For my final blog post, I have decided to gear away (a little) from the topics we have discussed during our OB seminars and to pen down some thoughts about Change. Every organization, in some point in time, would seek to improve itself (in various aspects) in order to be in a competitive position to out-perform their rivals. Many leaders, when appointed to plan and implement a change, often overlook the fact that being given such an opportunity puts them in a position to strengthen the togetherness of a company through its vision or culture. Instead, they often focus on their own performance and take a more task-oriented approach to achieving their goals, forgetting the fact that employees are the ones who make up the organization and their opinions are of great importance as well. This leads to increased chances of employees having a bad experience of change and hence greater resistance to future changes. Therefore, it is important that change be managed in a way that benefits both the organization and its employees.
Organization and Change
I hope this video gives you a good brief introduction to change and change management, as well as the various implications they entail.
There are usually two forces that cause change in an organization: external forces and internal forces. External forces are those outside of the organization that the organization has no direct control over (e.g. regulations, the economy, unemployment levels and inflation). Changes in these areas could have a direct bearing on an organization’s operations. Internal forces may cause change to occur and also reflect external forces upon the organization. (e.g. top management’s change in company strategy, increased productivity standards, and quality control standards). Understanding where external and internal changes come from is one of the keys to properly preparing for change.
How can an organization prepare for change? Planned change is by far the best method – it is designed and implemented in an orderly and timely manner through anticipation of future events. Reactive change is harder on the organization. Changes of this nature have a multitude of problems as it is usually put together within a short period of time and it increases the potential for further reactive change within a plan.
Why are changes important?
Changes are needed whenever the forces of an industry are altered.
- Keeping up with technology: If changes have not been made and communication methods have not been constantly updated, business leaders would still be wasting time on information being sent back and forth between different parties and productivity would not have been achieved
- Customer Needs: customer needs change and grow, creating new demand for new types of products and services
- The Economy: A strong or weak company can impact organizations in both positive and negative ways. The ability to manage both ends of the spectrum is critical.
- Growth opportunities: Change allows employees to learn new skills, explore new opportunities and exercise their knowledge in ways that are different and better than before.
Resistance to Change
The biggest challenge to carry out a change in an organization is the employees’ resistance to the change. Employees have been doing things a certain way and do not like to be told “You have to do things differently”. Change usually brings about the “10/80/10” rule: 10% of employees will actively embrace the change, 80% will be fence-sitters, and 10% will actively fight it. The 10% against the change will have the influence and ability to negatively infect the 80%. Therefore, the negative 10% is the threat to the change and efforts need to be focused on influencing this group of employees. Therefore, employees’ opinions are very important in implementing changes. Some usual reasons for their resistance are as follows:
- Uncertainty: employees usually become nervous and anxious about the change and are primarily concerned about their job security and ability to meet new job demands. Such internal emotional controls may not allow them to fully comprehend how the change will affect them.
- Threatened Self-Interests: employees with personal power and position power within the organization would not want to see their influence diminish within the organization, so they fight the change.
- Different Perceptions: everyone has their own idea about the change. Thus, they may not see the change as beneficial for them, their workgroup, or the customers that are served.
- Feelings of loss: change disrupts social networks develop within organizations. A relationship could be affected through a change in power or status.
The Change Process
The change process has to take into consideration both the technical aspects and relational aspects, to make sure that the change is successful and that employees are accepting towards the change.
The technical aspect: Here is a list of some generalized steps in which organizational leaders can use to carry out the planning and completion of change successfully:
- Recognition of the need for change: Identify the problem that is adversely affecting the organization, define parties that will be affected by the change and enlist them in change planning efforts
- Establish goals: Without an end goal, sub-goals cannot be established for attaining intermediate goals. Once a goal is formed, parties that will be affected by the change should be enlisted in the change planning efforts.
- Diagnose relevant variables: Establish variables that may have an influence on the change. For example, the external and internal forces.
- Select the appropriate change technique
- Plan for the implementation of the change: Communication is of utmost importance in this step. Everyone should be aware of the timeline.
- Implement the change
- Evaluate and follow-up
The relational aspect: Consideration for employees’ feelings and emotions during the change process is of paramount importance as employees are the ones who will be bringing about the change and who will be most affected by the change.
- Communicate the threat of NOT changing: keeping communications as wide open as possible reduces the anxiety and uncertainty about the change.
- Involve your team in decision making (when possible): when employees are given the chance to express their ideas and listen to others in the planning process, their own personal buy-in increases and makes the change easier for the organization.
- Minimize uncertainty for the employees
- Celebrate successes in moving towards the goal to motivate employees
- Keep explaining the reasons to change
In conclusion, even though change is often resisted by employees in organizations, change is essential and usually brings about more good than harm to the organization and its people, provided that the change process is carried out in a way that effective and sensitive to employees’ needs. In my opinion, knowing the steps to implementing a change is not sufficient, unless the change is implemented well. Even though the lists above are not exhaustive, they do give us an idea of how employees would feel more included in the change process. An organization is made up of its employees and understanding the reasons behind employees’ resistance to any ideas is important for any positive progress to be made. Any subjective negative feelings that employees experienced from the change process could snowball into greater ramifications that affect the organization negatively in the future. Therefore, leaders should look past any change process as being just a ‘task’ and consider further involvement of and discussion with employees for more positive effects of any changes in organizations.
Just FYI – here is another short clip on why change is so difficult, from a psychological perspective.
Thank you Prof. Audrey for the insightful seminar sessions and for being so lively and humorous during class, I have enjoyed myself throughout the course of this module! 🙂 lastly, good luck to everyone who has final exams!