Change Management Process Essay

Change Management Process

Introduction

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Although developing or choosing a model for change will undoubtedly assist change leaders in organizing resources and planning for the change, the key to success typically falls in the implementation or execution phase. This phenomenon is not unique to change management; it is seen in all kinds of activities. Although planning is a required step, it is not a sufficient step for success. At some point, the project has to be launched successfully, and this is where implementation excellence takes center stage (Burnes, 2006).

To begin the planning process, it would be of benefit to characterize the magnitude of the change (i.e., is it transformational, routine, or incremental in nature?). This is an important step in that the marshaling of resources to implement the change will be wholly different, depending upon the magnitude of change. If it is more of an incremental or routine change, one department manager or one functional area might be charged with addressing the change; if it is transformational, it will likely impact all stakeholders: definitely internal, and in many cases, external stakeholders as well. The following information assumes that a transformational change initiative is being implemented.

Steps for Effective Change

The first major step is for the senior management team to recognize that something is wrong. The following could be indicators:

  • Results are not being achieved.
  • Some new force external to the organization has arisen and threatens future successes.
  • A new competitor has come on the scene.
  • Major regulatory change is in the works from the government.

Next, given the importance of change efforts to the long-term success of an organization, particularly if it is transformational in nature, understanding why some change efforts fail is an instructive exercise. Kotter’s model for implementing change uses the following factors for evaluating successful change (Kotter, 2006):

  • Form a powerful guiding coalition.
  • Create the vision.
  • Communicate the vision.
  • Empower others to act on the vision.
  • Plan for and create short-term wins.
  • Consolidate improvements, and produce more change.
  • Institutionalize new approaches.

Conclusion

Although planning for a major change initiative is a key first step, the subsequent implementation is equally important, if not more important. There are certain, well-established dos and don’ts that any change leader or change team must learn if they are to avoid the errors that will lead to failure or suboptimal results.

References

Burnes, B. (2006). Kurt Lewin and the planned approach to change. In J. V. Gallos (Ed.), Organization development. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.

Kotter, J. (2006). Leading change: Why transformation efforts fail. In J. V. Gallos (Ed.), Organization development. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.

Forming Coalitions for Change

For change to have lasting success, marshaling of resources to implement the change will take a coalition of key players.

A frequent cause of major change effort failure is the inability or lack of success in forming a guiding coalition, or internal change team, to “make it happen” (Kotter, 2006). No senior manager can successfully implement a transformational change in every department, and have the time to sell the idea to every stakeholder all by him or herself. Even if there was time, the senior manager may not be the best suited to “talk the talk” to the employees deep in the organization. Compare this to the more effective method of enlisting a cross-functional team of individuals, each highly respected throughout the organization, to disseminate the change. Common errors in this regard would include selecting “technical experts” who possess poor or inadequate interpersonal skills. The ideal member of the coalition would possess both sets of skills, although interpersonal skills would supersede technical skills in rank order of importance.

Other common errors would be if any of these coalition members did the following:

  • If they had their own agenda
  • If they are at odds with the change initiative goals
  • If they disagree with the senior executives’ espoused culture
  • If they simply are not in synch with the rest of the change coalition

Reference

Kotter, J. (2006). Leading change: Why transformation efforts fail. Organizational development. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.

Successful Visions of Change

Once a powerful guiding coalition is working, creating and communicating the change vision is vital. Empowering others (besides the coalition), to act on the vision will also determine successful change.

Creating the Vision

This is a responsibility of the senior manager; it serves as a rallying cry or image of the desired future state. It acts as an easy-to-remember slogan to guide stakeholders’ actions and decision making. Creating a new vision is no small thing. The senior manager must recognize that transformational change will encompass many stakeholders and is intended as a compass to provide clear, unambiguous direction. Frequent rudder changes will not work. Much thought must therefore be given to the vision before finalizing a vision statement. The senior manager or executive team may take weeks or months to formulate this “new state of affairs,” into a concise statement or slogan. Common errors here are making the vision into a page-long statement or making the vision too ambiguous. It should be crafted with the intent of not changing it every year (Kotter, 2006).

