Change in an Organization

by mark.shead on December 14, 2006

Many business owners and managers assume that it is easy to change things in their organization as long as they are the boss or the person in charge. This is a very naïve assumption.

Just because someone has the authority to make a change, doesn’t mean that they have the influence to make the change effectively. A manager who just bullies their way through change is achieving short-term successes at the expense of long term effectiveness.

When introducing change to an organization, the first step is to identify who will be impacted by the change and who is likely to offer resistance. Resistance isn’t always noticeable. If you are the boss, resistance may come in passive forms that are hard to identify and notice. That is why it is important to identify resistance ahead of time instead of waiting for it to become noticeable. Some types of resistance is very hard to notice. For example, you may have someone who is resisting your change, but would never say anything. However, they may intentionally or subconsciously perform their tasks less efficiently under your newly implemented system than the old one they like better.

By identifying people who will offer resistance ahead of time, you can take proactive steps to get them on your side. Many individuals offer resistance just because they don’t feel their opinion is being valued. By including them early on, you can get them on your side if they feel like they are having a part in the process of change. Many times a conversation where you ask what they think will go a long ways toward winning over someone who might offer resistance.

There are some people who are going to resist change even if you try to involve them early on. When you have identified these people you need to take steps to minimize their impact on the rest of the organization. This might mean rolling out a computer software update in their department last after all of the other departments have been upgraded. It might mean implementing a change while they are on vacation, so they have less chance to complain during the actual change over.

It is important to realize that one person offering vocal resistance can sway many other individuals who would be supportive or at least not resistive of the change. In extreme cases it might be better to remove or reassign someone if they are going to fight a very important change.

If your change is a change to a process, it is important to implement some type of measurement system so you know the process is actually being performed in the correct manner and also, so you can tell if the change was an improvement or not.

Many managers try to implement small changes just by telling their direct reports verbally what they want done. This may work for some types of changes, but in general a more formal approach is required. There should be some type of written documentation of changes, so there is no ambiguity.

Change is an important part of managing a business. By identifying the people who might be resistant to a change early on and approaching change in a consistent planned manner, you can reduce the difficulties inherent in making changes to an organization.

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