Organisational change occurs when a company makes a transition from its existing state to some desired future state. Managing organisational change is the process of planning and implementing change in organisations in such a way as to minimise employee resistance and cost to the organisation, while also maximising the change effort’s effectiveness.

Today’s business environment requires companies to undergo changes almost constantly if they are to remain competitive. Factors such as globalisation of markets and rapidly evolving technology force businesses to respond in order to survive. Such changes may be relatively minor as in the case of installing a new software programme, or quite major as in the case of refocusing on overall marketing strategy.

Planning, implementing and managing change in a fast-changing environment is increasingly the situation in which most organisations now work. Dynamic environments such as these require dynamic processes, people, systems and culture especially for managing change successfully; notably effectively optimising organisational response to market opportunities and threats.

Organisational change initiatives often arise out of problems faced by a company. In some cases, however, companies need to change for other, more positive reasons. Change commonly occurs because the organisation experiences some difficulty, but sometimes the most constructive change takes place not because of problems but because of opportunities.

The recognition of a performance-gap often provides the impetus for change as companies strive to improve their performance to expected levels. This sort of gap is also where many entrepreneurs find opportunities to begin new businesses.

Change management entails thoughtful planning, sensitive implementation and, above all, consultation with and involvement of the people affected by the changes. If you force change on people, normally problems will arise. Change must be realistic, achievable and measurable. These aspects are especially relevant to managing personal change.

Before starting organisational change, ask yourself: What do we want to achieve with this change; why; and how will we know that the change has been achieved? Who is affected by this change, and how will they react to it? How much of this change can we achieve ourselves, and what parts of the change do we need help with?

Who takes responsibility for Change Management?

The employee does not have a responsibility to manage change — the employee’s responsibility is no other than to do their best, which is different for every person and depends on a wide variety of factors (health, maturity, stability, experience, personality, motivation, etc).

Responsibility for managing change lies with management and executives of the organisation — they must manage the change in such a way that employees can cope with it.

The manager has a responsibility to facilitate and enable change, and all that is implied within that statement. Especially so to understand the situation from an objective standpoint (to ‘step back’, and be non-judgmental), and then to help people understand reasons, aims and ways of responding positively according to employees’ individual situations and capabilities.

Increasingly, the manager’s role is to interpret, communicate and enable — not to instruct and impose, which nobody really responds well to.

Resistance to Change

A manager trying to implement a change, no matter how small, should expect to encounter some resistance from within the organisation.

Resistance to change is a normal reaction from people who have become accustomed to a certain way of doing things. Of course, certain situations or tactics can increase resistance.

Individuals, groups, and organisations must be motivated to change. But if people perceive no performance gap, or if they consider the gap unimportant, they will not have this motivation.

Moreover, they will resist changes that others try to introduce:

Inertia, or the tendency of people to become comfortable with the status quo; timing, as when change efforts are introduced at a time when workers are busy or have a bad relationship with management; surprise, because people’s reflex is to resist when they must deal with a sudden, radical change; or peer-pressure, which may cause a group to resist due to anti-management feelings even if individual members do not oppose the change.

Perception: Resistance can also grow out of people’s perceptions of how the change will affect them personally. They may resist because they fear that they will lose their job or status, because they do not understand the purpose of the change — or simply because they have a different perspective on the change than management.

Avoiding Change Resistance

Fortunately, there are a number of steps such as the following that managers can take to help overcome resistance to change.

Do not ‘sell’/impose change to people as a way of accelerating ‘agreement’ and implementation. ‘Selling’ change to people is not a sustainable strategy for success — unless your aim is to be bitten on the bum at some time in the future when you least expect it.

There must be an agreement

Check that people to be affected by the change agree with, or at least understand, the need for change — and have a chance to decide how the change will be managed, and to be involved in the planning and implementation of the change.

Inform and Educate Employees can be informed about both the nature of the change and the logic behind it before it takes place through reports, memos, group presentations, or individual discussions.

