Organizational change refers to any alteration of modification in the existing organizational system that is going to affect the behavior, attitude, and working style of the organizational members. It is usually brought about to bring a positive impact on the organization either in terms of increased productivity or efficiency. The idea behind the change is to constantly improve the organization by making it compatible with the global markets and the dynamic world.
However, the implementation of the required change is the issue of concern. Most change initiatives fail. There are various reasons that account for the failure. The main reason however is the failure of communication between the management and the employees. The inflexible organizational culture that does not encourage change is another reason for failure. This is where the process of change management sets in.
Change management refers to ensuring an effective implementation and adoption of a change in an organization. In order to manage the resistance of employees to change, the management needs to take certain steps to ensure that the alteration in the existing organizational system is welcomed by the employees. The management needs to build a relationship of mutual trust with employees in order to gain their confidence to ensure effective utilization of change. Resistance to change needs to be managed in the early stages of implementation or else it may hinder long term growth of the organization if employees are uncomfortable with the new system.
The Lewin’s change model, Nadler’s congruence model and Kotter’s process of leading change all elaborate on the stages involved in the change process and how the process can be managed effectively. Lewin’s change model emphasizes on the three stages of change implementation. Kotter in his model lists out the reasons behind the failure of change implementation and the eight steps that can be used to overcome barriers that cause change resistance. (Kiernan-Stern, 2005) Nadler’s congruence model on the other hand, provides a more thorough view of organizational change and the various elements such as input, organizational process and outputs that need to be aligned in order to ensure effective implementation. (Managing Resistance to Change)
There are various perspectives that relate to change management. It is widely believed that the success of a change process strongly depends on effective communication with employees and engagement with stakeholders. It is also believed that the success depends on the flexible nature of the organization; the greater the organization’s ability to adapt to changes, the sooner will the change process result in success. (Gilgeous & Chambers, 2001)
Based on the different models and theories, different methods of implementing and reinforcing change can be adopted by a practicing manager. A practicing manager should build his change management plan on the theories that explain the process of organizational change. The manager should make an effort to understand the hopes and fears that employees may have. Furthermore it is essential to set achievable goals and direct the work attitude of the employees towards it and avoid any misguidance in the process. (Coetsee, Summer 1999)
Managing Organizational Change
Organizational change can be managed if the right strategies and policies are in place. To ensure that the change is effectively implemented and widely adopted the management needs to draw out a change management plan that will make the entire process simpler to comprehend and follow for the employees.
Resistance to change needs to be overcome in the initial stages of the change. Since change is an important phenomenon in today’s dynamic world, it has been included in the curriculum of most universities and colleges. This is mainly because students need to understand the importance of change and how one needs to adapt to changes to perform effectively and efficiently. (Atkinson, Spring 2005)
The topic Managing resistance to change is usually addressed in courses like Organizational behavior, Organizational Studies, Organizational Management, Personal Management, Principles of Management etc. These courses aim to inculcate in students the ability to understand why change is important and to welcome change in situations where it proves to be the most viable option. Most texts begin by explaining what change actually is and what can be the different types of changes in an organization. It then moves forward by relating the concept to different theories and models which discuss the process of change.
Further, the texts explain how to manage change. This is the most essential part for students. Again different models are explained which describe the ways of managing change. (Organization of Knowledge) The texts provide a detailed discussion on why change is necessary for an organization and what kind of leadership is required to execute the change. It explains the role the management is expected to play during the change process and emphasizes on how different types of barriers to change can be removed. In order to facilitate the learning process, the texts include case studies which allow students to apply their learning to address issues in different scenarios. (What is Knowledge Organization?)
