The following essay will discuss change in organizations. It will elaborate on different approaches to change management, resistance to change as well as organizational development. This essay will also argue the importance and significance effective change management holds for the future success of organizations.
At its simplest, organizational change can be defined as new ways of organizing and working and at the same time the way in which organizations stay competitive and seek to grow (Dawson, 2003: 11).
Change is not only omnipresent in society but also within organizations brought about by the application of new technology to work processes and products, alterations to structures, jobs, physical settings and modification to employee attitudes, expectations and skills (McKenna, 2006: 540). Subsequently some commentators argue that constant adaptive reorganization is necessary to compete and survive in a rapidly changing and unpredictable environment. The need for organizational change can be prompted or initiated by many different triggers. These include external triggers such as new technology and materials, changes in consumer tastes, requirements and values as well as internal triggers like for example new product innovations, office relocations, low performances and high staff turnovers (Buchanan & Huczynski, 2004: 608).
Within an organizational context it is crucial for change management to be implemented effectively. The way organizational change is managed, and the appropriateness of the approach adopted, has major implications for the way people experience change and their perceptions of the outcome. According to many observers, organizations can and do experience severe problems in managing change effectively (Howarth, 1988). Despite the plethora of advice available, the majority of change programmes fail (Arnold et al, 1998: 485).
The mismanagement of organizational change including the wrong approach to change management can ultimately leave people angry and disenchanted and can lead to employees becoming complacent, dissatisfied and unmotivated. At the same time it can lead to jobs being endangered as well as to the existence of the organization being jeopardized. By choosing the appropriate approach to change management and keeping in mind that adequate employee involvement during the change is necessary the chances of success are much higher. Hence it is important to consult, assure and communicate with employees before, during and after organizational change as it will lead to greater employee motivation, performance and commitment (Jones, 2007: 224).
The practice of change management is dependent on a number of factors, not least the particular school of thought involved. As a result a variety of different models of change management have arisen over the years. Two major approaches to change management have emerged in the latter half of the twentieth century namely the planned approach and the emergent approach. Though elaborated upon and supported by a considerable number of very useful tools and techniques the planned approach has remained essentially true to Kurt Lewin’s (1951) original three-step model of change.
This sees a successful change project involve three steps:
1. unfreezing the present level
2. moving to the new level
3. refreezing the new level
This recognizes that before new behaviour can be successfully adopted, the old has to be discarded. Only then can the new behaviour become accepted. Central to this approach is the belief that the will of the change adopter is important, both in discarding the old, “unfreezing”, and in “moving” to the new (Arnold et al, 1998: 488).
This already indicates that the individual in a business plays a major role in organizational change. It is therefore important to understand that during radical organizational change individual emotional responses differ, but that the typical coping cycle passes through the stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Change creates uncertainty as to what the future holds, and as a consequence can lead to personal insecurity (Buchanan & Huczynski, 2004: 614). All these factors combined can lead to resistance to change which often occurs within organizations. Katz and Kahn (1978) identified six sources of resistance to change operating at the level of the organisation. These were listed as over-determination, narrow focus of change, group inertia, threatened expertise, threatened power and resource allocation. At the individual level they were identified as habit, security, economic considerations, fear of the unknown, lack of awareness and social considerations.
If confronted with resistance to change, a business should see this encounter as an opportunity to re-examine the proposal for change. It is possible for resistance to be constructive as it can force managers to interact more frequently with subordinates, to review the decision to introduce change, and perhaps to explore alternative ways to meet the desired object. Nonetheless there are different ways of controlling resistance to change including education and communication, participation, facilitation and support, negotiation and agreement, manipulation and co-optation as well as coercion (McKenna, 2006: 550).