‘Organizations paramount to implementing it successfully. Each change

‘Organizations undertake change
programs to improve their competitive position or to prevent collapse’
(Brown et al., 2015, p.198), of which “It is estimated that 46 percent of organisations are undergoing three or
more complex changes at any one time (Bareil et al., 2007, p.15). Change is
critical for organisations, and it can be a stressful process (Taylor and
Cooper, 1988, p.74) but it is how change is managed that can be paramount to implementing
it successfully. Each change project will have
unique aspects making them difficult to implement in a prescribed way that
guarantees success but there are key issues which we can identify as
influencing factors to change management of which HR can have key role in
influencing to help achieve a positive outcome.

 

It is difficult to gain a universally accepted definition of
change, as “we are reminded that change management is not a distinct discipline
with rigorous and defined boundaries” (Burnes, 2013, p.409). Helms Mills et
al (2009, p.43) defined organisational change as “an alteration of a core
aspect of an organization’s operation” which is a broad statement that can
perhaps be related to many scenarios and types of change. However by defining
this as alteration to core aspects only it suggests smaller changes, or aspects
considered of less importance, cannot be influential or considered as
orgnisational change. It can often be a combination of individual factors which
create or at least impact the ‘core aspect’. Smith (2005, p.409) explicitly
acknowledged that change is not a static process by stating that ‘organisational
change is the movement from a current state
to a new different state and it is a continuous process’. This helps to better recognise small scale and organic
change but also that there is continuous assessment after implementing change
to help secure its permanency. The common denominator when defining change is
that it is some term a variation from organisational norms, however the reality
of changes impacts run far deeper and is the coming together of a complex
combination organisational factors influenced both internally and externally.

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There
are a depth of influencing factors in change management but ‘whatever
the level or degree of organizational change, the people on the receiving end
are individual human beings. It is they who ultimately cause the change to be a
success or a failure’ (Cameron and Green,2015, pg.2). Without looking at the
implications of change on individuals we can never really hope to manage
large-scale change effectively’. The key issues of change management fundamentally revolve
around our understanding of the human aspects of change management, including the
individuals and groups on the receiving end and how their behaviours are
constructed and influenced. We must also recognise other key stakeholders influence
upon change such as; leaders, change agents and HR who need to have understanding
and ability to adapt in change management. From previous studies it has been
stated that ‘approximately
70% of project fail to achieve their goals, which was largely due to employee
resistance and lack of management support’ (Ewenstein,
B., Smith, W. and Sologar,W, 2015). We could therefore deduce that complexity of change
management is somewhat underpinned by that, we are after all complex beings.

 

Theorists
have tried to make sense of individual’s behaviours towards change by breaking
down the values of individuals, which in turn help us to understand their
reactions and perceptions. Lewins (1951, Fig.1) famously pioneered one of the
earliest tools of analysis by developing ‘a field in which a person’s behaviour
takes place, which is an intricate set of symbolic interactions and forces
that, depending on their valence (strength), can either reinforce or change
their behavior.

Fig.1 – Lewin’s Force Field Analysis (1951)

 

Field theory allows an individual
or group to map out, and thus learn to understand, the totality and complexity
of the life space in which their behaviour takes place, and appreciate how the
forces that comprise their life space can be changed or reinterpreted in order
to modify their own behavior (Burnes and Cooke 2013, p.420). Whilst
this framework is still relevant in today’s society in demonstrating that
people have opposing values which individuals prioritise, sacrifice and balance,
it remains difficult to quantify what values are negotiable and to clearly identify
a measurable equilibrium.  

 

This
model gives indication of why people either progress through or resist to
change, and the need for negotiation and sacrifice to reach the desired state.
However should an individual scale a value as their highest priority and be
inflexible, can this realistically be deemed as equal value to two flexible and
lower valued forces which total the same amount? I question whether this
realistically quantifies an accurate balance and assessment on ‘forces’ of
which these constructs are far more complex in nature and of which identifying
flexible and negotiable values can be problematic. Lewins used mathematics as this ‘was not only
‘logically strict’, but it was also in line with the constructive method (Lewin
and Cartwright 1975, p.64) but can values
really be simply deduced to numerics or is this ‘a novel but cumbersome way of
picturing simple psychological situations.’ (Burnes, and Cooke, 2013, p.241).

