Understanding the process of change requires careful consideration of the steps in the change process, employee resistance to change and how this resistance can be overcome.
The management of change requires the use of some systematic process that can be divided into a few stages or sub-processes. This is the essence of the most representative model of managing change. It emphasises the role of the change agent who is an outsider, taking a leadership role in initiating and introducing the process of change.
The process of change must involve the following so as to lead to organisational effectiveness. Firstly, there is a re-distribution of power within the organisational structure. Secondly, this redistribution emanates from a developmental change process.
Phases of the Change Process:
Fig. indicates that the process of change has to pass through six different phases:
- Internal pressure:
The process of change begins as soon as top management starts feeling a need of pressure for change from within the enterprise. This is usually caused by some significant problem(s) such as sharp drop in sales (profits), serious labour trouble, and/or high labour turnover.
- Intervention and reorientation:
An external agent is often invited to suggest a definition of the problem and start the process of getting organisation people to focus on it. If internal staff people are competent enough and can be trusted they can also manage the process of change equally well.
- Diagnosis and recognition of problem(s):
The change agent and manager start gathering necessary information and analyse it so as to recognise the more important problems and give attention to these.
- Invention of and commitment to solutions:
It is important for the agent to stimulate thought and try to avoid using the ‘same old methods’. Solutions are searched out by creatively developing new and plausible alternatives. If subordinates are encouraged to participate in the process, they will develop a sense of involvement and are likely to be more committed to the course of action finally chosen.
- Experimentation and search for results:
The solutions developed in phase 4 are normally put to tests on a small-scale (e.g., in pilot programmes) and the results, analysed. If the solution is successful in one unit, or a certain part of a unit, it may be tried in the organisation as a whole.
- Reinforcement and acceptance:
If the course of action is found desirable (after being properly tested), it should be accepted voluntarily by organisation members. Improved performance should be the source of reinforcement and thus should lead to a commitment to the change.
6. Resistance to Organisational Change:
In planning for change, managers must also take into account the various reasons for which people may resist the change, regardless of how ‘necessary’ it may appear to be.
The following four reasons explain why people resist change:
Perhaps the main reason of employee resistance to change is uncertainty. In the face of impending change, employees are likely to become anxious and feel nervous. Diverse feelings among workers may lead to substantial resistance force to change. For example, they may worry about their ability to meet the new job demands, they may think their job security is threatened, or they may simply dislike ambiguity.
Secondly, many impending changes threaten the self-interests of a particular manager or unit. So, he may resist such change.
(iii) Different Perceptions:
It is often observed that a manager recommends a plan for change on the basis of his (her) own assessment of a situation. His peers and subordinates may resist this change because they do not agree with the manager’s assessment or simply perceive the situation differently.
(iv) Feelings of Loss:
Finally, organisational people often resist change simply because of feelings of loss. Many changes involve altering work arrangements, which may disrupt existing social networks. Since social relationships are important to most people, they will resist any change that might adversely affect those relationships. Other intangibles that are threatened by change include power, status, security, familiarity with existing procedures and self-confidence.
7. Overcoming Resistance to Organisational Change:
A manager should not consider himself helpless in the face of resistance to change. Instead he should adopt one of the several strategies available for overcoming it. In fact, various useful strategies have been applied to overcome any type of employee resistance to organisational change.
Perhaps the most general and, of course, effective technique for overcoming resistance to change is employee participation. By participating in planning and implementing a change the employees are better able to understand the reasons for the change.
Through participation it is possible to reduce uncertainty and project self-interests and social relationship. If employees get an opportunity to express their own ideas and to assume the perspectives of others, such employees are more likely to accept the change gracefully.
(ii) Education and Communication:
Another way of overcoming resistance to change is employee education which is likely to broaden their horizons. This is very important, as most workers have a myopic vision about the organisation to which they belong.
As John French has commented:
“Educating employees about the need for and the expected results of an impending change should reduce their resistance. And, if open channels of communication are established and maintained during the change process, uncertainty can be minimised”.
Change may be slow and gradual or fast and rapid. The recent history of leading corporations indicates that introducing the change gradually can work wonders.
Making only necessary changes, announcing these changes well in advance, and allowing time for people to new ways of doing things are three surest ways of reducing resistance to change.
(iv) Force-Field Analysis:
Force-field analysis can also help overcome resistance to change. Fig. 15.6 shows how force-field analysis relates to the change process. In any change process, there are forces acting for, and for acting against, the change. To facilitate the change, the manager has to strike a balance so that positive forces (i.e., forces working for change) outweigh the negative ones (i.e., forces working against change) such as employee resistance.
It is very important to try to remove or at least minimise forces acting against the change. If a primary force pushing against the change is fear that a new work procedure will break up an existing work group, the manager should try his best to find ways of keeping the group together. If such a solution can be found, one force acting against the change has been eliminated, and this will tip the balance in favour of the change.