Organizational Change

Managing Organizational Change

Organizational Change Strategies, what’s the right one for you?

Organizational ChangeIn the beginning, organizational change is seen as logical, rational and completed on a predictable time-frame. In reality, it is usually messy, chaotic and takes much longer than expected.  Most companies choose a change strategy in line with their values.

These four strategies are based on how you think your employees will react to news of change:

  1. Rational – people are perceived as thoughtful, rational beings who will follow their self-interests.  Communicate information and offer incentives.
  2. Social – people are thought of as social beings who will adhere to cultural norms and values. When the corporate norms and values change, then everyone will adopt the new culture because “Everyone else is doing it”.  Redefine existing norms and values and develop commitments to the new ones.
  3. Coercive – employees are seen as basically compliant and will do what they are told to do. Exercise authority and impose sanctions.
  4. Adaptive – people are expected to oppose the disruption of their routines at first.  Build a new organization or system and gradually transfer people from the old one to the new.

 Consider five factors when selecting a strategy:

  • Target Population – large populations are better served by a mix of all four strategies, so that at least one of the strategies resounds with each employee.
  • Degree of Resistance – when resistance is expected, either a Coercive or Adaptive strategy (or a blend of the two) might work well.
  • Stakes – high stakes make a case for a mix of all four strategies. When the stakes are high, nothing should be left to chance.
  • Time Frame – short time frames argue for a Coercive strategy. Flexible or longer time frames can be better met with the other three strategies.
  • Change Management Expertise – if you have adequate expertise in managing organizational change, then a mix of the strategies is probably the best bet.

In the short story by Spencer Johnson, Who Moved My Cheese, four mice named Scurry, Sniff, Hem, and Haw live in a maze. They are delighted to one day find a huge mound of their favorite food: cheese. So much so that Hem and Haw build a house right next to the cheese.  One day, though, the cheese disappears. Scurry and Sniff take off that very same day in search of more cheese. Meanwhile, Hem and Haw lament over this sudden and disappointing change, eventually going hungry. This fable highlights that some employees handle change better than others. The key is to properly introduce change, well in advance, with small doses of affective messages.

Focus on answering the question: What’s In It For Me?

  • How will this hurt me?
  • Will this help me?
  • Why are they doing this?
  • How will I survive this?

Answer these questions up front, and organizational change, using any strategy, goes much smoother. Most importantly, invite your employees to participate in the planning process and everything will be a little easier.  Change can be a scary thing, but if presented in the correct way, it can take your business to the next level.