How to Realistically Implement Organizational Changes

It is no mystery that rapid and complex change within organizations rattles the status quo and creates an undercurrent of insecurity among managers and employees alike.

This insecurity results in reduced commitment, loyalty, trust, and motivation among employees, as well as job insecurity among managers. These negative effects can be reduced through managing change better.

Types of Change

1. Adaptive Change: least complex, uncertain, or threatening. It may include hiring new personnel or department consolidation.

2. Innovative Change: medium degree of complexity and cost, uncertainty, and threat. If met with moderate resistance, it may include a new focus such as offering of flex time.

3. Radically Innovative Change: high complexity and cost, extremely threatening in terms of job security and confidence. If met with great resistance, it may include reorganization, downsizing, and outsourcing.

When Change Is Welcome

More often than not, employees ask for change, though usually indirectly. When employees want change, it becomes apparent in their overall behaviors. Since employees don’t always voluntarily announce they need changed conditions until the situation has gotten out of control, observation and management interaction are the best tools a manager has to identify when employees are beginning to desire change.

Change is most welcome when its impact is nonthreatening. Anticipated and/or resultant changes that support the organization, environment, and employees strengthen and empower the entity and its members.

Identifying a Need for Change

A collaborative effort between management and employees is advisable in order to identify the specifically needed change. Management may propose the need for change and then allow members to identify what that need specifically is.

Forces for Change

Opposing forces influence organizational change. These are internal forces: one is a driving force, typically moving things forward; the other is a resisting force, generally the role of devil’s advocate, rather than a force intent on stopping the change altogether.

Typically, individuals respond to a driving force by resisting. Simply put, when people are pushed, they push back. For every driving force, there will be a resisting force. Driving forces encourage flexibility, which is necessary to meet current industry and organizational needs.

Organizational Change Is Necessary

Change is the vitality of every organization. Change is necessary for organizations to remain on the cutting edge and to stay competitive. Organizational change goes beyond hiring a new employee or modifying an existing program. This change is implemented to help the organization evolve.

Implementing Organizational Changes

There are four steps to implement successful organizational change:

1. The change begins with top management and a visionary. 

2. The visionary initiator presents a persuasive idea, which requires change from the top down. 

3. A change agent is responsible for translating the initiator’s message into a realistic plan and passing it further down to those who will implement it. 

4. The plan is executed on the department and/or team level and is communication with, and among, its members.

To sustain the change, the organizational structure must be modified to accommodate new policies, strategic plans, and procedures. 

To aid the organization in implementing change, management should:
  • Consider using a consultant for highly complex changes.
  • Widely communicate the potential for change as a positive.
  • Get employee feedback on the impending change and develops a team of employees to manage said change.
  • Know why the change is necessary and what to expect as a result.
  • Specify who reports to whom with questions and/or concerns.
  • Enact employee participation in the change.
  • Be patient and prepare for stress, conflict, and/or resistance.
  • Include a summary of the change and celebrate this organizational milestone.
This article is adapted from BOMI International's Managing the Organization course, part of the RPA®, FMA®, and SMA® designation programs. More information regarding this course is available by calling 1.800.235.2664 or visiting BOMI International's website, www.bomi.org.

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