In a fast changing world, it is necessary for an organization to keep pace with the changes if it has to remain competitive. Adoption of change is needed not only for the success of the organization but it is also needed even for its survival. Organizational change occurs when the organization makes a transition from its current state to some desired state needed due to change in its operating environment.
Change can take place either due to the external pressures or due to the internal reasons. It can be affected either in a planned manner or in unplanned manner. It can be implemented either at the organizational level or a departmental level or even at an individual level.
Changes in the organization can take place in the several forms. It can be in the form of technological changes due to the adoption of newer technology. It can be in the form of change of management structure or management style. It can be in the form of restructuring of the organization. It can take place due to the change in the vision, mission and objectives of the organization. It can be in the form of streamlining of systems and procedures to make them more effective. It can be in the form of effecting changes in the employee’s attitude and behaviours in order to increase their efficiency and effectiveness.
There are five basic stages which an organization has to undergo while making a strategic change. These are given below.
- Realizing that the current strategy is no longer suitable for the situation in which the organization operates. Identifying and agreeing where change is necessary.
- Establishing a vision for the future direction of the organization. This vision is to be shared across the whole organization and the stakeholders.
- Communicate and collaborate effectively internally and with external organizations and agencies.
- Implementing of the plans for change and setting up of new systems and procedures to support it through consensus.
- Ensuring the new systems and procedures are well accepted within the organization through training and motivation for long term progress of the organization.
Every change which is introduced in the organization can be threatening and disruptive since it involves adaption of a new environment and work practices. Change impacts systems, processes, and organization structure as well as job roles. Implementation of change involves a lot of hard work. Hence there is resistance at all the levels in the organization to effect the change. Change management is a systematic approach to overcome this resistance and to deal with the change, both from the perspective of the organization as well as at the level of the individual employee.
Change management is the application of a structured process and set of tools for leading the people side of the change for successful transition during the change as well as the adoption and realization of change for achievement of the desired outcome. Planning, implementing and managing change in a fast-changing environment has become increasingly important in the situation in which most organizations work presently.
A somewhat ambiguous term, change management has at least three different aspects, which includes adaption to change, controlling of the change, and effecting the change. A proactive approach to dealing with change is at the core of all three aspects. For an organization, change management means defining and implementing procedures and/or technologies to deal with changes in the business environment and to profit from changing opportunities.
Besides three aspects referred above, there are hard factors which are equally important for the change management. Hard factors that affect a transformation initiative are the time necessary to complete it, the number of people required to execute it, and the financial results that intended actions are expected to achieve. These factors have three distinct characteristics.
- First the organization must be able to measure the change in direct or indirect ways.
- Second the organization should effectively communicate the importance of change both within and outside the organization.
- Third, and perhaps most important, organization must be capable of influencing the elements of change quickly.
Change projects fail to get off the ground when the organization neglects the hard factors. Both the hard and soft factors are important for successful transition through the change.
Approach to change management is based on six principles. They are effective leadership, an inclusive culture, broad collaboration, change teams, a proven change process and rationale and political and emotional considerations. For change to be sustainable there must be a compelling reason for it. A clear vision for the future and a coherent plan for getting there is necessary for an effective change process.
Kotter’s eight step model for change
John P Kotter has described an eight step model for understanding and managing change. Each step acknowledges a key principle identified by Kotter relating to people’s response and approach to change, in which people see, feel and then change. Kotter’s eight step change model is summarized below.
- Increase urgency – Employees are to be inspired to move. The objectives are to be made real and relevant.
- Build the guiding team –The guiding team should have the right people in place with the right emotional commitment, and the right mix of skills and levels.
- Get the vision right – The team should establish a simple vision and strategy. The team must focus on emotional and creative aspects necessary to drive service and efficiency.
- Communicate for buy-in – As many people as possible are to be involved. Communicate the essentials, simply, and to appeal and respond to people’s needs. De-clutter communications – make technology work for the change rather than against it.
- Empower action – Remove obstacles, enable constructive feedback and lots of support from leaders – reward and recognize progress and achievements.
- Create short-term wins – Set aims that are easy to achieve – in bite-size chunks. Manageable numbers of initiatives. Finish current stages before starting new ones.
- Donot let up – Foster and encourage determination and persistence – ongoing change – encourage ongoing progress reporting – highlight achieved and future milestones.
- Make change stick – Reinforce the value of successful change via recruitment, promotion, new change leaders. Weave change into culture.
Methodology for change management
There is no single methodology which fits all the organization, but there is a set of practices, tools, and techniques that can be adapted to a variety of situations. There are several guiding principles for the change management. Using these as a systematic, comprehensive framework, management can understand what to expect, how to manage the change, and how to engage the entire organization in the process. A typical change management process is shown in Fig 1. Major of these guiding principles are given below.
- Issues related to human side – Any significant change creates issues related to people which can affect their morale and can put the process of change at risk. A formal approach for managing change — beginning with the leadership team and then engaging key stakeholders and leaders — should be developed early, and adapted often as change moves through the organization. The change management approach should be based on a realistic assessment of the organization’s history, readiness, and capacity to change.
- Involvement of top management – The involvement and commitment of top management is necessary to provide leadership to the team for strength, support and direction to the change process
- Involvement of all the employees – Change efforts should include plans for identifying leaders throughout the organization and pushing responsibility for implementation of the change process down, so that change progress through the complete organization. At each layer of the organization, the leaders who are identified and trained must be aligned to the organization’s vision, equipped to execute their specific mission, and motivated to make change happen.
- Resistance management – Resistance from employees for change is a normal phenomenon. Persistent resistance, however, can threaten a change project. The change management team needs to identify, understand and manage resistance throughout the organization.
- Make the change a formal activity – The formality tag makes the change process more convincing to the employees and other stake holders. For making the change process a formal process three steps are necessary. They are (i) confrontation of reality and articulation of a convincing need for change, (ii) demonstration of faith that the organization has a viable future and the leadership to get there, and (iii) provision of a road map to guide behaviour and decision making.
- Create ownership – Leaders of the change process should own the change process so that they can make the change process acceptable to the employees and lead the change process towards successful completion.
- Effective communication – Effective communication is the heart of the change process. Effective communication that informs various stakeholders of the reasons for the change, the benefits of successful implementation as well as the details of the change goes a long way in successful implementation of the change process.
- Training and development – Training and development plays an important role in change management since no change programme can achieve success unless employees are suitably trained in new systems and procedures and their mindset is developed to accept them.
- Role of organization culture – Organization culture plays an important role for successful implementation of the change management since the organizational culture determines the behaviour of the employees. The employee’s behaviour is to be addressed suitably while planning the change and designing the change programme.
- Prepare for unexpected – No change program goes completely according to plan. People react in unexpected ways; areas of anticipated resistance fall away; and the external environment shifts. Effectively managing change requires continual reassessment of its impact and the organization’s willingness and ability to then make the adjustments necessary to maintain momentum of the change programme.
Fig 1 Typical model for change management