There are many things that force change in an organization such as the nature of the workforce, technology, competition, economic forces, social trends, and world politics.
Organizations often face change that is unexpected and sudden but it can also be a purposeful decision that organizations undertake. There are ways to foster an environment that is able to adapt and change with the demands of the marketplace. Planned change is engaging in activities that are proactive and purposeful to improve the ability of the organization to handle change and to change employee behavior. Through this process change agents, those acting as leaders in the change process, are essential for successfully achieving the desired change.
Whenever change is present, there is resistance to change. Individuals and groups become comfortable with things that are familiar, and change threatens the status quo. There are different ways that change is resisted by employees. It can be overt and immediate where complaints are voiced and people will fail to engage in job actions or perform negative actions that hinder productivity. It can also be implicit and deferred when employees lose their loyalty and their motivation. As the resistance is deferred, it becomes more difficult to find the link between the source and the reaction.
There are many sources of resistance to change, as seen in the visual in this slide. It can take the form of individual resistance, such as fear of the unknown or security issues or organizational resistance such as threat to expertise, structural inertia, or limited focus of change.
When managers face resistance to change there are some useful tactics they can utilize to help people overcome it. These tactics include education and communication, getting people to participate in the process, and building support and commitment. It can also include being sure to implement the change fairly by applying a consistent and fair process, using manipulation and cooptation to spin the message to gain cooperation or selecting people from the beginning who are more willing to accept change. Finally, a manager can resort to coercion, using direct threats and force to make people change. This is not often a good option.
Change includes many political factors as the impetus for change is likely to come from outside those who are responsible for making the change happen. This can threaten those change agents within the organization and force them to implement incremental but not radical change. Embedded in the change dynamics will be the issue of power. Power struggles will have results that determine the speed and quality of change.
Lewin offers a three-step model to help facilitate the change process. He sets forth that change efforts need to “unfreeze” individual resistance and group conformity to help them move forward and then you need to refreeze the changes by balancing driving and restraining forces. This will help to move people through the change process and solidify the desired behaviors/outcomes moving forward.
In the unfreezing stage Lewin identifies driving and restraining forces. Driving forces are those that direct behavior away from the status quo. Restraining forces are those that hinder movement from the existing equilibrium.
Kotter also offers a model to look at change that builds on the initial ideas of Lewin. He sets forth the following eight steps: Establish a sense of urgency Form a coalition Create a new vision Communicate the vision Empower others by removing barriers Create and reward short-term “wins” Consolidate, reassess, and adjust Reinforce the changes
Action research is another theory about change that says that the change process is based on a systematic collection of data and then selection of a change action based on what the data tells you. The process would be to diagnose the situation, analyze the data, obtain feedback from the data, take action, and then evaluate. The benefits of this approach is that it focuses on the problem instead of jumping to the solution and it also gets employees involved, thereby reducing their resistance to change.
Organizational development is an area of study that is set up to determine what an organization needs to improve their effectiveness and employee well being. Some organizational development values include respect for people, trust and support, power equalization, confrontation, and participation.
There are six commonly used organizational development techniques. The first is sensitivity training that sets up groups that seek to change behavior through unstructured group interaction by providing an environment of increased awareness of others and of themselves. This increases their empathy, listening skills, openness, and tolerance for others. The second technique is the survey feedback approach where the organization will use a questionnaire to identify discrepancies among member perceptions and then follow up with discussions and plans for improvement. Process consultation is the third technique. In this technique there is a consultant involved who gives the clients some insights into what is happening in the organization and helps to identify a process for improvement.
The fourth technique is engaging in team building tools to increase trust and openness through increased interactions. Intergroup development is an organizational development tool that attempts to change the attitudes, stereotypes, and perceptions that groups may have of each other. Finally, the sixth commonly used technique is appreciative inquiry. This process seeks to identify the unique qualities and special strengths of an organization which they then use to build on to improve performance through a process. This process includes discovery (identifying the strengths of the organization), dreaming (speculating on the future of the organization), designing (finding a common vision), and destiny (deciding how to fulfill the dream).
Many organizations attempt to create a culture for change through encouraging innovation. There are many sources of innovation or the process of coming up with a new idea that helps to improve a current process, product or service. Innovation can occur through structural variables, long-tenured management, limitation in resources, or increased communication between units. For innovation to occur, there needs to be an idea champion who actively promotes the innovation.
Learning is another key component of creating a culture for change. A learning organization is one that has developed the continuous capacity to adapt and change. Learning organizations share some common characteristics such as sharing the same vision, getting rid of old ways of thinking, viewing the organization as a system of relationships, open communication, and working together to achieve a shared vision.
To create a learning organization, managers must overcome some traditional organizational problems such as fragmentation, competition, and reactiveness. Learning can be managed by establishing a strategy that everybody understands and can buy into. Redesigning the organization’s structure to increase communication and interactions and reshaping the organization’s culture to reward risk-taking and good mistakes will help to increase the effectiveness of the learning initiatives.
When change occurs stress is found throughout the organization. Stress is defined as a dynamic condition in which an individual is confronted with an opportunity, constraint, or demand related to what he or she desires and for which the outcome is perceived to be both uncertain and important. There are different types of stress. There is challenge stress which is stress associated with workload, pressure to get work done, and time constraints. Hindrance stressors are those things that keep you from reaching your goals such as uncooperative employees or red tape. This can cause more stress than challenge stress often does.
There is a model that contrasts demands and resources. If there are high demands and the resources to meet those demands, stress is limited. However, if demands are high and the resources are not available to meet the demands, then stress is high.
This graph shows the potential sources of stress, the individual differences that influence how we process stress, and the possible consequences.
There are a number of sources of stress. There are environmental factors that include economic uncertainties of the business cycle as we have seen recently, political uncertainties and technological changes that cause uncertainties. There are also organizational factors that cause stress such as task demands, role demands, and interpersonal demands. Finally, there are personal factors that can cause stress such as personal relationships, economic problems, and personality issues.
Stress also has consequences for the individual experiencing stress. These can include physiological factors such as blood pressure, headaches, and strokes. Psychological factors are also a result of stress including dissatisfaction, tension, and boredom. These outcomes are most prevalent when roles are unclear. Finally, there can also be behavioral consequences such as change in job behaviors, an increase in drinking and smoking, change in eating habits, and sleep disorders.
However, not all stress is bad. It has been suggested that as stress rises to a healthy level, productivity can increase. There needs to be a healthy balance as too much or too little stress will reduce performance as seen in the graph above.
Stress needs to be managed and maintained at a healthy level. Individuals often manage stress through time management techniques, physical exercise or expanding their social support network. Organizations can also help employees manage stress by providing training, realistic goal setting, solid designing of jobs, offering employee sabbaticals, and establishing a wellness program.
Organizational change will vary in different cultures depending on the people’s view of the possibility of change and their time orientation . Also, some cultures have strong traditions and this will create a higher resistance to change. The concept of power distance will impact how change is implemented as well as who is the best idea champion for leading the change. Stress also varies by cultures as different issues will cause stress in different cultures. However, stress is bad for everyone no matter which culture they belong to. Also, across cultures having a good support system of family and friends can reduce stress.
In summary, all organizations will go through change and managers are best set up to be the change agents to modify culture. Stress is a natural result of change but it has both positive and negative implications for employees so it is important to find ways to help balance stress through both individual and organizational methods to maximize performance and minimize job dissatisfaction.