Managing Change

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Managing Organizational Change

By: Joanne Mowat, The Herridge Group {Insert Date}

Managing Organizational Change

Abstract As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus (525 – 475BC) pointed out: change alone is unchanging. Nowhere is this more true than in corporate North America. Globalization; quantum leaps in technology; mergers and acquisitions; shifting markets and client demands; and, significant changes in the workforce make changing to survive a strategic imperative. All organizations need to have a greater reach, be in more places, be aware of regional and cultural differences, and integrate coherent strategies for different markets and communities. (Kanter, 1999) Failure to change, to change rapidly enough, or to make the right changes, has turned corporate giants into subsidiaries, seemingly overnight.

With change having been a constant for over 2500 years, why are businesses still so bad at managing it? Why do so many change initiatives wither and die leaving only confusion and mangled processes in their wake?

This paper explores some of the reasons corporate change programs fail and offers some ideas as to how a corporation can institutionalize change to become a constantly evolving success story.

09/03/2002

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Managing Organizational Change

Why Organizations Change Organizational change (change at the enterprise-wide level) is provoked by a major outside driving force that will cause an evolution to the next level in the corporate life cycle. (McNamara, 2001) In broad terms, either inspiration or desperation in the face of globalization, consolidation, technology, or legislation force an organization to change in order to survive. It is rare for a business to carefully plan and execute organizational change before an external or fiscal reality forces the change. Change is hard work and it is almost always reactive. What can be proactive is how an organization deals with a change situation and how the organization prepares itself to identify and integrate change on an ongoing basis.

Enterprise-wide change is undertaken as a matter of survival. It is not an option and it is not a whim. Change carries high costs in terms of human and physical resources, share prices, stakeholder insecurity, customer dissatisfaction, receivables and cash flow. “The reality is often a painful period of change, during which resistance is high, morale is low, productivity is falling, and confusion is rampant.” (Calvello & Seamon, 1995) No organization undertakes this lightly. So, the question is, if the cause is just, the need is clear, the alternatives evaluated, and the path to success communicated so that anyone in the organization can see that the change is not optional but essential, why does the change fail? The answer, “Just being right isn’t enough: you have to win the hearts and minds of the people who will make the change happen.” (Marsh, 09/03/2002 3

Managing Organizational Change

2001) There is no disembodied organization that can be changed. Only the people within an organization can make planned change a reality by changing their behaviours and the ways they relate to one another.

Why Change Meets with Resistance Implementing change in an organization forces people to alter how they relate to one another. Not only do their goals, processes, equipment, and reality change but the very way they deal with others in the organization changes. This causes anxiety and anxiety causes resistance. “only people who instigate change enjoy it; other have to suffer it.” (Marsh, 2001)

People trust the familiar and stick with strategies and behaviours, which have been successful for them in the past. When the situation changes they will keep applying these now inappropriate and ineffective behaviours and wonder why they no longer work. In contrast, management is “convinced that once change is fully established, the employees will automatically recognize its worth and choose to embrace it.” (Gingerella,...
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