Organizations throughout the world are under constant pressure to adapt to change triggered by shifts in business environments, competition in the market, convergence of technology, political realignments, organizational restructurings, changing demographics, and new demands and preferences from customers and stakeholders (Hangopal 23).
Indeed, the performance and competitive advantage of many organizations operating in the 21st business environment is primarily determined by how well they are able to adapt to change in the face of a multiplicity of challenges, and there is compelling evidence demonstrating that successful organizations have well-developed frameworks which provide an enabling environment to understand the critical drivers of change and adapt accordingly (Franken et al 49).
Those who do not adapt to changes in the environment often fail in their attempts to achieve positive outcomes, while others are practically wiped out because of their inflexibility to change.
In the above context, the need for organizations to develop processes aimed at managing change is urgent. Organizational theorists, however, take cognizance of the fact that change is a complex issue and there is no one specified solution to its management (Hangopal 10).
Studies have revealed that a change management technique that works for one organization may not necessarily work for another even when both organizations are operating within the same environment or culture. This paper aims to critically discuss change management with a view to demonstrate the change process, sources of resistance to change, and ways through which organizations can successfully manage change.
This paper, more than anything else, will cover change management issues related to the change process, resistance to change, and some of the solutions that could be applied by organizations in the process of managing change. According to Hangopal, “…the basic paradigm that an organization adopts influences how it would realize its vision and consequently its change plans and actions, which will transport the organization from its current state to the desired state” (95).
This progression of states is typified by three stages namely, the current state, the changeover state and the new state. Change management process, therefore, basically entails harnessing the unique issues arising in each state in terms of identifying the issues and implementing effective structures and strategies to manage them.
Resistance, according to Hangopal, emerges when there is a real or perceived threat to something valued by an individual or to the status quo and normal functioning of the organization (107). In the organizational context, resistance may arise from a legitimate understanding of the change process or from a misunderstanding of what the change process is destined to achieve.
A wealth of literature has demonstrated that most people like to maintain the status quo and will do anything to resist the planned change especially in the absence of adequate knowledge and collaboration in the process of effecting change (Franken et al 60).
While some employees fear to lose their jobs or positions of authority, others genuinely fail to understand the change and its implications, resulting in resistance. This paper will also cover the various solutions that could be implemented to manage change and curtail resistance.
The Change Process
Business analysts are in agreement that change has become a certainty in organizations today. A multiplicity of factors, including mergers, acquisitions, emerging technologies, downsizing, organizational restructurings, competition, and globalization, among others, continue to transform the business landscape and obliging organizations to initiate change processes or risk becoming irrelevant in today’s business environment (Carr et al 3).
With this in mind, it can be argued that the change process is primarily a function of factors that arises within and outside the organization, which creates the need to adopt new ways of doing things. Organizations are continuously finding themselves in an epoch of paradigm shift when a set of assumptions generally considered to be the traditional norm no longer applies and must be substituted to safeguard their continuous survival and competitive advantage.
As such, organizations must develop strategies and frameworks that enable them to continuously reposition themselves for success in a constantly changing marketplace. According to Carr et al, many organizations are “…responding by adopting new management philosophies and following new methodologies in order to bring about organizational change” (3).
Organizational change takes place in phases depending on the factors necessitating such change. Before undertaking the change process, it is important for change agents and managers to employ skills and techniques that will curtail unnecessary negative effects. These strategies include unbiased open-mindedness, good strategic planning, good communication skills, and commitment to leadership and team-building (Stevens 2).
A successful change program should be founded on a vision of desired outcomes once the organization moves from the current state, through the transition state, to the anticipated or new state. It is imperative to include strategies that will encourage employees to move through the change process as effortlessly as possible. An effective change process must also align employees with new functions, responsibilities, and prospects early in the process so as to prepare them for what lies ahead.
Adequate psychological preparation decreases employee resistance and ensures that the morale and productivity of employees are not affected in major ways. Once the change has been fully initiated, continued planning, open communication, effective leadership and team participation must continue to be entrenched to make the process a success (Stevens 5).
A workable change process, among other things, facilitates organizations to effectively compete on a sustained basis in the face of issues that inarguably affect the business scene on a daily basis (Carr et al 4).
