Managing organizational change and development

Helping firms manage change is a major issue for human resource managers. Professor Edward Lawler conducted an extensive survey of human resources practices. He concluded that as more employers face the need to adapt to rapid competitive change, focusing n strategy, organizational development change is a high payoff activity for the HR organization.

What to change? When she became CEO of a troubled Avon Products Company several years ago, Andrea Jung knew she had to renew her vast organization. Sales reps were leaving, customers were demanding new and more effective products, and the firm’s whole back end operation – its purchasing order taking, distribution system – lacked automation.

Faced with situation like these, managers like Andrea Jung can change one or more of five aspects of their companies – their strategy, culture, structure, technologies, or the attitudes and skills of the employees.

Organizational renewal often starts with a change in the firm’s strategy, mission, and vision with strategic change. For example, faced with intense competition from firms like Estee Lauder, Avon under Ms Jung more than doubled its expenditures on new product development, with the aim of introducing new product line that created younger looking skin. Avon also expanded its strategy to selling through select department stores, rather than just door to door sales reps.

Strategic changes like these invariably trigger repercussions throughout the organization. For one thing (in Avon’s case), going from strictly door to door to adding department stores meant cultural change, in other words, adopting new corporate values – new notions of what employees view as what they should or shouldn’t do. Moving fast, embracing technology, and keeping lines of communication open were a few of the new values Avon management needed employee to adopt.

Avon’s new expansion to department stores and product lines demanded structural change; in other words, reorganizing the company’s departmental structure, coordination, span of control reporting relationships, tasks and decision making procedures as well as technological change, as Ms. Jung guided Avon to automate its purchasing / distribution chain.

Of course, strategic, cultural, structural and technological changes like these, no matter how logical will fail without the active support of a motivated and competent workforce. Organizational renewal therefore invariable involves bringing about changes in the employees themselves and in their attitudes, skills, and behaviors.

The Human Resource Manager’s role:

HR managers play a central role in organizational renewals like Avon’s. For example, structural change may require performance reviews to decide who stays and who goes, as well as job analysis, personnel planning and revised employee selection standards. Changing the employees’ attitudes, skills and behavior typically triggers a wide range of new human resource efforts – recruiting and selecting new employees, instituting new training programs, and changing how the firm appraises and rewards its personnel, for instance. The net effect is that human resource managers must be familiar with the techniques companies can use to being about organizational change. At a minimum, this includes understanding three things – how to overcome resistance to change, how to organize and lead an organizational change, and how to use a technique known as organizational development.

Overcoming Resistance to Change: Lewin’s Change Process>>

Often, the trickiest part of implementing an organizational change is over coming employees’ resistance to it. The change may require the cooperation of dozens or even hundreds of managers and supervisors, many of whom might well view the change as detrimental to their peace of mind. Resistance may therefore be considerable.

Psychologists Kurt Lewin formulated the classic explanation of how to implement change in the face of resistance. Behavior is a product of two kinds of forces – those striving to maintain the status quo and those pushing for change. Implementing changes, thus either weakens the status quo forces or building up the forces for change.

Change process consisted of three steps:

Unfreezing: Unfreezing means reducing the forces that are striving to maintain the status, usually by presenting problem or even to get people to recognize the need for change and to search for new solutions.

Moving means development new behaviors, values and attitudes sometimes through structural changes and sometimes through the sorts of HR based organizational change ad development techniques explained later. The aim is to alter people’s behavior.

Refreezing: Organizations tend to revert to their former ways of doing things unless you reinforce the changes. How do you do this? by refreezing the organization into its new equilibrium. Specifically instituting new systems and procedures (such as new compensation plans and appraisal processes) to support and maintain the changes.