Use face-to-face communications to handle sensitive aspects of organisational change. Encourage your managers to communicate face-to-face with their people too, if they are helping you manage an organisational change. Email and written notices are extremely weak at conveying and developing understanding. Hiding behind memos and middle managers will make matters worse.

Consulting with people, and helping them to understand does not weaken your position — it strengthens it. Leaders who fail to consult and involve their people in managing bad news are perceived as weak and lacking in integrity. Treat your employees with humanity and respect and they will reciprocate.

Employee Participation Another important component of overcoming resistance is inviting employee participation and involvement in both the design and implementation phases of the change effort. People who are involved in decisions understand them better and are more committed to them.

Involving and informing people also creates opportunities for others to participate in planning and implementing the changes, which lightens your burden, spreads the organisational load, and creates a sense of ownership and familiarity among the people affected.

Facilitation and Support

Managers should be sure to provide employees with the resources they need to make the change, be supportive of their efforts, listen to their problems with empathy, and accept what it would cause them — like an initial drop in performance level.

Negotiation and Rewards Some companies manage to overcome resistance to change by offering employees concrete incentives to ensure their cooperation. Other companies resort to manipulation, or using subtle tactics such as giving a resistance leader a prominent position in the change effort.

A final option is coercion, which involves punishing people who resist or using force to ensure their cooperation. Although this method can be useful when speed is of the essence, it can have lingering negative effects on the company.

Therefore, to effectively manage change you need to be familiar with the various approaches and be capable of flexibly applying them according to the situation.

How to Effectively Implement Change

Managing change effectively requires moving the organisation from its current state to a future desired state at minimal cost to the organisation. The most common reason that change efforts fail is that they encounter resistance from employees. Change appears threatening to many people, which makes it difficult gaining their support and commitment to implementing changes.

Consequently, the ability to manage change effectively is a highly sought-after skill in managers. Companies need people who can contribute positively to their inevitable change efforts. Change needs to be understood and managed in a way that people can cope effectively with. Three steps managers can follow in implementing organisational change are:

1. Diagnose the current state of the organisation.

This involves identifying problems the company faces, and opportunities — assigning a level of importance to each one, and assessing the kinds of change needed to solve the problems.

2. Design the desired future state of the organisation. This involves picturing the ideal situation for the company after the change is implemented, conveying this vision clearly to everyone involved in the change effort, and designing a means of transition to the new state.

An important part of the transition should be maintaining some sort of stability; something like the company’s over-all mission, or key personnel should remain constant in the midst of turmoil to help reduce people’s anxiety.

3. Implement the change. This involves managing the transition effectively. It might be helpful to draw up a plan, allocate resources, and appoint a key person to take charge of the change process.

The company’s leaders should try to generate enthusiasm for the change by sharing their goals and vision and acting as role-models. In some cases, it may be useful to try for small victories first in order to pave the way for later successes.

Successfully changing an enterprise requires wisdom, prescience, energy, persistence, communication, education, training, resources, patience, timing, and the right incentives; successfully leading and managing change is and will continue to be a front-burner responsibility for executives. Prospects are grim for enterprises that either cannot or will not change. Indeed, no industry-member is quite so welcome as the one that steadfastly refuses to keep up.

However, you cannot impose change — people and teams need to be empowered to find their own solutions and responses, with facilitation and support from managers, and tolerance and compassion from the leaders and executives. Management and leadership style and behaviour are more important than clever process and policy.

Employees need to be able to trust the organisation. Senior managers and directors responsible for managing organisational change do not, as a rule, fear change — they generally thrive on it. So, remember that your people do not relish change, they find it deeply disturbing and threatening. Your people’s fear of change is as great as your own fear of failure. Be mindful that the chief insecurity of most staff is change itself.

Contact NewMax for more about how we can help you on this topic.



By Prince Wilson Attipoe

Business Consultant


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