Organisational Change and Leadership Processes

Ah yes change, it is inevitable, it is going to happen…but what is the best way to deal with it?

As the old saying goes, there is nothing more constant as change. The rate of change seems to be increasing on a daily basis, and as Zorn, Page and Cheney state (2000) “organise for continuous change, to become a flexible organisation that can adapt quickly to environmental changes”, seems easy right? WRONG. Employees can become very resistant to change, and I have experienced this first hand.

Employees can be at the one organisation for 40 years, and cannot see the benefit of adopting to the changing environment, and don’t feel they have too, just like this guy…

…well this, HA, ahhhh this defiantly throws a spanner in the works. Research has shown that change rarely proceeds in a smooth fashion, its more common for it to be a rather stormy, rough ride to change.

We now see organisations as political and cultural systems inhabited by thinking, feeling human beings. Therefore considering and planning for their reactions to change is critical for success. Organisational members have whats called a ‘schemata’, or knowledge structures to keep it simple, that define an individual and collective beliefs about how organisations work and how change happens. This leads to tensions in the change process that MUST BE MANAGED, there needs to be a sense of connection between organisational members and the change process.

Pretty much, organisations need to care about you and your feelings toward change…they need YOU on THEIR side.

To do this, research suggests that management communicates with their staff at each stage of the change process, that is during change development, program planning, and change implementation. The evidence suggests that this is critical to the organisations and individuals outcomes.

There are significant issues that contribute to change failure:

1. Lack of management support

2. Top managers forcing change

3. Inconsistent action by key managers

4. Unrealistic expectations

5. Lack of meaningful participation

6. Poor communication

7. Purpose of program was not clear

8. Responsibility for change was not properly identified

Do these 8 things, you are almost 99.95% guaranteed your change plan will fail…

Resistance to change is extremely common, and can be defined by Markus (1983) as “behaviours intended to prevent the implementation or use of a system or to prevent system designers from achieving their objectives”. Also contributing to this is that employees feel that they have inadequate training, fear, ignorance and is often related to political behaviour as there are often a large group of people whom have a great deal to win or lose in a change initiative.

If you are uncertain about something, do you feel comfortable and at easy? No. It’s the same with employees, if they are unaware about the change and what the change is going to impact they are going to be stressed and anxious and obviously resist this change. Therefore, any attempt to work and communicate with workers in times of change need to communicate these factors, and one of the most straightforward ways to deal with this situation is the provision of information. Research has shown evidence that employees would prefer to have negative information rather than no information, I agree, I certainly would, would you?

Effective communication through times of change is 100% essential, and there are 5 ways to do so:

1. Spray and Pray: Give way too much information to employees and hope they will sort the significant from the insignificant.

2. Tell and Sell: Management selects a limited set of messages regarding core organisational issues, they tell the employees about these issues and then sells employees on the wisdom of the chosen approach.

3. Underscore and Explore: Management focuses on fundamental issues related to change success and allows employees the creative freedom to explore various possibilities.

4. Identify and Reply: Management listens to and identifies key concerns of employees and then responds to these issues as they are bought up.

5. Withhold and Uphold: Management withholds information as much as possible, and when they are asked questions they uphold the party line.

What would you prefer? In terms of Human Resources and motivation of staff and promoting a corporate culture it would be Underscore and Explore and Identify and Reply, keep them involved, give them the opportunity to come up with solutions and allow them to ask questions. This will in turn limit their resistance to change.

All in all, KEEP YOUR EMPLOYEES INVOLVED! They are the core of your business operations, they are less likely to resist change, and it promotes a positive corporate culture and motivation.

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