The concept of organisational change usually refers to large scale organisation-wide change as opposed to smaller changes such as modifying a programme. These change efforts may include restructuring, layoffs, mergers, new technologies, “rightsizing” or anything that designates a radical reorientation in the way the organisation operates. Typically, organisations undertake organisation–wide change to evolve to a different level in their lifecycle, e.g., going from a highly reactive, entrepreneurial organisation to more stable planned development.
However, change is often provoked by some major outside driving force, e.g. substantial cuts in funding, new markets, need for dramatic increases in productivity. A new CEO, can provoke organisation-wide change when his or her new unique personality pervades the entire organisation. However effective change is usually difficult to accomplish.
There are often strong resistances to change. People are afraid of the unknown and giving up what they perceive to be a comfortable safe situation. Many don’t understand the need for change or are cynical about change, having been through unsuccessful attempts in the past. Change efforts often go against the values and beliefs of employees about how things should be done, which is why organisational-change literature promotes the need for change in the culture of the organisation, which includes changes in individuals beliefs and the way they enact these beliefs.
So how is Organisation wide change best carried out?
Successful change needs the involvement of top management, including the board or CEO. There is usually a visionary, persuasive and consistent champion, who instigates change. A change agent is usually responsible to translate the vision into a realistic plan and co-ordinate the implementation of the plan. Selecting an external consultant for this role is often the most effective as they are removed from the internal politics of an organisation.
However the change needs to be a team effort, and communications about the change should be frequent, with structural change including policies, plans and procedures, needing to be modified for the organisation itself to sustain the change.
What is interesting to note is that the people who initiate the change, often land up becoming the most resistant to some of the change processes, as it exposes some of their weaknesses as managers and places them in a defensive stance.
The best approaches then to address resistances, is through increased and sustained communication and education. Weaknesses in individual’s competencies or organisational structures that are identified should be seen as challenges to overcome, and managers should model their willingness to adapt or improve their skills as needed for successful change.