In this perspective, the change process must be adequately prepared prior to implementation, and must be structured in a way that will enable the organization to transform itself from the current state to the preferred state while causing minimal disturbances to its operations and core business strategies. A successful change process must always reflect on its capacity to bring enhanced business outcomes in terms of performance and productivity (Franken et al 52).
This implies that change processes should not be initiated to merely move the organization from one state to another; on the contrary, they should be structured in a way that will occasion the organization to achieve tangible business outcomes in terms of sustaining its competitive advantage in the marketplace.
The change process and particularly the transition stage may be quite difficult, even excruciating. An important component of the change process lies in the realization and acceptance by both the management and staff that change is bound to bring temporal disorganization, disrupt working environment, and lower effectiveness of the organization, especially in the transition state (Carr et al 4).
As such, the commitment and support of both the management and employees are fundamentally important to the success and internalization of the desired changes.
This calls for change agents to plan the change carefully and to align the three components that comprise an organization – the product or service, the human aspect, and the organizational culture (Carr et al 4). It is imperative to note that the success of change is geometrically proportionate to how well these components are ready to embrace change (Hangopal 24).
According to Carr et al, “…industry leaders today are also aware that change and its management are not a simple, one-time process but a permanent upheaval to which corporations can adapt only by keeping open and in a permanent learning mode” (5). This implies that organizations must develop and put mechanisms in place to successfully negotiate constant changes caused by their day-to-day interactions with the environment.
Organizations, according to Hangopal, cannot operate in a vacuum, and must therefore be ready to transform themselves as dictated by the factors arising from the environment, not mentioning that the structures and strategies put in place must always focus on the effective ways through which these organizations can be able to handle sudden and unprecedented changes while maintaining their competitive advantage (28).
Resistance to Change
Manuela & Clara are of the opinion that “…the reasons for the failure of many change initiatives can be found in resistance to change” (3). It is a well known fact that resistance to change introduces costs and impediments in the change process that are inarguably challenging to anticipate but which must be duly considered when initiating changes in an organization.
Organizational theorists argue that resistance to change can be considered as a fundamental source of information that could prove useful in developing better ways of initiating a change process. Overall, resistance is a critical area in change management which should be taken into consideration in an attempt to assist organizations to attain the advantages of transformation.
Although resistance to change has been observed and recorded at the management level, the bulk of resistance comes from employees who may be inadequately prepared to undergo the process, or who just harbour distorted perceptions, myopia or ignorance (Manuela & Clara 5).
On the organization side, consecutive studies have demonstrated that the inability of an organization to look into the future and denial or refusal to take action on any information that may appear unexpected or undesired to the management is largely to blame for the resistance exhibited by some managers towards change.
Inflexible and unaccommodating organizational structures may often function to frustrate the change process even in situations where managers are willing to effect the desired transformation (Carr et al 56).
In addition, some organizations have a tendency to perpetuate traditional ideas, implying that they take pride in continuing to employ the status quo in performing tasks and responsibilities that require new dispensations and techniques (Manuela & Clara 6).
Still, some organizations embark on what is termed as ‘organizational silence’, limiting information flow and therefore end up making decisions that lacks the necessary facts. This trend is known to contribute to resistance to the change process. Lastly, lack of the necessary capabilities to implement change may lead to resistance, especially in the implementation phase.
As already noted, the success of any change process inarguably depends on how well employees embrace the efforts geared towards effecting the change. Lack of effective management-employee communication networks and weak leadership are two of the foremost factors that cause employees to resist change.
In the absence of effective communication from change agents and the management, employees may advance resistance in actual or perceived fear of losing their positions or job responsibilities (Carr et al 58). Lack of clear understanding about the change and the implications it is bound to initiate cause employees to resist the change even in circumstances where such change will in part assist them to perform their duties more effectively.
For example, employees in many organizations have resisted the introduction of technology based on the unfounded fear that they will lose their jobs while in actual sense, many technology applications serves to ease the workload of employees. Employees have been known to resist change based on perceived difficulties of coping with either the level or pace of the intended pace (Franken et al 55).
