The Dynamics of Organizational Change

Organizations are dynamic and not static. They experience change on a periodic basis – some are planned and some are unplanned. Change can be disruptive and prohibit the attainment of strategic goals that are critical to organizational success. To the extent possible, the change initiative should be planned. During the planning process, those who are most directly impacted by the change should be a part of the team examining the change initiative. They may have practical contributions to the process and will be essential in its implementation. Communicating the implemented change has the following key elements:

  • What – content of the change and the reasons
  • Gap Analysis – current state, obstacles and future state. This is an effective tool in examining the reason for the change initiative.
  • When – timeline for the change
  • How – top down method to communicate the vision for the change and to align employees to it
  • Bottom up method with feedback on the change initiative on the employees

Change can generate resistance both individually and organizationally. Some individual resistances are:

  • Fear of the unknown
  • Change represent risks
  • Risks can lead to failure
  • Lack of skills for the change initiative
  • Common emotion that failure generates is shame
  • Shame reduces self esteem
  • Loss of status resulting from the failure – position and or money
  • Poorly communicated change initiative from the change initiator
  • Lack of trust of the change initiator
  • Self-interest – does not see individual value
  • Feeling of being excluded from the planning process
  • Laziness

Some organizational resistances to change are:

  • Culture strives to maintain the status quo
  • Perception of increased risks associated with organizational change
  • Limited focus on change from some in the C-Suite
  • Fear of losing market share
  • Threat of losing resource allocutions
  • Laws and regulations

Overcoming resistance to change is challenging. At a personal level, change can arouse considerable anxiety about letting go of the known and moving to an uncertain future. At the organizational level, the resistance can also come from the habit of following common procedures and the consideration of sunk cost invested in the status quo. Political resistance can arise when organizational changes threaten powerful stakeholders, such as top executives or staff personnel, or call into question the past decisions of leaders. Organizational change often implies a different allocation of already scarce resources, such as capital, training budgets and talented people. Finally, cultural resistance can occur and take the form of systems and procedures that reinforce the status quo, promoting conformity to existing values, norms, and assumptions about how things should be done. There are at least three major strategies for positively dealing with resistance to organizational change:

  • Empathy and support – for people directly impacted by the change
  • Communication – the reasons for the change (current state, obstacle’s and future state)
  • Participation and involvement of people directly impacted by the change

Organizational change is inevitable and must be embraced for organizations to attract and develop top talent, compete for market share and deliver world-class products and service to its customers. It is essential that organizations develop and sustain a culture that effectively communicates the reasons for the change and enlist people in its vision. Strategies must be developed and executed to deal with individual and organizational resistances to change.

Written by Executive Strategic Partner, Charles Parnell

1 Comment

  • Well said. I have found that allowing a timed grumbling period after communicating the need for change and the reasons for it, reduces the length of the resistance/shock. If this is followed by the pragmatic “This is what is required, we know how to do this, whining won’t help, so let’s get to figuring out how to make it successful” kind of speech, the participants almost always get on board with a minimum of further fussing.

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