Change Management

March 30, 2011

By Alfredo Guzman

Change Management is a structured approach to shifting/transitioning individuals, teams, and organizations from a current state to a desired future state. It is an organizational process aimed at empowering employees to accept and embrace changes in their current business environment. In project management, change management refers to a project management process where changes to a project are formally introduced and approved. (1)

Today, the concept takes different meanings. The reason behind it is because change management is the application of several ideas from the engineering, business and psychology fields.

I wanted to cover a brief history to show how change management has becoming an essential process of any organizational changes (ex.: mission, structure, operations and/or technical changes) positioning the people as part of the equation.

History

To understand change management as we know it today, two converging fields need to be considered: an engineer’s approach to improving business performance and a psychologist’s approach to managing the people-side of change.

First, students of business improvement have been learning and practicing how to make changes to the operations of a business as a mechanical system since Frederick Taylor’s work in the late nineteenth century. From this perspective, a business is like a clock where each of the mechanical pieces can be changed or altered to produce a predictable and desirable solution. Historically companies embracing this mechanical approach to business improvement typically did not embrace change management concepts until their projects encountered resistance or faced serious problems during implementation. The other side of the story begins with psychologists. Concerned with how humans react to their environment, the field of psychology has often focused on how an individual thinks and behaves in a particular situation. (2)

The net result of this evolution is that two schools of thought have emerged contrasting both approaches in terms of focus (processes vs. people), business practice, measures of success (Business performance vs. Job Satisfaction) and perspective on change.

Eight steps to successful change

American John P Kotter is a Harvard Business School professor and author of organizational change management introduced his eight-step change process in his 1995 book, “Leading Change”. Each stage acknowledges a key principle identified by Kotter relating to people’s response and approach to change, in which people see, feel and then change.

Kotter’s eight step change model can be summarized as: (3)

1. Create Urgency. Inspire people to move, make objectives real and relevant.

2. Build the Guiding Team. Get the right people in place with the right emotional commitment, and the right mix of skills and levels.

3. Get the Vision Right: get the team to establish a simple vision and strategy focus on emotional and creative aspects necessary to drive service and efficiency.

4. Communicate the Vision. Involve as many people as possible, communicate the essentials, simply, and to appeal and respond to people’s needs. De-clutter communications – make technology work for you rather than against.

5. Remove Obstacles. Enable constructive feedback and lots of support from leaders – reward and recognize progress and achievements.

6. Create Short-term Wins. Set aims that are easy to achieve. Manageable numbers of initiatives. Finish current stages before starting new ones.

7. Build on the Change. Encourage determination and persistence – ongoing change – encourage ongoing progress reporting – highlight achieved and future milestones.

8. Make Change Stick. Reinforce the value of successful change via recruitment, promotion, and new change leaders.

Conclusion

Change management entails thoughtful planning and sensitive implementation, and above all, consultation with, and involvement of, the people affected by the changes. (4)

Today, a business have to continually look at its performance, strategy and processes to understand what changes need to be made. However, an organization must also understand the implications of a new business change on its employees given their culture, values and capacity for change. At the end, it is the front line employees that will perform the new day-to-day activities and make the new processes and systems come to life.

References:

(1) Wikipedia. Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Change_management

(2) Change Management Learning Center. Available at: http://www.change-management.com/tutorial-definition-history.htm

(3) MindTools. Available at: http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newPPM_82.htm

(4) Finnish National Education. Available at: http://www.oph.fi/english/sources_of_information/projects/wbl-toi/continuous_improvement/change_process

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One Response to “Change Management”

  1. Alfredo, with this you could change the world! It is all about trying to move people. To get them to do obvious things they could do for themselves before.

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