Managing Change

Norb Slowikowski

February 2008

Change is a given. Societal factors have caused significant change in the work environment, thereby affecting the people, methods and goals of organizations. These modifications occur so quickly that the work force has difficulty maintaining a high level of effectiveness. The factors of continuity and momentum are disrupted and workers are forced to continue on in a game of "catch-up.”

The purpose of this article is to dig deeper into the question of change and how it affects everyone in the organization. Managers will be provided with the keys to why people resist change, how to overcome that resistance along with guidelines for implementing a plan for change.

It has been said that either the person must change or change will manage the person. Change is indeed inevitable, but differs in frequency and magnitude from situation to situation. Those responsible for effecting meaningful change may feel overwhelmed without the necessary skills and knowledge to cope with it. Becoming aware and learning to use these strategies can increase competence for dealing with change.

The manager who has the power to create change in an organization is a "change agent.” Managers are not hired to maintain the status quo. Instead, they are hired to assist the company and its employees in adapting to the alterations both internal and external.

One of the manager’s greatest challenges as a change agent is to produce desirable and meaningful change in an era of complexity. The main role of the change agent is to figure out what should happen and then cause it to happen. The latter part of this mission is the most difficult.

In the change process, managers will find that people resist change. This resistance is a state of mind that is manifested by active opposition and/or avoidance to the changes at hand.

Here are 12 reasons why people resist change:
1. They don’t understand the purpose for the change.
2. Those affected by the change are not involved in planning for the change.
3. Anxiety about job security.
4. Poor communication.
5. Existing work group relationships are changed.
6. Loyalty becomes the paramount reason for change, not goal achievement.
7. Fear of failure.
8. Work load will intensify.
9. Too much personal sacrifice.
10. Allegiance to work group.
11. Lack of respect for person making change.
12. Comfortable with status quo.

Successful activation and execution of change encompasses the ability to
-Identify, develop or clarify a need for change.
-Explore the readiness and resources for change.
-Define the potential working relationships.
-Negotiate and develop commitment for change.
-Project the desired outcomes of the change effort.
-Plan and design for action.
-Secure appropriate involvement in the change process.
-Implement action and resolve resulting conflicts.
-Analyze and assess.

When introducing change, communicate the reasons for change; the benefits the change will bring; the rough spots that will be encountered; and the need for help of everyone involved to implement the change.

The effective manager must have an attitude that constructively questions accepted ways of doing things. They must also have the belief that they can make improvements and a capability to integrate known ideas and techniques into new combinations. Finally, they must hold expertise in transferring and applying concepts in various situations, willingness to search beyond the logical and a refusal to waiver in the face of difficulty. These are the "change criteria” that breed excellence and growth, rather than the acceptance of the status quo.

By dealing with change in a positive way, we are at least trying to make things better, rather than sitting around waiting for something to happen. Managing change is being proactive, and that is the strategy that will continue to breathe life into the organization and perpetuate success.

About the Author
Norb Slowikowski is president of Slowikowski & Associates, Inc., Darien, Ill.