 

Individual values contribute
to culture and sub-cultures within organisations, but is it possible to manage culture
through change? If we are to take the ideology of biological determinism as a
truism it would seem near impossible to have expectation to change intrinsic
values and culture during change management. We can however witness that
individuals are at least influenced by social determinism as individuals change
their views or are prepared to sacrifice. Organisations can help understand behaviours
through study of ‘the beliefs, tendencies and practices of groups taken
collectively which constitute social facts (Dukheim and Bellah, 1973, p.49)”.
Durkheim’s studies support culture can indeed
be shaped and informed by change however these need to be
handled with a level of respect.

Organisations
may try to achieve alignment of culture through finding common ground, as they aim
to bring everybody through change management and move forward as a unit. To
achieve this we must first understand the existing culture. Johnson, Scholes, and Whittington
(1993) classically drew upon culture as a web (fig.2) showing the interlinking aspects
which can enable harmonious resolution to the same paradigm. Organisations may
try to achieve this by the encouragement organic solidarity and synergetic
energy to achieve ‘a system of collectively held values’
(Hofstede 2002, p.81) but should not favour one particular aspect and should
achieve balance which in turn ‘Enables organizations
to cope with problems of external adaptation and internal integration’
(Schein.E, 1992, p.17).

Fig.2 –  Johnson,
Scholes and Whittington (1993) The Cultural Web.

The
cultural web analyses and identifies the layers to culture it does not however
highlight its use for sub-cultures that form in organisations which are
tantamount to the dominant culture. This could be applied to sub-cultures to help
gain more in-depth knowledge of the audience/s impacted by change, but this may
be troublesome when trying to balance numerous sub-cultures with the overriding
dominant culture of the organisation.

 

Culture may be defined by change
but “past experiences with change may be a potent source of employee change
cynicism” (Dean, Brandes, and
Dharwadkar,1998, p.343). “Employees who have
negative experiences with past change efforts are more likely to become
suspicious and less willing to support future change efforts than employees who
perceive that past change efforts have been successful” (Reichers, Wanous,
& Austin, 1997, p.57 ) This can become neutralised when frequent
change is experienced but shows the importance of reducing negative experiences
throughout change or organisations risk change cynicism becoming ingrained in to culture. “Change
efforts often fail because organizations and their leaders underestimate the
importance of employee reactions to the change process” (Choi, 2011, p.80)) and whilst
the reaction can be identifiable it is imperative to go beyond this and seek
the root cause of these reactions which often derive from values and culture.

 

‘Some employees respond to organisational
changes with enthusiasm and as opportunities for learning and growth, some resist
the changes and feel a growing sense of frustration, alienation, and grief (Caldwell,
Herold, and Fedor, 2004, p.274). If organisations
can identify potential problems before they arise, then adapt and startegise to
address these, it can help diminish the validity of resistance and effects of
its eventuality. Realistic but flexible timescales should be set to allow for
resistance resolution of which Kubler-Ross’s
change curve (fig.3) helps us understand the emotions experienced by individuals
during change management. It does not however give indication of timescale
itself and it is important to acknowledge that employees go through the change
curve at different speeds. The more entrenched and favourable the existing norm
or value the more time we may need to factor in due to the uncertainty of the
reaction.

 

Fig.3 – Kubler-Ross
Change Curve (1969)

It
is a common notion that resistance is a negative aspect of change but not all
resistance is dysfunctional. It can be functional in defining boundaries, keeping
individuals alert to that their ideas may be challenged and be used as an
indicator of employee dissatisfaction and disengagement. However if not managed
and ignored dysfunctional resistance can manifest and weaken the permanency or
at worst the implication of change.

 

Resistance can take both
collective and individual forms. (Edwards, 1979, p.93) stated “the two forms
are complementary, with high levels of collective action often mirrored by high
levels of individual action”. However without collectiveness this can lead to “Alienation
and Freedom”          (Blauner, 1967,
p.207), this can be due to the psychological pressures of being out-numbered that
can lead to individuals to conform, therefore organisations could manage
conflict as a unit but there must also focus upon those individuals whom remain
resistant. Where collective discontent is suppressed, it often reappears in
more dispersed, individual forms (Turner, Clack and Roberts, 1967, p.138)
which can make management more problematic. We should openly seek to resolve
collective resistance and allow concerns to be aired and addressed rather than
views being simply quashed. Effective change is not simply a matter of clearly
articulating an energizing vision and getting people to “buy-in” to the desired
outcome of the change; it is crucial to focus on the justice aspects of the
change process” (Novelli et al, 1995, p.16).