The texts usually elaborate on how change can be implemented and managed effectively. Besides explaining the different models and theories related to organizational change, the course also aims to test the practicality of the taught concepts by giving students assignments and projects. These assignments and projects allow students to address problems related to change implementation and resistance faced at different organizations. Students are required to use their thinking ability to draw out recommendations that could solve such problems. Therefore the idea of these courses and texts is to enhance the thinking skills of students by allowing them to apply their skills in real-life situations. (Robbins, 2004)
There are various perspectives that describe the process of organizational change and how resistance can be managed. The Lewin’s Change Model is one of the most cited models. The model states that successful change takes place in three phases; unfreezing, movement and refreezing. The model assumes that the status-quo exists in an equilibrium state and in order to move away from this equilibrium, individual as well as group forces nee to be overcome. This is the movement phase. The two forces involved to achieve the movement phase are the driving and restraining forces. The driving force will push the behavior away from equilibrium whereas the restraining force will resist this change in behavior. The idea is to increase the driving force and reduce the impact of the restraining force. Only then will a change be allowed to take place. Once the movement phase has taken place, the status-quo can be restored i.e. the implemented change is made acceptable. This is the refreezing phase where the change is adopted as the new way of behavior or doing things. (Organization of Knowledge)
The use of Organizational Theories in Predicting Organizational Behavior
Lewin’s Change Model can be described as a predictive theory. It helps managers predict the general scenario when a change process is initiated. It depicts the expected behavior or process that the employees will go through before the change is even implemented. This element of anticipated performance is what gives the Lewin’s Change Model its predictive attribute. (Gilgeous & Chambers, 2001)
Built upon Lewin’s three step change models is Kotter’s process of leading change. Kotter initiated his model by describing the main reasons that cause resistance to change. He believed that managers fail to create a sense of urgency about the need for change, are unable to communicate the vision and the need for change effectively and do not clarify the goals that will be achieved as a result of the change. Also his model is based on the assumption that managers are unable to relate changes with the organizational culture and do not remove the hurdles that could impede the process of change. As a result he came out with his Eight-Step Plan for Implementing Change. The first few steps of his plan aim at facilitating the unfreezing stage of Lewin’s model. Kotter’s plan includes the creation and communication of the reason for change among employees. It includes formulating a vision and strategies that could aid the unfreezing stage. (Coetsee, Summer 1999)
The next few steps aim at facilitating the movement stage of Lewin’s model. The steps outlined for this stage include easing the process of change by empowering employees, encouraging risk taking and making adjustments to familiarize employees with the change. The last step emphasizes on the reinforcement of the implemented change and successes brought about by the change to the organization. (Baker, Summer 1999)
Kotter’s plan can be defined as an explanatory theory. It aims to provide a step by step strategic plan to implement change. The theory supports training employees and enhancing conceptual models. It clearly explains what roles the management and employees are required to play during the change process and how the management needs to support and train the employees to ensure effective implementation of the change process. (Arbuckle, Summer 2000)
Nadler’s congruence model explains the working of the organization by giving a broad view of the resources required, their utilization and the outputs produced by the organization. It depicts organization as a system composed of three major parts; inputs, processes or strategies and output. Input refers to environment, resources and history. Environment refers to all the elements that affect the existence of the organization. These include customers, suppliers, competitors, and regulatory bodies, social, economic and cultural forces. Resources refer to the employees, technology, capital and information that is required to formulate strategies. (Gilgeous & Chambers, 2001)
Output refers to the goods and services produced by the organization, revenues, profits, shareholder return, performance of various divisions or departments of the organization and the performance of individual employees. (Laframboise, Nelson, & Schmaltz, 2003) Broadly speaking output determines the effectiveness and efficiency of the organization.
The Process of Change and Evolution
However between inputs and outputs exists the process stage. This stage takes in the inputs and gives the outputs as the end result. It is in this stage that change management may step in. This stage is called the organization transformation process. The transformation process also comprises of four components; work, people, formal organization and informal organization. Work refers to the basic form activity that is carried out by the employees and different organizational units in order to achieve the company’s objectives. (Kiernan-Stern, 2005) People refers to those involved with the work in the organization. It includes their skills and knowledge that helps the organization in designing its overall strategy. It includes the needs and requirements of the involved individuals in terms of their financial and personal requirements that the organization needs to satisfy.
Formal organization includes the organizational structure, system and processes that the employees need adhere to while striving to achieve the organizational objectives. Their behavior and work style is kept in line with the formal defined system. Informal organization on the other hand refers to the implied or unwritten guidelines. The organizational culture that is made up of certain values, norms and beliefs is the result of the informal organization. (Laframboise, Nelson, & Schmaltz, 2003)
With all the components of Nadler’s model complementing each other, the whole process of organizational change implementation becomes simplified. In order to manage resistance and ensure that the change process is successful, the alignment of all the components needs to be checked. When a change is initiated, all the inputs to the system are considered. These inputs need to be aligned with the involved processes. The available technology and human resources should be suitable for a change initiative. The environment should be conducive to a change and the organization must have sufficient or well-suited resources in order to implement changes. Furthermore, the organizational background must be such that the organization welcomes a change initiative. (Baker, Summer 1999)
The formal and the informal structure of the organization must be aid the change process i.e. the organizational structure must be flexible enough to allow a change while the organizational culture must encourage creative thinking and employee involvement to make them more adaptable to change. The people and the work structure must be made compatible with the change. For a change process to be implemented, the skills and knowledge of the people and the current work structure needs to be considered. Alterations and modifications should be made in the activities to make the system conform to the new change scenario. (Robbins, 2004) Finally the output i.e. the success of the change initiative will be reflected by the performance of the organization and the quality of its products and services.
