Many thanks to one of our latest members, Jonathon, who mentioned a topic that seems to be gaining an increasing amount of focus in the L&D/OD community and reminded me of an interesting article I found very recently via Google News on news-journal.com. The article discusses the extreme importance of properly managing change and, of course, from an L&D perspective, it begs the obvious question of ‘are the organisation’s leaders appropriately trained to insure that the change goals are achieved?’.
Is Change Management a current focus of you/your organisation? If so, I’m keen to hear your thoughts.
Here’s the article by the way…
Mays: Mindfully managing change
News-Journal.com, Sunday, September 18, 2011 4:00 am
Change is in the air — finally! At least we all hope so. I am so ready for some rain and cooler temperatures, aren’t you?
Unlike this summer’s weather pattern, change is almost always in the air in business and organizations. Change is coming at us fast and furious. Consider one of the top news stories in recent weeks: Steve Jobs resigns as CEO of Apple.
What changes do you think are in store for that company? For that matter, consider almost any news headline and you will probably see a situation requiring change.
Understanding organizational change and leading a business through change is one of the most important, maybe the most important, managerial responsibility in today’s business environment. So, let’s look at some of those dynamics of change.
Kurt Lewin, social psychology pioneer, developed an interesting, useful tool called “force field analysis.” The idea is that when an organization is in the process of moving from point A to point B, there are driving forces and resisting forces. The driving forces, which often come from the outside, contribute to the change and push the organization along.
The resisting forces, which are often internal, hinder that process and attempt to keep the organization where it is. Simply put – the driving forces must overcome the resisting forces. Easy enough to understand, but not so easy to manage well.
Consider the following examples: installing a new accounting system, transitioning to new leadership, developing a new product line, moving the company headquarters. In all of these cases, some driving forces are at work.
Perhaps customers prefer or demand something different, competitors are getting ahead in some way, a former leader retires, the government passes legislation that affects your industry, an earthquake or hurricane occurs near your manufacturing plant.
The list could go on an on. It is simply a fact that external factors drive, even force, organizations to consider change. As soon as those factors hit, resistance stands ready.
Resistance typically comes from the inside of the organization – from the people, the systems, the culture, the way we’ve always done it. Resistance can be very powerful – even more powerful than the drivers.
That’s where good, effective change management comes in. The manager must pay attention to those drivers and decide when, where, and how to respond to them. Often the manager may need to create some internal drivers (motivation, incentives, persuasion) to help move the organization past resistance to the new place.
Some say, “The only thing constant is change.” Actually, the constant we can count on are the continual drivers for change. Ultimately, the change that occurs depends on the strength and type of resistance and the management of the change process. It also depends on the manager making sure the change “sticks.”
Kurt Lewin’s “unfreeze, change, refreeze” sequence highlights the manager’s leadership role in organizational development. When those drivers hit, an unfreezing occurs which shakes things up and unsettles the status quo.
Effective change has a window of opportunity there to implement good, positive organizational changes that carry the business successfully into the next day, month and years. Managers must manage that process and follow-up by refreezing the preferred behaviors and patterns in order to secure the new normal.
What changes are your organization facing? Or more precisely, what drivers of change are beating on your door? Your company may be faced with a change in top leadership, such as Apple. Or your drivers may be quite different from Apple’s right now.
Consider them and respond carefully. Lead your organization through the process: unfreeze, change, refreeze. Maneuver the change waters well and find your organization ready to meet the challenges of tomorrow.
— Dr. Kathleen Mays is assistant professor of management at East Texas Baptist University. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org