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Managing Through Change – How to Survive and Succeed

“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.” – General Eric Shinseki

“New ideas pass through three periods: (1) It can’t be done; (2) It probably can be done, but it’s not worth doing; and (3) I knew it was a good idea all along!” – Arthur C. Clarke

Everybody – and every organization – reacts differently to change, whether incremental, small changes such as a tweak to a policy or procedure; or massive organizational changes such as the elimination of a business or the imposition of a public order. Understanding these dynamics is critical in managing change. The notes below are taken from three books I’ve read on change management: Kotter’s “A Force for Change: How Leadership Differs from Management”; Kruger’s “Change Management Iceberg”; and Trice & Beyer’s “The Culture of Work Organizations”. Some of these points are obvious and known, others are not so obvious … but keeping all of these in mind as you personally navigate change or are responsible for leading a project implementing organizational change will help you, and your team and organization, succeed.

Change must occur in eight phases, in order:

  1. Establish a sense of urgency
  2. Create a coalition
  3. Develop a clear vision
  4. Share the vision
  5. Empower the people in order to clear obstacles
  6. Secure short-term wins
  7. Consolidate and keep moving
  8. Anchor the changes

There are four reasons why people resist change:

  1. Parochial self-interest
  2. Misunderstanding due to poor communication or lack of communication
  3. Low tolerance to change (physiological, cognitive, emotional)
  4. Different assessments of the situation

The way(s) to deal with change can be put into six buckets:

  1. Education and communication – inform and educate about the change before trying to implement it to keep the noise down
  2. Participation and involvement – particularly of those that are or are expected to resist
  3. Facilitation and support – to deal with fear and anxiety during the change process, particularly where there will be, or perceived to be, lost jobs
  4. Negotiation and agreement – with the people/group(s) that will be most adversely impacted by the change and can influence the outcome
  5. Manipulation – when nothing else works. Caution!
  6. Coercion – explicit and implicit … where speed is essential but only as a last resort

There are four groups of people in any change management effort:

  1. Known Proponents/Promoters – positive general attitude about change and a positive behavior towards the change
  2. Potential Promoters – positive general attitude about change but not yet convinced that this change effort is positive
  3. Known Opponents – negative general attitude to change and negative behavior to this particular change effort
  4. Hidden Opponents or Opportunists – a negative general attitude but they act like they’re supportive, and otherwise actively or passively resist and obstruct change

There are eight reasons why many change efforts fail:

  1. Allowing too much complexity
  2. Failing to build a sustainable coalition
  3. Not understanding the need for a clear vision
  4. Failing to clearly communicate the vision
  5. Permitting roadblocks against the vision
  6. Not planning for short-term results and then not realizing them
  7. Declaring victory too soon
  8. Failing to anchor the changes into the company’s culture