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Organisational Change – Why and How to Embrace It

Organisational change:  the movement from a current state to a defined state - a different, improved and desired new state, through a set of planned and integrated interventions.

(Organisational Culture and Organisational Change: An Integrated Dynamic,     Professor I M Bredenkamp, 2002)

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In today’s business world, change is inevitable – new technologies, new products/services, new processes, and new markets regularly drive changes in the way that organisations are staffed, structured and operated.  Although the motivation behind the change may differ - growth, improved efficiency/effectiveness, maintaining market position, etc - the necessity for change is constant.  As the world around your business is continually changing, your business must also change, or it may stagnate in, or fall behind, the market. 

For an organisation to effectively respond to change, it needs to anticipate, plan for, and control that change, rather than merely reacting passively to it, or worse, not reacting at all.  By being prepared, rather than caught off guard, a business can ride the wave of change rather than be dumped by it.

To begin with, there are a number of questions to be asked and answered:

·         Is change required?  If so, what type of change/s, and to what?

  • Who will own and drive the change process?  Who else needs to be on board?
  • Who are the other stakeholders?  And might some prefer to preserve the status quo?  How will these parties be affected by, and respond to, the change/s?
  • What has the organisation’s past experience of change been?  And what about the owners/drivers, participants and other stakeholders?  Has their previous experience of change been positive, negative, or neutral?

·         What resistance, and how much, should be anticipated?  How can that resistance be overcome/minimised?

·         Given the organisational structure and culture, how should the business consult and/or communicate with its members, encourage and facilitate participation in the change process, and manage the implementation and review of that process?

 

Although time may be of the essence in planning and implementing change to maximise return to the business, it is important to correctly diagnose the situation, and identify the real change imperative/s.  No matter how well planned and efficiently implemented, if the wrong changes are made, a successful outcome is unlikely.  By taking time to effectively analyse the situation, time is likely to be saved in the long run.

This analysis may result in a recommendation to change one or more of the following:

  • technology, systems;
  • policies, procedures, processes;
  • staffing (including structure, number of staff, location of staff, job design, and the skills and experience required to perform the job effectively);
  • culture, including the ‘quality culture’, ‘service culture’, etc.

Such changes may be implemented simultaneously or sequentially, organisation-wide or gradually, depending on the nature and urgency of the change and the culture of the organisation. 

Although there is no single ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ approach to change, it is generally acknowledged that whichever approach is taken should be applied consistently and sensitively, while at the same time being sufficiently flexible to meet the potentially differing needs of those involved.

An effective way to smooth the path of change is through communication, either through consultation with participants and stakeholders on what and how change should be implemented at the deliberation stage, or through communication of the determined change strategy prior to and during implementation. Whether/how an organisation consults or communicates on the change may be influenced by: magnitude of the change; size and complexity of the organisation; recognition by members of the need for change, and support for the change strategy considered/selected; real or perceived repercussions or pay-offs of the change; etc.

Training, development and support of those affected by the change will also influence the success of a change strategy, in that the need for, and benefits of, change are more likely to be accepted and embraced if they are clearly understood.  This acceptance may also be enhanced by closing the change loop with post-implementation review and, if necessary, adjustment.  However, as previously noted, change is continual, so organisations and their members should not expect the change loop to stay closed for long!

 

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By Trevor Neville, Principal, and Kirsten Ferguson (Human Resource Management Consultant), TranZition Professional and Executive Recruitment, Level 3 Waterfront Place, 1 Eagle Street, Brisbane Qld 4000. Email: trevor@tranzition.com.au  Web: www.tranzition.com.au 

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