How to change organisational norms

During class discussions and presentations, we mentioned a lot about different forms of organizational norms and how they have become part and parcels of the lives of employees in the firm. However, some of these may not be the most efficient for the operations of the company and change may be necessary. But as we all know, change is not easy, especially when people are used to something. Thus it interests me, as to how change can be made possible in organisations?

I will be sharing my findings from “The Wall Street Journal Guide to Management” by Alan Murray and the book called “ Blue Ocean Strategy” written by W.Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne that seem to have a solution to my query.

It has been noted that when a manager tries to make changes to an organisation, he might be faced with four different types of hurdles, as displayed below:

1) Cognitive
People must have a good understanding as to why the change is even necessary in the first place. People might be comfortable with their Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and feel that this is how “things have always been done”. Thus they do not see the need for any change at all. In fact, changes might only put them into the uncertainties and away from their comfort zones.

2) Limited resources
Limited resources have to be placed in areas where they are most valued or needed. Changing an organizational culture or structure may result in reallocation of these scarce resources, or require the shifting away from certain areas into another area that definitely require good justifications.

3) Motivation
Employees of the company have to want to make the change, otherwise, it is hard to enforce such changes. It is only when people reflect through actions that they are supportive, can changes be effectively brought across.

4) Institutional politics
Some companies are not open to voices of their employees or even those in managerial ranks. They are rooted to what they believe and unwilling to make changes though the situation may calls for it. Quoting from what one manager commented: “ In our organization, you get shot down before you stand up”, we can see that some companies are not positive about employee feedbacks thus increasing the difficulties in conveying that a change is needed.

Below will then be some ways that can be considered to overcome these hurdles and result in changes:

1) The “tipping point” approach

One has to recognize that it is impossible to convert everyone at once due to individual differences, value differences and limited resources. Thus when faced with such a situation, it is necessary to start with people who possess some form of disproportionate influence in the organization. One can try to get them to be committed to this change so that they can be seen as the “example”. Shine the spotlight on these people to emphasize on their actions and accomplishments so that others will understand the need and follow through.

2) Allow people to experience why change is needed
It is not enough for one to lecture others about the need for such organizational change because people may not be receptive. Instead, if people are being put through experiencing of harsh realities that requires change, it might be more effective. For the influencing to work, it has to reach down to the emotional side of people for them to be convinced.

3) Redistribute resources toward “hot spots”
Hot spots refer to activities that require few resources but result in large change. This is especially necessary when we only have limited resources to work with, and thus there is a need for us to make sure we get the maximum amount of payout and return. As much as we should try to place our resources to such “hot spots”, we should also try to avoid “cold spots”, that are activities that demands large resource demands but relatively low impact.

4) Appointing a “consigliere”

A “consigliere” refers to one who is a highly respected insider in the firm that one works in. This is because leaders tend to lose touch with things happening on the grounds and thus such “consigliere” may be able to bridge the gap. Besides that, appointing such a “consigliere” will allow one to know the supporters or fighters in the firm with regards to this organizational change. With such knowledge, one can build coalitions or devise alternative strategies for change when deemed appropriate.

In conclusion, I believe that some forms of changes, though deeply rooted, may be necessary at some point of time in order for the company to be better equipped with changing needs and demand. When faced with resistance, we can attempt the methods above as we climb up the corporate ladder and take up managerial positions in the near future, and hopefully change for the better of the entire organization.

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