Nadler’s congruence model can be described as an explanatory model. The combination of different elements integrated together depicts a clear picture of how the change process or strategy is devised with the given inputs. It elucidates how each element fits in the entire system to produce the required output. In order for the components to work in alignment with each other, the right fit of elements such as people, resources, organizational structure, organizational culture and the work needs to be considered. (Managing Resistance to Change)
A particular criteria needs to be met for the right fit of components. The model however can also be said to have predictive attributes. Since it defines what the required fit should be for an effective change implementation and organizational performance and under what scenario the output will be maximum, it does anticipate a certain level of organizational efficiency given all the elements are intact. (Coetsee, Summer 1999)
After studying different concepts and models that propagate change initiatives and change management in the organizations, I believe change initiatives are capable of being implemented and followed successfully. I personally feel that change is necessary in order to compete in the dynamic world and organizations constantly need to adapt to changes in order to improve their effectiveness, efficiency and profitability. However, this change is not easy to implement. Humans are inherently resistant to a change that will cause them to do things differently. (Kiernan-Stern, 2005)
They tend to be rigid and inflexible when it comes to doing things in a new way if they are accustomed to doing it their way for years. This rigidity and inflexibility is what makes implementation of change a difficult task. Every individual is at ease when performing within his own comfort zone and any modification or alteration aimed at influencing this zone results in resistance from the employees.
In order to manage change effectively, it becomes the responsibility of the top management to take into confidence the organization members and allowing them some time to accept the idea of a change. First of all, the management should take into consideration that a sudden announcement of a change will only leave the employees in a state of shock making them more worried and tensed and less able to focus on their work. (Arbuckle, Summer 2000) Therefore a change needs to be properly communicated to the employees. In addition to proper communication, employees must be given a chance to clarify their doubts over the issue. The management needs to make them feel like a part of the organization by involving them in the process. (Baker, Summer 1999)
Furthermore, the need for a change and the successes that will be derived from the change need to be properly explained to employees. The benefit of change to them should also be highlighted in order to motivate them to inculcate in them the ability to adapt to the new situation. Organizations should ensure that all barriers to change have been removed before going forward and implementing the change.
In the implementation phase, it is important to set short term goals that will help in achieving long term goals. This will stimulate employees to adopt the change faster. Also during the process the employees will be able to gradually familiarize themselves with the change. If they are confused or facing problems in adapting to the new situation, the problem can be addressed immediately without having a negative impact on the long term goals of the company. (Managing Resistance to Change)
During all these phases, the manager should persistently remind the employees about the change they will be experiencing. Once it has been implemented, it needs to be reinforced to make it an acceptable part of the organization. This can be done through relating successes of the organization or achievement of short-term goals with the change. This will pave way for future changes by reducing employees’ resistance to change.
Moreover, the practicing manager may himself act as a change agent to aid in the process of change management. The role of the change agent is the most important in the change process since the change agent is responsible for ensuring that the change has been properly communicated and effectively implemented. By helping employees mould their attitudes and work place behavior according to the new change, the manager can avoid the common barriers to change. (Coetsee, Summer 1999)
Therefore the effective role of management and the change agent can ensure the success of a change process. Although a large number of change initiatives fail, if the right policies and strategies are adopted to manage resistance by the employees, the change process can bring ultimate benefits to the organization. (Atkinson, Spring 2005)
Therefore a practicing manager should remember that employees will only respond positively to a change when the benefits have been clearly communicated to them. Thus he should strive to remove all barriers that may hinder the adaptation process. There are various barriers that can cause resistance. These include failure of proper communication, failure to consult affected personnel, inadequate requirements planning, lack of proper training methodology, rigid organizations structure etc. It becomes the practicing manager’s responsibility to ensure that a proper training methodology has been chalked out before implementation begins in order to make the change process quick and easy.
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