Leading Successful Change


The Need for Change

In most parts of the world there is an increasing need for businesses and organisations to change.  The main reason behind this change is globalisation causing businesses to compete on an international level.

Coinciding with this is the introduction of technology and communications systems that allow us to now purchase quality products and services at low prices online anywhere in the world.  This has caused the need for change.

Consequently both small firms and large organisations in the private and public sectors alike have to rethink about the way they do business.  As a result they are restructuring, merging, outsourcing and governments are privatising.

Apart from globalisation and technology affecting the way organisations do business, there are a number of other external factors that can create a need for change.  These include economic, political, legal, and environmental factors.  For example, a downturn in the economy can cause a need for change, so that businesses do things more effectively and efficiently.

Change can also be caused by internal factors focused around competitors, suppliers, employees, customers and other stakeholders.  For instance, when one competitor purchases its rival and the two organisations merge, this will inevitably cause change.

What Can be Changed?

Many businesses are finding they need to grow, downsize, or to restructure to better achieve their goals and to stay competitive.  Any of these will cause change in the organisation and a need to change one or all of the following:

  • Structure
  • Technology
  • Physical Setting
  • People

Resistance to Change

One of the most well documented findings from studies of individuals and organisation behaviour is that organisations and their members resist change.  There are a number of reasons for the individual resisting change, which include:

  • Habit
  • Security
  • Economic Factors
  • Fear of the Unknown
  • Selective Information Processing (people hear what they want to hear)

Organisations also resist change as they are conservative by nature.  An example of this includes government agencies; they want to continue to deliver the same services they have for many years, even though the need for those services may have ceased or changed.

The Effects of Change

Sometimes resistance to change can be a positive thing, it provides some stability and predictability, and healthy debate on the proposed changes promoting a better outcome.  However, resistance to change does not necessarily surface in standard ways.  Resistance can be overt, implicit, immediate, or deferred.

TIP – Dealing with Change

Change is easiest for managers to deal with when it’s overt and immediate, eg, when change is proposed employees respond by voicing complaints, engaging in a work slowdown, or threatening to strike.  Whereas if resistance is implicit and deferred, managers are dealing with more subtle resistance, such as loss of loyalty to the firm, loss of motivation to work, increased errors or mistakes, increased absenteeism.

Deferred actions cloud the link between the source of resistance, and the reaction to it; leading to a build up over time and final explosion, where reactions are escalated and the initial source of resistance is blown out of all proportion.  Whereas, immediate reactions can be positive, healthy, and dealt with on the spot before they escalate out of control.

Differences in People

Strong resistance to change is often rooted in deeply conditioned or historically reinforced feelings.  Patience and tolerance are required to help people in these situations to see things differently, bit by bit.

Certain types of people, the reliable, dependable, steady, habitual and process-oriented types often find change very unsettling.  The people who welcome change are not generally the best at being able to work reliably, dependably and follow processes.  The reliability and dependability capabilities are directly opposite character traits to the mobility and adaptability capabilities.

TIP – Understanding Personalities

One way of dealing with these two opposite ends of the personality spectrum is to engage the people that welcome change to educate, mentor and lead those that find change difficult.  Their mobility and adaptability traits will be well suited to taking on these roles.  They are often unconventional, creative, see the big picture, and enjoy taking risks - all the traits you need for a successful change program.

Significant Effects on Employees

It’s important to have a planned change strategy in place that specifically determines and documents whether proposed organisational change will have significant effects on employees.  Significant effects can include:

  • Restructure
  • Retraining
  • Reclassification
  • Redeployment
  • Retrenchment

Even if the change is a very tough one like retrenching employees due to closures and integrating merged or acquired organisations, the same values need to be applied.  Bad news needs even more careful management than routine change.

Consulting with people, and helping them to understand does not weaken your position, it strengthens it.  Leaders who fail to consult and involve their people in managing bad news are perceived as weak and lacking in integrity.  Treat people with humanity and respect and they will reciprocate.

Leading Successful Change Workbook

Continue with Leading Successful Change by purchasing the full workbook on this topic. Learn about the responsibility of managers, what makes a good change leader, planning for change, effective techniques for change, creating wins and achieving milestones.  The workbook is packed with tips and activities to help you with managing change in your organisation. Sharpen your skills further by engaging your own private Coach.  Contact us!  In its original state the workbook can be used by facilitators for short workshop presentations.

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