The Organization System- Organizational Change and Stress Management Change agents contribute to change resistance Resistance during change is inevitable and Ford, Ford and D’Ameiloa (2008) believe that the people entrusted with change in an organization contribute to or incite resistance through their own actions and inactions. This behaviour may not be intentional and could stem from lack of experience, from ignorance or from lack of skills in managing change. Resistance has always been portrayed as an unwarranted or a detrimental response to change but the causes of resistance has often been ignored.
If the purpose of change is not communicated properly, it could lead to resistance because it disturbs the equilibrium of the employees used to set patters (Haong, 2007). Many times the change agents may lack the skills, competencies and the ability necessary for the change process. Under the circumstances, they shift the responsibility for resistance to the characteristics and attributes of change recipients (Ford, Ford, & D’Ameliao, 2008). Change agents could also incite resistance by breaking their agreements both before and during the change process leading to loss of trust.
People tend to resist when they experience betrayal or injustice. This can result in negative behaviours such as stealing, lower productivity, lower quality and lack of cooperation. Change agents may fail to recognize that adjustment to change takes time. This lack of knowledge among the change agents would make them push the employees to change which can lead to frustration and resistance. Change agents may fail to involve certain people that are essential for change (Kee & Newcomer, 2008). Change agents nay fail to legitimize change; they may not be able to represent the chances of success of the change process, thereby causing resistance.
However, all these factors fall under lack of change management skills and ability. Nevertheless, change agents contribute to resistance through their own shortcomings. Resistance to change can be used as change agent Resistance to change has always been criticized for hindering growth and development of an organization but Ford, Ford and D’Amelio (2008) highlight that resistance to change can be used as strengths of change. Fear is a great source of resistance as people are hesitant to change the established patterns.
They believe that new patters have value but unfamiliarity causes resistance. Conversation is an important part of the change process and resistance helps keep the conversation in existence, contend Ford et al. The discussions may be negative and full of complaints but it helps keep the subject alive. This in fact is focusing on the issue of change. It helps the change agents to understand the concerns of the recipients and also gives them an opportunity to create translations which could contribute to the expansion of change.
Resistance is a form of engagement with change. When high levels of information processing goes on it can lead to scrutiny and counter arguments. These thoughtful discussions represent a significant win for the change agents as it can provide the change agents with motivated partners for change. When change recipients feel threatened by the change as they fear losing something of value in the organization, they may express their concerns. Such concerns come from those who are high in organizational identity and psychological ownership.
Thus, they may reveal certain positive values of the organization which the change agents may not be aware of. Resistance is a form of conflict and conflicts have many positive outcomes. Resistance can provide strengthening value during change. Resistance should not be treated as dysfunctional as it has its own advantages. Mistakes in initiating change Change initiatives could fail if there is ‘repetitive change syndrome’ as suggested by Abrahamson (2004). There could be initiative overload which harms the organization’s capacity to handle change. This could occur when the employees are not aware of the effects of constant change in the organization.
Sometimes people try to skip steps in order to expedite the change process (Kotter, 1995). However, this only results in errors and failures. Managers may respond to the change in an ad hoc manner without proper planning and end up making mistakes (Orlikowski & Hoffman, 1997). Employees pass through several phases during the change process such as denial, resistance, exploration and commitment (Stanleigh, 2008). Each individual adapts to change at his or her pace and if the management fails to recognize this individual trait, they can make errors.
They may end up dealing with employees who are stressed and burned out or who cannot work in cohesion with others. Moreover, the staff has to be given opportunity to vent their feelings. Mistakes also occur when there is lack of clear or compelling statement or vision, when there are no plans or directives, no goals or programs (Gill, 2003). Kotter finds that managers often set long-term goals and this can be frustrating as there is no visible benefit from the change process.
Steps to overcome resistance Several scholars have suggested different methods to overcome resistance during the change process. Kotter (1995) believes that establishing a sense of urgency is prerequisite for change. However, urgency can also lead to chaos suggests Abrahamson (2004) due to initiative overload. Kotter argues that urgency motivates prompt action. Change efforts should start with more than just a handful of people. There should be a guiding coalition which should be powerful in terms of the roles they hold in the organization. There should be at least 3-5 people leading the change effort (Kotter).
A vision is the next step suggested by Kotter as a compelling vision helps the organization to find the direction in which to move. A vision is essential as it sparks motivation. It helps keeps the changes aligned. It also provides a rationale for the changes that are likely to occur. Kotter contends that the vision should be such that it should be possible to communicate the vision in less than five minutes and it should also fetch a response that it has been understood.
This suggests that communication has to be effective, which is the next in the 8-step model of Kotter. How much communication is needed has to be ascertained. It should not be limited to one management meeting or one speech. Kotter suggests another form of communication – “walking the talk” – where deeds along with words become powerful forms of communication. Empowerment is another powerful step when the organization must allow the members of the organization to make changes in their own areas. Resources should be allocated where needed including human resources, even if some people have to be freed up to shoulder new responsibilities.
One may believe in change but all the support necessary should also be accordingly provided. Usually organizations have long-term vision and goals but waiting for results indefinitely can lead to frustrations. People like to see that change efforts are bearing results and this serves to motivate even others. Hence Kotter suggests that short-term goals should be instituted to prevent loss of momentum and onset of disappointments. Kotter warns against declaring victory too soon as it kills momentum even though it may also serve to motivate the change agents and encourage them to delve more deeply into their organization.
New approaches should be institutionalized otherwise people may continue to resist any thing. They would like to adhere to established patterns of working and hence the new behaviours have to be rooted in social norms and values. These would help to improve the enterprise and it would be easier for the next generation of leaders to adapt to the new changes and new ways of working. Conclusion Thus, resistance should be taken as a positive reaction to change.
Resistance has immense value but it only needs to be managed well through visionary leadership and effective change management. Several stages of change management process have been suggested by Kotter which has been arrived at after extensive studies. Nevertheless, every organization is unique and so are the organizational processes. Therefore the change management process too would also differ. References Abrahamson, E. (2004). Avoiding Repetitive Change Syndrome. MIT Sloan Management Review. Winter 2004 Ford, J.F. , Ford, L.W. & D’Ameliao, A. (2008).
RESISTANCE TO CHANGE: THE REST OF THE STORY. Academy of Management Review, 33 (2), 362-377 Gill, R. (2003). Change management - or change leadership? Journal of Change Management, 3 (4), 307-318 Hoang, P. (2007). Change management and force field analysis: change takes place constantly in business. Paul Hoang considers the barriers to change and looks at how managers can bring about change effectively (Business Strategy). Business Review, 13 (4) Kee, J.E. , & Newcomer, K.E. (2008). Why do Change Efforts Fail? What can Leaders do about it? The Public Manager.
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