How to Approach Change in an Organization

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When it becomes necessary to change something in an organization, there is a natural resistance to the change and this resistance leads to conflict between the advocates for change and those resisting. How the change is handled depends on many factors including the type of organization and the importance of the change. If the change is necessary in order to maintain the organization's finances at an operable level, delay of change can be disastrous. John P. Kotter and Leonard A. Schlesinger are experts in organizational management and they identified six approaches to change.

  • Communicate with members of the organization the goal for the changes required. Explain the potential problems that will occur if change is refused. The first approach listed by Kotter and Schlesinger is the Education and Communication approach. When change is implemented with a lack of communication from the organizational leaders, resistance sets in firmly unless the members are aware of just what is at stake. It's important to educate and communicate prior to the implementation of the change.

  • Ask for ideas. Once the members of the organization have been told what the problem is through education and communication, asking them to participate in the change and involving them in the process can serve to break down resistance to the change. The second approach is called Participation and Involvement. If the members feel that they are a part of the change, they are more likely to support even the most radical of changes. Assign activities or jobs to some of these members and ask them to report regularly on the progress.

  • Prepare management for supporting the decisions of the leaders, while at the same time being open to the concerns of employees. This third approach is called the Facilitation and Support. Management can help to facilitate the change through special training sessions on the organization's time.

  • Negotiate with those who perceive a detrimental effect from the change. Sometimes a change may require some members to lose out on something. If the members have received the communication and been asked for input, sometimes a negotiation to trade an undesirable effect as a result of the change for a more desirable effect may cause a reluctant member to capitulate. This approach is called the Negotiation and Agreement approach. This is the last of the "nice" options to approach change.

  • Co-opt the participation of those most resistant to the change. This approach is called Manipulation and Co-optation. Management calls on the resistors to be a part of a change management planning group for simply the sake of appearances. These resistors are given a symbolic but not substantial role in the change process. This is only done when the resistors do not have the ability to create additional or further resistance in the change efforts.

  • Coerce the participation of resistors. This is the approach called Explicit and Implicit Coercion. It is used when speed of change is of the utmost importance. A prime example of this is when Lee Iacocca took charge of Chrysler as the CEO. The unions were threatening to strike while the company was headed for bankruptcy. Because union contracts meant that the employees would receive severance packages, a closed Chrysler would still be indebted to pay them. Iacocca stood before all the employees and informed them that he had hundreds of jobs available at $14 per hour. He also said he had no jobs available at more than that and insisted that he would close the company and go bankrupt. He then told them that his salary for that year was one dollar. The change was not resisted, and he effectively saved Chrysler from bankruptcy.

References

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