Strategic and Tactical Considerations of Change

Learning Objectives

The learning objectives of this chapter are:

  • • The Benefits of Change within an Organization
  • • Transformational Strategies
  • • Focus on Quality Strategy
  • • Search Conferences Strategy
  • • Lead-Lag Strategy
  • • Bottom-Up or Top-Down Strategy
  • • Experimentation Strategy
  • • Interpersonal Skills
  • • Two Change Models for Consideration
  • • Matrix of Change
  • • Plan-Do-Check-Act Model

Benefits of Change

The benefits of change are considerable, with impacts occurring at both the organizational and individual levels. Any organization seeking to maintain a competitive edge must change to benefit from technological advances, market adjustments, and customer interests. When an improvement in the design or manufacturing process of a product prompts a change, there is a competitive need to change. If a new supplier offers a resource at a lower price, the logical result is a change in the supplier. If a resource component becomes unavailable, there might be an opportunity for a change into a new market or product.

Organizational changes allow people throughout the company to make new contacts and learn new skills. Change creates an opportunity for a new mindset within the organization; change requires a change in people. Leaders that support change initiatives foster dynamic flexibility in the workforce. The more practice people have with accepting and operating in a changing environment, the more capable they are of producing positive results. Change is not necessarily a bad thing - it depends on the point of view. For instance, when an organization looks to downsize or right size because of market fluctuations reducing the need to produce at the current level, there is often a great deal of stress. The workers know that people are likely to receive separation notices. Forward-thinking organizations seek to limit the loss of people. The loss of valuable skills, institutional knowledge, and loyalty can dramatically impact an organization. That is stressful and a negative change, but reducing the employee count might be the best thing for the organization. Outplacement services are often provided to help separated employees find new positions.

There are positive examples of change initiatives that can transform an organization. A simple change to how an organization processes financial statements can save substantial amounts of money and natural resources - look at paperless bank statements. Changing the dress code of an organization has a direct impact on the culture - many people love wearing business casual, and they are happier for the change. Consider the value of using electronic conferencing applications like Skype and WebEx to the organizational bottom line - vast amounts of travel money are saved each year. These change examples were transformational because of the broad impact on an organization.

Change Management Intervention

Coughlan and Rashford (2006) identified three critical processes for change to occur: first is the perception of the change, second is the assessment of the impact, and third is the response to the change. These three processes are mostly a linear progression from perception through response and involve psychological interactions between the workers and those proposing the change (Coughlan & Rashford, 2006). The perception of the change involves the individual, the lower-level group or team, and the organization as a whole. The perception of the change elements involves the meaning of the change as noted by the various levels and concerns, the degree of control by those affected by the change (organizational members), and finally, the degree of trust the organizational members have in those proposing the change (Coughlan & Rashford, 2006).

The assessment of the impact is predicated on the perception of the change. If the workers consider the change to endanger their job or any jobs, the change will likely be viewed negatively - this is just natural. For a positive assessment to be formed by those affected, the perception must be positive, those impacted by the change have a reasonable amount of control over the process, and there must be trust between the workers and those proposing the change (Coughlan & Rashford, 2006).

After the assessment of the impact of the change, there is the impact of the change. Again, this is not a simple single event, but a range of possibilities from wholehearted support to absolute resistance to the change (Coughlan & Rashford, 2006). The perception and assessment may be additive because people often cumulatively view iterative events, and the impact of a change is a complex issue. Coughlan and Rashford (2006) note that traditional change theory is centered on Lewin's (1948) approach to addressing change as a process of "unfreezing" the established organizational practice, "moving" to a new practice, and then "refreezing" to establish a new practice approach for the organization. However, there are perceived limitations to Lewin's approach in that change is often fast- paced, complex in implementation, and dynamic in the fluid nature of nonlinearity change initiatives requiring a modification that reflects additional considerations (Coughlan & Rashford, 2006).

There are four psychological stages to change as developed by Coughlan and Rashford (2006) that involve "denying" the change, "dodging" involvement in the change, "doing" the activities of the change, and "sustaining" the change; these build on Lewin's model (1948) and offer a more modern approach to realizing the complex nature of change. All of these stages are widespread sense-oriented and address natural reactions to change possibilities. The denying stage is where organizational members avoid accepting that the change will involve or affect them; the dodging stage involves the passive-aggressive avoidance of becoming involved when the change becomes evident that it will take place; the doing stage involves actual involvement in the change initiative; and finally, the sustaining stage is the reinforcement of the reasons for change and the importance for involvement (Coughlan & Rashford, 2006).

All of these stages are related to communications issues resulting from a poor understanding of the people involved, poor planning for the difficulties associated with resistance to change, or a failure to recognize the necessity of clear and complete information dissemination to the organization. Issuing a partial message is often worse than issuing no message; the partial message allows people to focus on that scrap of information and try to fill in the missing information, often resulting in a wrong conclusion or the worse possible outcome.

It is also valuable to appreciate and understand the nature of complex organizations. There are levels of an organization that facilitate interaction and influence. The lowest level is the interpersonal or small group interaction that has a tremendous personal impact within the organization. The department level in the middle area of the organization and has broad influence over a defined group. The highest level is the organization and may involve multiple locations across different countries. Each level has a dynamic interface with the other levels of the organization. Also, each level is affected by resistance to change for different reasons. However, regardless of the reason, the resistance must be addressed if the change initiative succeeds.

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