Proactive and Reactive Change

Topics: Management, Change management, Organization Pages: 10 (3156 words) Published: December 6, 2011
Reactive vs. Proactive Change

Workplace change occurs rapidly and often in many businesses. This change may take place in order to respond to a new opportunity or to avoid a threat to the company. Regardless of the reason, change can be difficult for all involved; managers and employees face new challenges with change, and managers must learn to ease the difficulty of the transition. One of the major issues associated with managing change is reactive versus proactive responses to change. This entry will discuss proactive and reactive responses to change, the major models of organizational change, and the responsibilities of change managers with special emphasis on the roles of transitional management teams and change agents.

Proactive change involves actively attempting to make alterations to the work place and its practices. Companies that take a proactive approach to change are often trying to avoid a potential future threat or to capitalize on a potential future opportunity. Reactive change occurs when an organization makes changes in its practices after some threat or opportunity has already occurred. As an example of the difference, assume that a hotel executive learns about the increase in the number of Americans who want to travel with their pets. The hotel executive creates a plan to reserve certain rooms in many hotel locations for travelers with pets and to advertise this new amenity, even before travelers begin asking about such accommodations. This would be a proactive response to change because it was made in anticipation of customer demand. However, a reactive approach to change would occur if hotel executives had waited to enact such a change until many hotel managers had received repeated requests from guests to accommodate their pets and were denied rooms.

There are a number of theoretical models of change. Each attempts to describe the process through which organizations successfully alter their business practices, their organizational structure, or their organizational climate. The models of change which will be discusses in this section are summarized in Exhibit 1.

In the late 1940s social psychologist Kurt Lewin developed a three-step model for implementing change based on the concept of force field analysis. Force field analysis addresses the driving and resisting forces in a change situation. Driving forces must outweigh resisting forces in a situation if change is to occur. Thus, managers must be willing to advocate change strongly in order to overcome resistance from employees.

There are three steps in Lewin's model. The first step is "unfreezing," which involves dismantling those things that support or maintain the previous behavior. In an organization, these elements of the old could be the compensation system or the approach to performance management. In the second step, the organization "presents a new alternative." This means introducing a clear and appealing option for a new pattern of behavior. The final step in this model is "freezing" which requires that changed behavior be reinforced both formally and informally in the organization. It is in this step that managers can have a great amount of influence through their use of positive reinforcement.

|Model/Approach |SUMMARY | |Lewin's Three-step Model |Old activities must be unfrozen, a new concept introduced, then new activities must be | | |frozen | |Bullock and Batten's Planned Change |Exploration, planning, action, and integration | |Kotter's Eight Steps |Establish a sense of urgency, form a powerful guiding coalition, create a vision,...
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