What is organizational change?
According to HBR, Organizational change refers to the actions in which a company or business alters a major component of its organization, such as its culture, the underlying technologies or infrastructure it uses to operate, or its internal processes.
Change management is important not only due to the fast pace at which change is occurring but also due to the numerous examples of unsuccessful change efforts. The complexities and difficulties of delivering change are well established, with failure rates frequently cited as high as 70%. Failure to introduce effective change can have a high impact: loss of market position, removal of senior management, loss of stakeholder credibility, loss of key employees, and reduction in employee engagement and motivation.
Successful change management requires more than just initiating changes; the process of enacting these changes can be full of obstacles that must be navigated in order for successful implementation. The change management process may require different techniques depending on the circumstances. Common challenges include establishing a clear understanding of goals and objectives, overcoming resistance to the change being proposed, and keeping stakeholders informed throughout transition periods. While some organizations may succeed in quickly tackling these challenges, careful planning and commitment are necessary to ensure the change process includes a strategic vision on a consistent basis.
When managing change within an organization, it is imperative for senior executives to provide effective leadership direction and set an example of leading by example. Without a sense of urgency shown by those at the highest level to invest time and energy into an identified change initiative, the likelihood of successful implementation is low.
Executives must have measurable objectives linked to the initiative and commit resources to manage change as well as communicate effectively with key stakeholders. It is only through strong leadership direction, clear guidance on the proposed changes and a consistent commitment that organizations have the best chance of managing transformation successfully.
Lack of effective organizational change management and programmed management disciplines can lead to slipped schedules, not achieving desired outcomes, or projects do deliver as planned. Insufficient relevant training, for example, in project management, change management, and leadership skills, can all negatively impact the effectiveness of any change initiative.
Too often, the change initiatives, objectives, and resulting end states are not at all or partially communicated across the organization leading to misinformation, rumors, and giving time to perpetuate resistance to the initiative. According to a survey from Tower Watson, 68 percent of the management believed that organization change initiative decisions were communicated. In contrast, only 40 percent of the first-line supervisors and less than 30 percent of employees thought leadership and management did a good job.
Resistance to change can is defined as an individual or group engaging in acts to block or disrupt an attempt to introduce change. Resistance is not necessarily negative, as it may be a clear signal that the change initiative requires rethinking or reframing. Resistance can take many forms, from the subtle undermining of initiatives and withholding of information to active resistance, such as through strikes. There are two broad types of resistance:
- Resistance to the process of change. This concerns how a change is introduced rather than the object of change itself. For example, management re-structures of jobs without prior consultation of affected employees.
- Resistance to the content of change. For example, a specific change in technology or the introduction of a particular reward system.
Perception leads to loss of control, the shock of the new, uncertainty, inconvenience, threat to status, and competence fears. It is important not to assume that resistance is negative and to try to diagnose the cause of employee resistance, as this will help determine the focus of effort in trying to address the issue.
Employees may feel overwhelmed and burnt out when an organization launches numerous initiatives. Allowing time to build resistance or response with passive aggression, seeking to wait out what one might regard as a management fad.
Transformation projects are not always done as part of a wider coherent change plan. For example, a change that considers a new structure, but fails to establish a need to introduce new systems or processes, is less likely to succeed.
Change management professionals are invaluable when it comes to effectively implementing change. Having a solid core strategy can be the difference between success and failure, which is why it is essential for change management teams to have a plan in place that will ensure any transformation initiatives are carefully thought out. By having a comprehensive change management strategy, businesses can identify potential risks and maximize opportunities for success. The expertise of change management professionals can help ensure that complex changes are implemented flawlessly and result in lasting positive impacts.
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