Managing People through Change
To remain competitive, and to remain attractive as employers, organizations
need to adapt and change constantly in accordance with the changing
needs of their stakeholders. Understanding change, therefore,
and knowing how to manage it, is a crucial part of the knowledge and
skills of people managers in a successful organization.
Role of training in enabling organizational change
Organizations which leap into radical change without investing adequately
in preparing or training their staff usually run into problems.
They find that the subsequent investment in corrective action and conflict
resolution is enormous and costly in terms of finance, time and resources.
The key benefit of training people to manage change is that it:
- ensures a more organized and strategic approach to the implementation
- can reduce the incidence of people and performance problems subsequent
Harold Leavitt (1965) identified four possible areas in which change
can and will happen as an organization grows and develops:
||Relevance to career development
||Changes in formal guidelines, policies and procedures
such as the organization chart, budgeting methods, rules and regulations.
||Rearrangements in work flow, i.e., new physical
layouts, work methods, systems and work standards.
||Changes in the job performed by the individual,
i.e., job descriptions, job design, flexibility, new skills and
||Modification of attitudes, motivation and behaviours,
achieved through new training programmes, selection procedures,
communications strategies and the design of new performance management
and rewards systems.
Introducing change in any one of these four areas has an impact on
the other three. For example, if a large organization is broken
into smaller, self-managing business units (change which focuses on
structure) then this will have an impact on:
- technology - the way in which work is organized and passed between
the separate units
- task - job design changes for the individuals working within each
- people - how they feel about the change, its impact on them and
the need to learn new skills and behaviours in order to deal effectively
with the change.
This last area of impact is where training professionals within an organization
need to be most active as change agents. The role of training
in helping an organization to manage its way through change focuses
on the organization's people, and follows three stages:
Stage 1: win commitment to and gain acceptance of the required
Stage 2: equip individuals with the new skills and knowledge required
to implement the change
Stage 3: provide coaching and support to groups or individuals
as required, to help them cope with the change.
Implications of change for people management
The range of emotions which people may go through when faced with organizational
change is very similar to those associated with grief or personal loss.
The Kubler-Ross model below illustrates the changes in attitude which
people may go through as they learn to deal with a particular change:
Each stage is characterised by certain types of behaviour (see below).
The challenge for managers is to:
- identify, through an individual’s demonstrated behaviours, the
effect which the change is having on them personally
- work with the individual to rationalise and understand the reasons
for their reaction to the change
- provide appropriate support, coaching and development to accelerate
the individual towards acceptance of the change and learning to work
Ability to meet these managerial demands may require training.
The role of training in this context is to:
- raise managers’ awareness and understanding of different reactions
- increase managers’ skill in providing the counselling, coaching
and support needed by their staff
- be available as a resource to managers, to provide continuing,
ongoing support as required.
Behaviours of each stage
- verbal statements of denial and disbelief
- 'rubbishing’ the change, looking for someone to blame
- closed door huddles with ‘fellow conspirators’ against the change
- forming of cliques, i.e. groups ‘for’ or ‘against’ the change
- defensive behaviours, i.e. a very strong resistance to any evidence
in support of change
- negative reporting, i.e., seeking out faults with the change and
the people who support it.
- petulance, sullenness, frayed tempers
- a lot of reactive energy spent in ‘lashing out’
- snide remarks and destructive ‘felling’ statements aimed at the
change and the people who support it
- generally uncooperative behaviour
- general pessimism, disaster predictions
- apathy, clock watching and absenteeism
- drop in quality and quantity of output
- avoidance of others
- willingness to listen
- cooperative behaviour
- desire to please
- admittance of/apology for past behaviour
- strong need for reassurance
- positive attitude and outlook
- eagerness for new ideas and approaches
- problem solving rather than problem seeking
- more self-managing, less dependent on others
- high energy levels
- renewed enjoyment of work
- renewed pride in performance.
For more information …
DBA has many years' experience of assisting organizations and their
managers in implementing change, and training to meet the demands of
change. We have worked successfully with organizations to build and
present cases for change in a way which will best win the support and
commitment of their people. If this is an area of concern for your organization,
in touch with us to find out how we can help.
© DBA 1999