Still, motivation towards change is a major determinant of the success of any change process since employees are likely to resist any attempts to change the status quo in the absence of strategies aimed at motivating them. Lastly, the lack of a creative response particularly from the management may create a situation where employees become wary of the intended change, thus developing resistance (Manuela & Clara 6).
Organizational theorists have developed a number of models and theoretical frameworks aimed at guiding organizations to effectively negotiate the change process while still maintaining their sustainability and competitive advantage. Many of these models are built on several key factors that must be present for the change process to be a success.
While it is known that some organizational changes are unprecedented, efforts geared towards managing change must be adequately planned before undertaking the change to prepare all stakeholders, specifically employees, about the need to adapt a particular change strategy (Franken et al 54). This requires bring all concerned on board in strategizing on how to go about the intended change.
By doing so, stakeholders are given the chance to air their grievances or worries, thus creating an enabling environment through which the change would be readily embraced by all members. However, many organizations are known to give employees a wide berth during the initial change planning processes, enhancing the chances for such change to be resisted in the implementation phase.
Open communication between the management and employees must be encouraged at all levels of the change process. Employees are bound to curtail their resistance and fear to a proposed change when adequate information is availed to them relating to the implications of the change (Franken et al 58). In line with this, the management must at all times in the change process demonstrate effective leadership capabilities to avoid a situation where a vacuum of leadership is created, hence leading to uncertainty.
Organizations must also evolve strategies aimed at assisting the employees to cope with the level and pace of the intended changes rather than leaving them to struggle in the integration process. It is also imperative for organizations to engage the services of a qualified change agent to guide an integrative process rather than implementing the intended change using a fragmented and incoherent framework (Carr et al 25).
The change process should not end at the implementation phase; rather the management must continue to encourage communication and demonstrate effective leadership even after the change has been implemented to deal with the ripple effect, that is, the issues that may arise after changing the status quo of how things used to be done (Hangopal 137).
Lastly, strategies and frameworks should be introduced prior to the implementation of the intended change to assist employees in analyzing the outcomes of the change and making decisions from a knowledgeable perspective.
In addition to the above solutions, it can be recommended that organizations initiate an open an open-door communication strategy whenever there is an impending change to allow employees the chance to ask questions and seek answers to the issues they feel are of paramount importance to them.
Second, it is well acknowledged that some organizational changes may lead to actual job losses. In such a scenario, it is recommended that organizations open interdepartmental information and counselling desks to deal with the employees who may be affected. This procedure, though costly in the short-term, will go a long way to reduce tensions and resistance that may result to huge organizational losses in terms of employee strikes and go-slows (Hangopal 105).
Third, a recommendation can be made to organizations to engage the services of professional change agents to spearhead efforts aimed at transforming critical processes for better business outcomes. Lastly, organizations must develop strategies aimed at motivating employees to accept the intended changes without the use of coercive or unconventional tactics.
Change has become a certainty and an integral part of business operations in the 21st century and, as such, the development of adequate and effective structures and frameworks to manage it seems the only viable way to go for organizations (Franken et al 51). Resistance has also been noted as an important constituent of the change process, and it is up to the management and change managers to develop ways through which employees become actively engaged in the process of managing change.
It should be stressed that effective planning, open communication, and good leadership capabilities still remains the foremost strategies through which change can be implemented in organizations. This does not imply that they are the panacea to a successful change process; they must be used in collaboration with other strategies discussed in this paper to oversee the effective implementation of the intended change.
Carr, D.K., Hard, K.J., & Trahant, W.J. Managing the Change Process: A Field Book for Change Agents, Consultants, Team Leaders and Reengineering Managers. New York, NY: McGraw Hill. 1996
Franken, A., Edwards, C., & Lambert, R. Executing Strategic Change: Understanding the Critical Management Elements that leads to Success. California Management Review 51.3 (2009): 49-73. Retrieved from Business Source Premier Database
Manuela, P.V., & Clara, M.F. Resistance to Change: A Literature Review and Empirical Study. Retrieved 30 October 2010
Hangopal, K. Management of Organizational Change: Leveraging Transformation 2nd Ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc. 2006
Stevens, C.A. Moving through the Phases of Organizational Change. 2001 Retrieved 30 Oct 2010