Resistance can be overcome through communication which
should be a two-way channel with organisations being positive and informative
about change without bombardment, whilst allowing the voice of employees to be
considered with empathy.  Communicating “information
can
help employees deal with change because uncertainty is detrimental to employee
well-being” (Elrod & Tippett, 2002 p.290) and the individuals
understanding of change objectives can help them visualise its aims and not to
simply think change is driven by the rapacity of the organisation. Consideration
should also be given to the perception and impact of individuals indirectly
impacted by change as those who have interlinking values and cultures may cause
rumours or conflict to manifest in the workplace.

 

The use of elected reps can be an efficient way to
effectively communicate large scale change by collating and funneling
information however this communication should be both ‘direct and indirect to
employees, to minimise risk of miscommunication. HR can
serve as nexus point of communication, a source of information and act as the
mediator when facilitating change between employee and employer but “whatever the size of the proposed
change, it is crucial for the HR team to prepare
thoroughly in relation to it and to communicate effectively with the relevant
people in the organisation (Debra Cadman, 2017).

 

Organisations need to be careful in the selection
of leaders of change management communications and process of whom should be a
protagonist of change and having a profound knowledge on the subject matter. Evans
(2000) identifies 21st-century leadership of change issues is not simple; he
sees modern leadership as a balancing act. Cameron, Green and Holder’s (2015)
model (fig.4) illustrates this ‘balancing’ act of leadership and that although
tangible results are often desired outcomes, “the leader must also pay
attention to underlying emotions, and to the world of power and influence, in
order to sustain change and achieve continued success in the long term” (Cameron
and Green, 2015, pg 5).

 

Fig. 4 – Three dimensions of leadership Source: Cameron,
Green and Holder’s (2015)

 

Often Leaders adopt so-called best practices with the belief
that implementing another organization’s successful practices is some sort of
magic bullet (Turner et al, 2009, p.197). However change is
often unpredictable and continual ‘environmental scanning’ (Buchanan and
Huczynski 2013, p.341) can help leaders and HR informed and maintain momentum
of change management.

The larger the
network to implement change the easier it can become to manage by spreading
expertise workload. HR can be a key driver of change management and have a
clear role and responsibility to ensure that issues like “organisation
(re)design, due process, employee voice, and clear communications are
appropriately and effectively addressed as part of change management” (Leatherbarrow
and Fletcher 2014, p.218). Whilst HR can be vital in change management they
cannot do it single handedly and need to be supported as a top down process for
leading long standing change. Contrary to this (Conway and Monks, (2008),
p. 72) claimed “very little is known about the role that HR plays in
influencing employee reactions to change” Which is perhaps due to the varying
roles of HR. (Ulrich,
1997, p.292) identified ‘four HR
roles (administrative expert, business partner, change agent, and employee
champion)’. The role of which HR undertakes in organisations continues to
develop and they often have an eclectic range of skills. Assessing your own
organisation HR function will help you to derive what involvement and expertise
HR can apply in change management.

As a key change agents HR are “the individuals or
groups of individuals whose task is to effect change”. (Rosnefeld and Wilson,1999,
p.294) of which the HR unit develops, coordinates, and facilitates
organizational change activities and informs employees about changes in order
to reduce disruptions to the organization (Brown
et al., 2015, p.212). ‘The strength of the organizational change–cynicism
relationship is also affected by the role of HR. When HR undertakes an
administrative expert role, change is more likely to generate change
cynicism. When HR undertakes a strategic change agent role, change
is less likely to generate change cynicism. (Brown,. Et al 2015,
p.132). Ultimately HR are more likely to be credible if they are “seen as
knowledgeable about the subject matter, possessed of high power and status in
the organization” (Reichers et al., (1997), p. 54).

 

(Alfes, Truss and Gill, 2010, p.115) state HR are “not in a position
to share much information with employees during the early stages” and go
further to say that ‘HR joins the change process at a later stage to deal with
operational issues as they are only able to help employees access entitlements
that are part of the change program (e.g., retraining, relocation, and
redundancy provisions)’. This is however conflicted by (Rees and French 2013 pg.
121) who state ‘HR make a successful contribution in to change projects namely:
involvement at the initial stage in the project team’. These viewpoints
seemingly conflict but perhaps indirectly show that HR are often ‘working
as the ‘hidden hand’ of change by work in partnership with the CEO/business
leader and their executive team as ‘back stage'” support for their ‘front
stage’ activity (Bazor, L. 2017). In the early stages of change HR liaise with
stakeholders to; analyse the current organisational state, set objectives and
strategy to remove obstacles and then implement support through training and
guidance to stakeholders to achieve these objectives. HR then later comes to
the forefront to deal with employees issues of resistance, support and access
entitlements. If HR are introduced to early in the process there is risk they
are perceived as instigators of change and then later lose their impact in
perception as a support mechanism for individuals. HR should may be seen to
support those impacted cope with change, performance management and motivation. ‘Change may be defined simplistically as making
things different, but the definition needs to make explicit mention of actual
and perceived changes’ (Rees and French (2010) pg. 98) of which the perception
of HR is a key variable in change.

