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What you should know about successful organizational change

, December 21, 2012, 4 Comments

Change is a critical task, given today’s business turbulence and constantly changing business environment. Organizational change and managing this change are important tasks on the business agenda. Businesses need to expect, prepare and accept change as a constant.

We have discussed a lot about leadership styles, tactics to encourage followership, being a human leader, work place conflict and women leaders. It’s time now to discuss leaders and followers, their responsibilities, tools and tactics more specifically in the context of change which is the business norm today.

“Change management is the process, tools and techniques to manage the people-side of business change to achieve the required business outcome and to realize that business change effectively within the social infrastructure of the workplace”. (Hiatt and Creasey 2009)[i].

The definition by Hiatt and Creasey (2009) not only defines the process of change management but also helps understand that change management while based on project management techniques of  planning and implementation also addresses the emotional aspect of a project and people bring  this emotion to a workplace and its projects.

  • Who then becomes responsible for introducing and managing organizational change?
  • Who is responsible for managing people’s emotions?

 A leader is responsible for the outcome of the change, and other organizational members are responsible for different parts of the change process. So, organizational change is every organizational member’s responsibility!

Typically, in an organization the following takes place during change:

  1. A change is decided as needed and important by leaders
  2. Employees get “told” of the change
  3. Employees react emotionally and sometimes negatively  towards this new order of things
  4. The grapevine is in full swing and resistance is probably very high
  5. The change program fails and leaders start finger pointing or, leaders declare success early without anchoring change in to the company fabric
  6. Because change was not done correctly the first time around,  there comes a need to start all over again in a couple of years with new management, new promises and rebadging the change as new when it is the same old stuff under new branding!

According to me, there are two elements that lead to a successful change program; the role of leaders and managing resistance during change. This is assuming other things such as budget during the change program remains steady, management does not pull the plug on the change program, or the company does not go bankrupt before the change program even starts.

Let’s discuss the two core elements during the introduction and management of change

Role of leaders during change

According to Senge et al (1999)[ii] “leadership is the capacity of the human community to shape its future, and specifically to sustain the significant processes of change required to do so’’. With a constantly changing business environment, the ability to manage change has become a much required core competency for leaders. Lou Gerstner’s success at IBM (Gerstner 2003)[iii] is a good example and proof of a leader who guided the company through changes and made it successful.

Managing Resistance

The general definition of resistance is “the action of opposing something that you

disapprove or disagree with (Dictionary 2010)[iv].This resistance is often experienced when change is introduced in organisations. Since any change is the new normal, employees will resist or oppose the change immediately. There are various reasons for this resistance such as change in job definition or a new and overwhelming process. It then becomes important to understand where resistance comes from and a coherent strategy is needed to manage and overcome this resistance.

Having recognized these elements as critical to change success we need to understand how to put this into practice. We shall discuss this soon.
What do you think are some inhibitors to successful change?

[i] Change Management: The People Side of Change (2003) Jeffrey Hiatt, Timothy Creasey
[ii] Senge, P., Kleiner, A., Roberts, C., Ross, R., Roth, G. & Smith, B. 1999. the dance
of change – the challenges of sustaining momentum in learning organizations, London,Nicholas Brealey.
[iii] Gerstner, L. 2003. Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? Leading a Great Enterprise Through Dramatic Change, HarperBusiness. New York.
[iv] Dictionary, W. O. 2010. Resistance

  • Billy

    Excellent article Aarti but once again there are so many organisations they still just don’t get the importantance of building chnage leadership capability to lead their teams during rapid change ….. I definitlety will continue to champion the cause !

    • Aarti Iyerr

      Hi Billy. I left you a reply but as a comment… Apologies!

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  • Aarti Iyer

    Hi Billy.Happy New Year! Good on you for being a change agent yourself.I agree with you on companies”not getting it”. Change requires a different ability/capability and a transformational approach which some leaders need to be trained for.Change will fail if leaders don’t motivate and manage resistance.