they have successfully integrated new attitudes into routines).
To aid the organization in implementing change, it is advised that management:
- Considers using a consultant
- Widely communicates the potential for change
- Gets employee feedback on the impending change and develops a team of employees to manage the change
- Knows why the change is necessary and what to expect as a result
- Plans the change, knows how the goal will be reached and how long it will take to reach it, and coordinates current department programs
- Specifies who reports to whom and directs employees to all report to a central figure
- Enacts employee participation, and delegates decision making, responsibility, and authority as much as possible to ensure the change occurs
- Is patient
- Prepares for stress, conflict, and/or resistance
- Doesn’t try to control change, but understands change, plans for it, and manages it
- Includes an end, plan closure, and openly celebrates accomplishments and milestones
This article is adapted from BOMI International’s Managing the Organization course, part of the RPA, FMA, and SMA designation programs. More information regarding this course or BOMI International’s new High-Performance Sustainable Buildings credential (BOMI-HP™) is available by calling 1-800-235-2664. Visit BOMI International’s website, www.bomi.org.