Setting the Stage for Organizational Change – the Human Element
Change is necessary for a business’ growth and survival. As a company grows, independently working teams and flatter management systems may have to be employed. Sometimes, change is needed to respond to external factors such as shifting consumer needs or emerging technologies.
Implementing any sort of big change requires preparation. Both individual and organizational goals need to be clearly outlined to structure the transformation better. Resources must be assessed, taking into account peoples’ capabilities as well as their mindsets. This will help while assigning roles and delegating tasks. Most importantly, people should be brought on board with what’s about to happen, and when the change is explained, they should be able to voice their concerns.
Once the process has started, many may not feel comfortable and several obstacles could arise. Change is disruption, but if planned and managed well, the benefits seriously outweigh the disadvantages.
The Change Curve
For an organization to change, the individuals in it must adapt to new structures and processes. The Kübler-Ross Change Curve™ is used to understand how people emotionally experience a major disruption. This understanding can help you provide the support people need as they make their personal transitions.
Stage 1 –The Status Quo is Challenged
Normally, people’s initial reaction to change is shock and denial. Even if it has been planned well, people need time to understand the nature of the change and how it is going to impact them and the organization. It is important to give clear and timely information. Not everyone will be able to absorb it all at once and they should know where to go if they need help.
Stage 2 – Disruption
Once the change has been put into motion, the real challenges arise as people may start to actively resist it. They may feel angry that their former position and expertise is being challenged, or frustrated about having to learn new skills. Most change involves some kind of loss. For an individual, this may mean a loss of control, loss of their identity and status in the workplace, loss of networks and colleagues, or loss of skills and knowledge (in cases where they become obsolete).
This is the stage where performance dips and problems surface. This is because new behaviours need to be learnt and old ones unlearnt. People need to rely on new networks and ways of achieving things. They should feel comfortable with voicing their concerns, and their problems should be actively addressed. Remember that the change may negatively impact someone in a way that you had not foreseen, so listen and implement feedback wherever possible.
It is critical to provide emotional support and clear guidance. Each person’s reaction to change may vary, and their specific needs and challenges need to be addressed.
Stage 3 –Exploration
At the end of stage two, people have the opportunity to accept or reject the change. The former of course, leads to its successful implementation. If stages one and two are managed well, this stage will be reached faster. Here, teams start experimenting and problem solving and begin to see the benefits of the change. Provide training and opportunities that give them adequate time to test their new roles and responsibilities without too much pressure. This stage is considered the ‘turning point’ on the curve, as acceptance sets in and performance starts to improve.
Stage 4 – Integration
This where the new starts to become the norm. While reaping the benefits of change, remember to celebrate its successes. Once people experience success and rewards, it is easier for them to continue to comply. At the end of this stage, the organization has been rebuilt with new processes and mindsets in place.
The Change Curve is attributed to psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. It stems from her work on grief management and has many variations and adaptations and is widely used in organizational change management. Its benefits lie in being able to track people’s progress through change, giving them the ability to make their journey as fast and smooth as possible.
Facilitating Organizational Change
Failure to implement change is usually the result of human issues. While targets need to be defined to keep the ‘what’ consistent, the ‘why’ needs to resonate with various individuals. Say a CEO of a pharmaceutical company wants to become No.1 in the market, this goal may not be important to many of the employees. The motivations behind the goal however, can help give it meaning – being able to transform medicine, find new cures, grow as a team and reap individual rewards. It is important that the organizational goals provide individuals with a sense of meaning to keep them motivated.
Once you have a clear vision, there are four things that need to be in place:
When an organization goes through a major change, it becomes the ideal time to build skills and leaders. A well-managed change initiative reorients the business, making sure that the best talent is put on the most critical tasks. On the flip side, this can be a period of uncertainty and individuals may need help to make the transition.