Many organizations try to adopt positive changes that make their work further aligned with their strategic goals. Change is a complex process associated with many challenges and barriers from both within the organization, and its surrounding environment. Therefore, analyzing these barriers, and creating plans to effectively manage them and limit their potential negative impact is a crucial act to undertake. This stresses the importance of paying adequate attention to change, its processes, effects, and how to manage it effectively and efficiently.
One must note that change is a process, and not a reaction. It shouldn’t be seen as outputs and results, but rather as complete process whereby individuals are trying to build new skills, competencies, beliefs, behaviors, and attitudes.
What is organizational or institutional change?
Organizational change is defined a one of the methods and practices used to move employees, management, departments, and organizations from one position to another, in a way that satisfies all stakeholders’ expectations. In other words, organization change is the group of activities that an organization implements to alter a major organizational component, such as culture, technology, infrastructure, or internal processes.
The history of organizational or institutional change:
We cannot define a specific date where organization change was first put in place. In fact, change is a fundamental part in any economic activity, and is related to internal changes that might affect the work (such as a change in strategy, or employee turnover, or change in management, ..), and the external changes that affect the work environment (such as a new technology, or changes in the political and economic scenes,..)
Generally speaking, any of the previously mentioned changes will require a change in the way operation happen. Otherwise, the economic activity might be at risk of deterioration. All actions taken by the organization in this manner, is described as organizational change.
We can notice two scenarios:
In the first, the change is triggered by an external factor, and is therefore adaptive in the first place. Changes are thus limited somehow, as they only aim at dealing with the external changes with minimum impact on the internal processes.
The second scenario is where change is an internal decision and is therefore transformative. This change takes place at a larger scope and is connected to many activities and processes and has impact on the strategy and team as well.
Of course, it’s not realistic to categorize changes on these two ends of the spectrum solely, as most changes incorporate a mixture of both.
Why do you need to implement an organizational or institutional change?
Many reasons make institutional change a necessity. Some of the reason include:
- A change in the organization’s leadership
- A change in team’s structure
- The adoption of a new technology
- The adoption of a new business model
in fact, there are dozens of reasons why you might need to implement change in your organization. In some cases, this can be critical for the business to remain operating and generating profit, or to adapt to the changing needs of customers and beneficiaries.
The major question is on the role the manager plays in managing the change. Organizational change management, after all, is defined as the method of applying change processes to attain a certain positive income. This includes allocation the required resources and limiting the negative side effects of the change.
What are the phases of organizational or institutional change?
The Lewin model is considered one of the most important models to depict how institutional change happens. It was developed by Kurt Lewin in the 1940s, and although the model is old, it is still considered a keystone in change management.
The model identifies three stages for change:
- Unfreezing: In this phase, we define what needs to be changed, and ensure there is strong management support to change. The need to change must also be demonstrated and communicated, and fears of change must be addressed.
- Change: Here we implement the activities required to make the change. Strong communication must be maintained with all stakeholders to clarify the changes and limit rumors. Success here requires involving people to avoid change resistance.
- Refreezing: This is where new changes are integrated within the organizational culture, and work must concentrate on establishing new ways to sustain the change. Teams should be supported in their new responsibilities, and success must be celebrated.
What about organizational or institutional change in governmental entities?
Many may believe that organizational change is only concerned with making profits and increasing the market share and is therefore only relevant to for-profit corporations. In fact, organizational change takes place even in non-profit organizations, such as governmental entities, charities, and non-governmental organizations.
When we think of change in a governmental organization, the following steps must be taken:
- Define your goal: is it delivering new services to beneficiaries? Limiting expenses and eliminating bureaucracy? Perhaps enhancing communications with the beneficiaries?
- Analyze the environmental factors. Change is connected to internal and external organizations, so it is important to identify these factors and analyze their impact on current and future activity.
- Identify the stakeholders. Who is involved with the change? Who is responsible of it? And who will benefit from it? On the other hand, who might be affected by it and would fight and resist it? Each stakeholder should be carefully identified with their position on this change.
- Schedule tangible phases for change. We all know change doesn’t happen overnight. You might have to create a clear schedule with tangible targets.
- Identify the required resources. These could be human resources, or financials. You may also need to introduce a new technology.
- Communicate a lot. We have all experienced the rumors that come with change. It’s your role to limit these rumors as they could contribute to creating change enemies. This makes it important to have strong communication with those involved.
- Regularly evaluate. It’s not enough to have a good plan to manage change, as you might be faced with unexpected events. It’s therefore important to have regular evaluation of your progress.
- Celebrate the success! Many people neglect the importance of celebrating success. But if you don’t celebrate now, how will you encourage others to be part of the next change.
It is with no doubt that governmental entities have special difficulties in following the previous steps, as the complexity in the organization structure and the diversity of beneficiaries from these entities make decision making hard and change an even harder process. Yet, with good planning, change can be made both an entertaining and rewarding process at the same time.
What challenges face organizational or institutional change?
Change resistance is considered the major challenge that face organizational change and is defined as the refusal of people involved to take action, or even taking antagonist measures to stop the change. Usually, change resistance is caused by fear of loss of benefits, as when high management might feel its power would be limited, or when employees might feel that change will cause a reduction in the workforce and make them lose their jobs, or even when beneficiaries will doubt that a change will make services more costly or harder to get.
Some of the other challenges that face organizational change is lack of management. This happens when big targets are planned to be achieved in a short notice, or when the wrong resources have been allocated, and the external environments not well considered.
As the same time, many managers fail to realize the different dimensions of the change process. The management consultant Peter Drucker says “culture eats strategy on breakfast”, in reference to the impact of culture on the success and failure of strategies. In fact, most managers pay little attention to the culture, and assume that alignment with change will happen eventually. By this, they fail to manage change.
So how can these challenges be avoided?
It’s certain that the experience of a manger plays a big role in overcoming the challenges that stand in the way of change. Expert managers will have a higher ability to identify the barriers to a successful change, and to avoid them.
In addition to experience, it’s important to deal with change from a management perspective. This means avoiding the tendency to look at change as a spontaneous action and trying to manage it following the methodologies and tools of management. We can also implement the management cycle on change as follows:
- Planning: the required change must plan, and strategic and operational goals be put in place. External and internal environmental factors must also be analyzed, and relevant factors such as stakeholders identifies.
- Organizing: this means allocating the required resources (human, financial, ..) and identifying the relationship between these resources and the other departments. Management tools must also be defined.
- Monitoring and controlling: this phase requires the careful examination of the change process through monitoring and measuring results. It also includes providing directions to the teams to avoid shortcomings.
- Evaluating: here we evaluate results, and the extent of success in achieving goals. It’s also important to evaluate the processes and resources, and assess the good and bad practices.
Although these steps seem easy in theory, implementation requires advanced skills and experience in research, analysis, decision making, and strategic management.
This is why many organizations employ change experts to lead the change or support internal leaders.
How can I improve my skills in change management?
You can certainly develop this skill even if you’re not expert practitioners. Several master’s degrees are offered in change management, and training programs with professional certification are also available. Some of these are:
- Certified Change Management Professional
- Change Management Specialist
- Certified Problem and Change Manager
At the same time, you can consult a specialized firm in business development to increase your capacity in managing change at your organization.