The Process of Change

Perceptions of organizational goals and strategies:

Goals and strategies are extremely powerful for organizing and coordinating the efforts of any organization. Indeed, mission statements (such as Nordstrom’s give the customer the best service possible) can guide employee actions in the absence of formal policies and procedures. This powerful force for stability can make it difficult to change, however. Sometimes employees do not understand the need for a new goal because they do not have the same information their managers have. Or they may long for the ‘good old days”. AT&T’s long history of success and public service has proven to be substantial barrier to change.

The process of bringing about effective change: Most efforts at change fail for two reasons. First, people are unwilling (or unable) to alter long established attitudes and behavior. Tell a manager he or she must learn a new analytic technique and that manager will probably accept the suggestion. Tell the same manager he or she is too aggressive and abrasive in dealing with others, and he or she may be resentful and resistant to change.

After a brief period of trying to do things differently, individuals left on their own tend to return to their habitual patterns of behavior. To overcome obstacles of this sort, a three step sequential model of the change process is developed. The model, later elaborated by Edgar H Schein and others, is equally applicable to individuals, groups, and entire organizations. It involves “unfreezing” the present behavior pattern, changing or developing a new behavior pattern, and then “refreezing” or “reinforcing the new behavior.

1. Unfreezing involves making the need for change so obvious that the individual, group, or organization can readily see and accept it.
2. Changing involves discovering and adopting new attitudes, values, and behaviors. A trained change agent leads individuals, groups, or the entire organization through the process. During this process, the change agent will foster new values, attitudes and behavior through the processes of identification and internalization. Organization members will identify with the change agent’s values, attitudes, and behavior, internalizing them, once they perceive their effectiveness in performance.
3. Refreezing means locking the new behavior pattern into place by means of supporting or reinforcing mechanisms, so that it becomes the new norm.

Change agents can be members of the organization or consultants brought in from the outside. For complex and lengthy change programs, hiring an outside consultant has many advantages. First, the outside consultant typically offers specialized expertise and skills. Second, the consultant will not be distracted by day-to-day operating responsibilities. Third, as an outsider, the consultant my have more prestige and influences than an insider. Fourth, because the consultant has no vested interest in the organization, he or she may be more objective than an insider and find it easier to win the confidence of employees.

Education communication:

Explaining the need for and logic of change to individuals, group[s, and even entire organizations. Here is alack of information or inaccurate information and analysis. Once persuaded people will often help implement the change. This can be very time consuming if many people are involved.

Participation + involvement:

Asking members of organization to help design the change: The initiators do not have all the information they need to design the change, and others have considerable power to resist. People who participate will be committed to implementing change, and any relevant information they have will be integrated into the change plan. It can be very time consuming if participators design an inappropriate change.

Facilitation + Support:

Offering retraining programs, time off, emotional support, and understanding to people affected by the change. People are resisting because of adjustment problems. No other approach works as well with adjustment problems. Can be time consuming, and still fail.

Negotiation + agreement:

Negotiating with potential resisters’ even soliciting written letters of understanding. Some person or group with considerable power to resist will clearly lose out in a change. Sometimes it is a relatively easy way to avoid major resistance. Can be too expensive if it alerts others to negotiate for compliance.

Manipulating + cooptation:

Giving key persons a desirable role in designing or implementing change process. Other tactics will not work or are too expensive solution to resistance problems. Can lead to future problems if people feel manipulated.

Explicit + implicit coercion:

Threatening job loss or transfer, lack of promotion, etc. Speed is essential, and the change initiators possess considerable power. It is speedy and can overcome any kind of resistance. Can be risky if it leaves people angry with the initiators.