The world and everything in it, is constantly changing; and in the words of Charles Darwin “It is not the strongest that survive, or the most intelligent, but the most responsive to change”. This not only applies to individuals, animals or nature but to organizations as well. Consider this, is communication via email a norm at your workplace? Well, before 1971, nobody knew of email. In fact, had organizations not embraced this new technological advancement, communication both internally and externally of an organization would take a lot longer and productivity could be lower than it currently is.
Now the question many ask is ” how do you know when change is necessary?” Well, most organizations realize that among the many, there are actually seven factors that require the implementation of some form of organizational change. Factors that indicate the need for organizational change are: a) the development of new products, b) the entry of new competition, c) changes in consumer taste and preferences, d) changes in socio-political, economic and cultural frameworks, e) advancement in technology, f) new emerging markets, and g) drastic environmental changes. Sounds simple, right? A change in any of the mentioned factors should indicate that organizational change be implemented, and -voilà, the organization will be successful and flourishing. Not quite! If you’ve seen the movie “Up in the Air”, starring George Clooney, you’d know what I mean. In the movie the organization, that George’s character worked for intended to adopt a new method for carrying out the task of dismissing employees. George’s character did not accept this change well, as he prided himself with his job and its procedure, therefore, hindering the implementation of this change. Although the need for change and adaptation may be visible, it is often difficult to implement; and if handled incorrectly, it may have a negative effect on the organization.
The risks involved when implementing organizational change, include but are not limited to:
- Employee stress- as by nature most people have a hard time dealing with change
- Misinterpretation of market and consumer preferences, which could result in profit loss
- Failure to understand what did and did not work in the organization, could result in the wrong form of change being implemented
- Increased costs that don’t necessarily lead to increased profit
Therefore, when deciding to implement change, it is critical to a) understand previous change initiatives, b) involve top leadership, c) identify people who may be potential stumbling blocks or champions, d) map out the change process, e) construct an effective communication system and f) provide adequate support and development for line managers to lead employees through the change (Right Management, n.d.). So you may be wondering, “if implementing change is so complicated, and has risks involved,why should successful organizations have to change?”
Well, with today’s technological advancement, companies seem to be rising and falling sporadically. So to give you an idea of the consequences that arise due to avoiding change, we will look at a couple originally successful companies, and where they are today.
Blockbuster: Blockbuster was among the few video rental chain stores that survived the transition between VHS and DVD. At it’s peak it had about 60,000 employees and over 900 stores nationwide. They were a relatively successful company. However, when companies such as Netflix offered video entertainment direct to homes, Blockbuster failed to implement change. Instead of adapting to new technology, they maintained their current position and were made insignificant as the rise to direct to home, online streaming and other movie options were made available. I’m sure you all know what became of blockbuster: In 2010, they filed for bankruptcy and all stores were thereafter closed.
Motorola: With the introduction of car radios, two-way radios, and the world’s first mobile phone; Motorola dominated the tech industry. Their success continued into 2003, when they introduced the Razr, which became the biggest selling mobile phone ever at that time. However, they failed to focus on smartphones which included emails, apps etc. Therefore, resulting in them becoming obsolete and losing their market share to newcomers such as Research in Motion, Apple, LG and Samsung.
For a list of more companies (Click here).
Now we know the importance of organizational changes, so what steps should be taken to implement it successfully?
- Align leadership style with organizational culture– In order to reduce stress, employees create patters of behaviour. Therefore, it is the leaders responsibility to reduce undue stress on the culture that would be caused by the implementation of any organizational change.
- Don’t overuse your change missionaries– Change missionaries are individuals who always step up and make additional efforts to lead the organization to success. Often times, when implementing change, leaders become dependent on these individuals which could lead to too much pressure being exerted on them, causing them to burn out or feel under compensated. Ultimately this could lead individuals to become ineffective in managing their current operations and the change initiatives.
- Protect your change agents–Change agents are individuals who initiate and promote change. Often times they move up the hierarchy quickly, as their behaviour and values are aligned with that of the organization. Therefore, when implementing change, these individuals are assets to firms, and often overused. Moreover, they tend to fall victim to peers during the implementation of change. Therefore, much like change missionaries, change agents need to be protected and used under discretion.
- Define the problem– It is important to analyze the problem and do a clear evaluation of what needs to be changed.
- Maintain focus when the project drifts-It is important for leaders to recognize early drifts as it enables them to focus on key indicators that led them to desire change. Failure to focus could result in unnecessary changes being made, while the crucial ones are not well dealt with.
- Identify and remove barriers before implementing action plans– Removal of barriers that hinder effective change implementation needs to be made, before successful change can occur.
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Below is a video I thought you may all like. It may surprise you to see how this successful organization started out.
” For change to work, the discontent with the present must be greater than the tolerance of it, and that’s quite rare” Robert Rowland Smith, philosopher.
Marsee, J. (n.d.). 10 Steps for Implementing Change. Implementing Change . Retrieved July 23, 2012, from http://www.virginia.edu/processsimplification/resources/Implementing%20Change.pdfNewman, R. (n.d.). 10 Great
Companies That Lost Their Edge – Rick Newman (usnews.com). Business News and Financial News – US News Business. Retrieved July 24, 2012, from http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/flowchart/2010/08/19/10-great-companies-that-lost-their-edge
Saulnier, D. S. (n.d.). Organizational Effectiveness: Preparing your workfore for change. right.com. Retrieved July 23, 2012, from http://www.right.com/capabilities/organizational-effectiveness/preparing-your-workforce-for-change-a-strategy-for-success.pdf