Organisational change is vital for staying competitive and achieving scale – and every successful enterprise, at some point, goes through a transition. Whether introducing new tools, growing a department, or merging with another company, these changes have a significant impact on the business trajectory.
Organisational change, however, isn’t always easy to adapt to and some team members can find it more challenging than others, resulting in some form of discomfort or resistance.
This article discusses how a manager tasked with overseeing such a transition within their team can ensure that the team members have a positive experience.
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Here’s a look at what organizational change management is and some tips for managers tasked with it for navigating it.
Factors to consider when designing a formal change program
Some people relish changes occurring within their organization. They believe that changes to the organization will improve the way it is run, bring variety to their workplace, and generally break the dusty tedium to make things more exciting. But not everyone.
Reluctance to change
Not everyone within an organization is willing to see changes. This reluctance to change arises due to various factors, including:
- Implied criticism: Changing the way things are currently done also implies not being done correctly. Some employees may take this as criticism of the way they do things.
- Lack of skills: People might be concerned that they don’t have the required skill set to do things differently.
- Increased workload: Learning the way of doing things differently means more time spent on training. People may not look forward to this.
Managing reluctance to change
The first part of managing the reluctance to change is simply accepting that not every employee will happily accept the change. Next, the change manager will try not to push the change as this will only increase the resistance to change.
A change manager needs to adopt an attitude that encourages the employees to take ownership of the change. Employees should be encouraged to give their opinions, and those opinions should be considered when developing a formal change program.
Type of change management programs
How a change is managed is directly related to the type of change that is required. Balogun and Hope Hailey proposed that there are four different kinds of change programs.
The extent of change can be realignment or transformation. Realignment is a relatively minor change while transformation reflects a paradigm shift for people affected by the change. A transformational change needs much more time and consideration than a change that is merely a realignment.
Nature of change refers to how fast that change needs to be implemented. The change can be either slow/incremental or may need to happen immediately (big bang). Generally, significant bang changes are more disruptive than gradual changes.
A manager needs to pay close attention to any transformational change program as this is much more significant for the change recipients. The time and resources needed for transformation are likely to be much higher than those required for realignment.
The best approach for change implementation
Balogun and Hope Hailey’s change kaleidoscope is designed to help managers devise a change plan that is relevant to the context. There are various contextual features considered in the change kaleidoscope, each of which is rated as either positive, negative, or neutral. Positive features are expected to facilitate change, while negative traits are expected to hinder the change.
Some of the features considered are:
- Time - how much time does the organization have to respond to particular circumstances?
- Preservation - which aspects of the organization will have to be kept unchanged?
- Diversity - a variety of subcultures exist within an organization, and these need to be recognized.
- Capability - does the organization have the skills required to cope with the change?
- Capacity - does the organization have sufficient resources to handle the change?
- Scope - Is the entire organization affected by a change or only parts of it?
- Readiness - have staff been convinced about the need to implement the change?
- Power - do agents of change have the autonomy to implement it?
Stages in a formal change program
Any change management program is likely to face resistance which arises majorly due to ignorance. Educating people as to why the change should occur is a necessary first step in implementing a change management program. Next, they should be made to feel as if they have ownership of the change process.
While educating people is essential, giving them incentives to accept change is even more vital. Additionally, wherever possible, change managers should try to compromise with people affected by the change.
Managers must accept that implicit or explicit coercion will not make people receptive to the change process. People will prefer that change managers be honest with them about the change process rather than manipulate them to accept the change.
Considering all aspects of change
Change managers must consider various aspects of the organization when implementing the change, such as those suggested in the POPIT model:
- People: Think about how to prepare recipients for the change and to support them through the change process.
- Organization: Think about how organizational structures need to change.
- Processes: new processes should be designed formally. Process diagrams and support from systems analysts may be helpful here.
- Information technology: IT is not only important in the technical aspects of a change program; it is also likely to help communicate with the participants of the change program.
Being a successful change leader
According to Kotter, to implement the change plan successfully, a change leader must carry out the following steps:
- Establish a sense of urgency regarding the implementation of a change plan.
- Ensure that there are enough influential people on their side to ensure change is implemented effectively.
- They should have clarity about the change process to communicate effectively to others.
- They should try to convince their team about the viability of the change process.
Organizational change is an experience most managers have during their careers. By learning how to pre-empt and address the challenges associated with the change, they can ensure they’re equipped with the skills needed to manage it and make the transition smooth for their team members.