Communicating the Vision

Without employees knowing where the end goal is, it is hard to get their buy-in and understanding of each of their roles. Most people prefer to know where they are headed well before they get there. It reduces the unknown and therefore, the resistance to change if the destination is clearly understood. Even if all stakeholders may not fully agree with the vision or destination, simply knowing what it is deems it important for success. Major change efforts may fail if this vision is not crystal clear and communicated to all employees. There needs to be no ambiguity in terms of its meaning. One famous vision that led to a major transformational change effort in the auto industry was “Quality is Job 1,” which is very unambiguous. It gave clear direction to all stakeholders that a quality product superseded production output or profit goals (Kotter, 2006).

Empowering Others to Act on the Vision

As in the communication step, empowerment (not only of the coalition of the change management team, but for all employees) must be allowed to happen. The senior managers cannot be expected to be involved in the endless daily decision-making activities that may now take on a new set of decision-making criteria. The worst scenario that can happen during a major change effort is for the senior team to not “walk the walk” and model the new behavior. Coinciding with this is the need to let others in the organization try out the new vision, although they may make mistakes in the new way of thinking. The employees have at least been empowered to try it out, like when a youngster learns to ride a bike for the first time (Kotter, 2006).

Reference

Kotter, J. (2006). Leading change: why transformation efforts fail. Organizational development. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.

Successful Wins and Solidifying Change

Once an organization has been empowered to affect change, incremental successes throughout the organization will solidify the change.

Planning for and Creating Short-Term Wins

No matter how good of a job a change leader or change team has done to reduce or minimize resistance to change, it will almost always still be present to some degree. Opposition is waiting in the wings, to pounce on the change effort the moment something goes wrong. If results get worse instead of better, the psyche of the organization may immediately increase in its resistance to the change on a short-term basis. The mindset of stakeholders may then be “We went through a lot of effort and change, and it didn’t work.” If this were to happen, the change leader’s job would be akin to trying to roll the snowball uphill, against the tide. Precisely for this reason, the change leader should pick a segment of the organization where a portion of the change effort can be tried out or test driven. This is exactly like a pilot run or Beta test of a new product. It allows the management to fine-tune its communication and its implementation steps. A possible exception to this is when the transformational change is of the organization’s actual corporate culture. This is the type of change where it is difficult to be half on board. For example, asking managers in one half of the organization to change from theory X to theory Y management style is simply impractical.

Consolidating Improvement and Institutionalizing New Approaches

As soon as successes begin to be seen as a result of the change effort—similar to an army securing a beachhead—the gains must be solidified. Like the invasion of an army, more permanent structures must be erected in the way of standard operating procedures (SOPs). Additionally, those who have supported and led the change effort should be publicly supported, recognized, and even promoted. Conversely, those intransigents (particularly in the management ranks) must be counseled, not promoted, and in some cases transferred out of management or even terminated. Failure to do this sends the wrong impression to the whole organization in that continuing to do it the old way is still acceptable. The most visible and immediate signal of this to the organization is who gets rewarded and who does not. This step is equivalent to Lewin’s refreezing step in his model (Burnes, 2006).

Reference

Burnes, B. (2006). Kurt Lewin and the planned approach to change. In J.V. Gallos (Ed.), Organizational development. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.

Quality Training Manual Creation

Who should create it?

  • The organization’s quality manager or department should know the tools and required training method to help train all employees.
  • As the manual is being authored and compiled, the need for stakeholder “buy-in” must be kept paramount.

Rationale:

  • Difficulty reading or understanding procedures will only increase resistance to adoption by all of the stakeholders.
  • Increased resistance to adoption will occur if each stakeholder group has not been consulted on how the manual is constructed, particularly if new or changed departmental procedures are required.

How to create it?

The department-to-department tactics should be created with input from each department, with technical oversight supplied by the quality professional.

  • This is not a 1-hour or 1-day exercise, but more likely will take weeks or months.
  • Manual creation should be created in a loose-leaf allowing for easy additions, deletions, or updating of sections.
  • Use of a section-by-section numbering system should be the very first step in the creation of the actual manual.

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