HR often experiences
a conflict of interests between the organisation and employees in change
management as they seek to achieve objectives in a harmonious manner.
Perception and timing of the introduction are critical but ultimately “the
ability to apply situational judgement and demonstrate moral integrity is what
will enable them to be trusted advisors, and help the organisation create
long-term sustainability (Bazor, L. 2017).

‘Lloyd and Maguire (2002, p149) predicted that ‘in future the critical
focus for sustainable organisational success will build on what the
organisation knows about itself and its environment, and not on the transient
structure and detailed processes. There are change models which can guide us to
understand change management and which are seeming progressing towards this
viewpoint.

 

Lewin’s
developed  a model which illustrates the
change management process as unfreezing, changing and freezing (fig.5.)

 

Fig.5- Unfreeze, Change, Freeze, K.Lewin (1947)

 

 

It
shows the process of change in a simplistic way which is easy to follow but it is
also rigid in it approach. It does not illustrate timescales, and change
factors such as resistance but strips back to the fundamental stages for
systematic change. However by its ‘refreezing’ stage it demonstrates the need
for ‘solidifying the desired change’ it shows that Permanency of the new level,
or permanency for a desired period, should be included in the objective.

 

Lewin’s
model does not apply itself well to constant or organic change but is better
suited to organisation driven change in showing change as stages rather than a
continuum

 

Waterman, Piters and pilips (1980) later developed the ‘Mckinsey 7s model’ which begins to focus less on process but the
understanding of the organisation. It not only shows the hard skills of
Strategy, Structure and Systems but began to understand the importance of what
are perceived as soft skills; skills, staff and style. It has similarities to
the cultural web (fig.2) in recognition for the need of balance and that change
management is influenced by multiple factors and not just process but it is
perhaps not focused enough on process as it does not show the order and timeline
of change management itself.

 

Fig.6
– Mckinsey 7s – (Waterman, Piters and Pilips,1980).

 

Kotter’s (1996) Eight steps of change model
(fig.7) is a more recent model and focuses on the buy-in of individuals but
also gives clear guidance and order for the change management process which is
a continuous cycle.  It strikes balance
with the need for understanding of individuals and process in particular it
highlights the need for clear communication. It however fails to make reference
to allocation of time or a ‘step’ for employee resistance and may be seen as a
top-down model which may limit individual participation.

 

Fig.7
– Kotter, J.P. (1996) – Eight steps of change

Organisations
cannot rely on one change model to find a solution to change management but we
can see that models and theories are developing more to towards the knowledge
of our organisations and the individuals affected by change, which has subsequently
highlighted the role of HR as increasingly important in change.

 

Quinn’s (2004) research reports
that ‘50%’ of all change management projects fail’ and global senior leaders on culture and change
management, claim the success of major change initiatives was only 54% (Ewenstein,
Smith, W Sologar, 2015). Of change management plans deemed successful as many as 75
percent of these failed to achieve their intended result (Nikolaou et
al., 2007, p.94). These figures may cause some apprehension to implementing
change but this can be healthy to ensure that change is thoroughly and
diligently prepared for; it is then how we adapt, evolve and react to individuals that give change
opportunity for success.

 

“Change efforts are continuously
taking place in a wide variety of organisations – with mixed results” (Novelli
et al, 1995, p.16) but Change is necessary for
organisations survival as ‘modern organisations
need to adapt to adjacent change or they face the possibility of failure’ (Jamali
et al, 2006, p.339). Our understanding of change
management itself continues to be a minefield of information and the complex
structure of which it consists of continues to be influenced, as the ‘rate of
change and discovery outpaces our individual ability to keep up with it. (Cameron, Esther, and Mike Green,2015, pg. 1).
It is therefore hard to foresee there will ever be a set of instructions for
successful change management but our understanding of process and individuals continues
to develop and aid us in seeking its intended result. 

 

 

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