I have a friend working in the same organisation where I am working. He was a management consultant and possesses a vast experience in meeting various kinds of people coming from different organisations and possessing different kinds of skills. His experiences have made him a very interesting person and I generally do enjoy spending time with him. During one of our conversations, we came across the topic of introducing changes to an organisation. Soon, we were discussing the best ways to introduce the changes in an organisation, so that all the people are with you while you bring about the necessary changes.
I was amazed by his insights and knowledge regarding the best ways in bringing about the changes. He told me that he has worked extensively on projects with the purpose of introducing change in organisations as per any emergence coming about in the market structure, or development in their product or service area, citing varied examples from his experience at ABC Corporation. He told me that the best way to introduce the process of changes is by effectively communicating with all the employees – at all levels in the organisation and across all functions.
The vision of the management is the vision of the company and, hence, everybody associated with the company should be aware of the vision and should be encouraged to participate in it. Otherwise, you would face arrogance, anxiety, and total non-cooperation from them. Unless you have the employees’ cooperation, there is absolutely no chance that the intended changes can be brought successfully or completely. Changes are common to a company’s life. No company can survive if it does not change or if it does not adapt to the ever changing market scenario.
However, change is not an easy thing. Generally it is not easy to introduce changes to an organisation because all the employees and people associated with that organisation are used to the trends that have been followed. Thus, people tend to resist changes. Individuals in an organisation also become insecure about their roles in the new setting because it may become of diminished importance or even, at times, redundant. People prefer to leave the organisation at the very first opportunity if they become insecure.
The worst mistake managers make is to turn a blind eye to the employees’ resistance to change, which is the worst thing they can do (Blanchard 1996). Managers need to acknowledge that it is only natural for employees to be cynical to changes, to the extent of being fearful, because they fear that they might lose their jobs as a part of the changes. The kind of fear that emanates from the process is only natural and management needs to, not only understand this but also, empathise with this line of thinking. People should be aware of exactly what is happening in the company.
Employees should know the reason for bringing about the changes and the causes that instigate the management to re-think the existing structure, the goal or intention of the management with the introduction of changes, the exact changes that will be brought about, the exact processes that would be changed, and the new processes or systems. When these things are clear to the people, insecurity is decreased and cooperation with management is increased. Likewise, stimulating the employees by appealing to their curiosity and ambition provides a better chance of success.
Factors like energy, understanding, and adaptability are very critical to successful change management in any organisation. Lewin’s (1947) model fits the situation here because it explains exactly what my friend was saying. The said model discusses the processes of unfreezing, changing and (re)freezing. Unfreezing is about introducing the changes. It is imperative to make people understand why changes are being undertaken. They need to unfreeze the existing norms, adapt changes and then freeze the new changes (refreezing). No organisation exists in a vacuum.
Any organisation is made by its people and is also destroyed by its people. Unless an organisation takes into account its social environment, which is mainly comprised of its people, it is bound to be hanging by tenterhooks. Living in a state of silos never helped any organisation nor will it. To understand its people and its environment ensures the change process to be well understood, appreciated and participated in. Fear, discomfiture and other such feelings can only be overcome by opening all the barriers of communication.
I shall make sure to keep this mind in my future, no matter what hierarchical position I am in. Even if I am not a part of the management, I would not hesitate from voicing my fears to the management if ever I am fearful. When I was working in Saudi Arabia, I witnessed a number of companies that made mistakes in introducing changes to its organisational structure. While they did communicate initially to the employees about the intended changes and the vision, they lost touch with them over the period of time that the changes are being incorporated into the organisation.
As a result, all the initial enthusiasm among the employees eventually lost steam and the change process was halted. My friend, as their consultant, suggested that the organisations should ensure regular communication between the management and employees, through various media and channels. In fact, he said, the communication was not just unilateral but bilateral, which means that both the management and the employees should be able to send and receive messages regarding their concerns across different levels within the organisation.
Bilateral communication is important because it ensures faith and trust among all the members of the organisation, no matter what hierarchical level they are at. In addition to this, it also ensures that all the problems and challenges faced by the organisation, and its people, at all levels in relation to the changes are highlighted and sorted out. The process of enumerating and resolving the challenges and problems ensures smooth transition for the whole company, along with its people (Blanchard 1996).
Indeed, keeping in touch with all the people is very important and should never be underestimated. In fact, I witnessed and experienced several challenges caused by the management’s inability to keep in touch with the people in the organisation I worked for before entering college. Due to this, employees in the said organisation were not able to comprehend what exactly was going on. We felt like we were all walking in the dark because we could never associate our activities with the larger vision of the management.
Also, I could always sense a certain animosity among the staff towards the top management. It is in situations like these that the ADKAR model proves helpful (Hiatt, 2007). It helps to diagnose employees’ resistance to change and develop change management plans for employees, among others. ADKAR is also an effective tool used in conducting a timely assessment of the effectiveness of change, employees’ resistance to it, and necessary action steps to remedy such a situation.
I believe that the ADKAR model is necessary because I do not want to be in a situation wherein I, as a part of the management team, happily march towards change and believe that my team is also walking behind me but are, in fact, lost in transit. I am very glad that I was given the chance to discuss the importance of communication during organisational change with my friend because I know that change management is something that nobody can escape during his or her career. All organisations change as a result of the changes in the market scenario.
Any organisation refuses change, or fails to do so in an attempt to change, will definitely not survive; it will die. Communication is also important, not just with the members of the company but also, as it relates to the outside world – the stakeholders, the customers and the potential stakeholders and potential customers. Unless people know what a company is up to, they will not feel a sense of confidence about or association with that company. Likewise, a bilateral communication is the type of communication that is required for introducing change and cannot be substituted by a random unilateral type of sending messages.
It is important to understand the apprehensions of all the people associated with the company in order to take the most wholesome and appropriate steps. Even though it may not always be possible to please everybody, it is essential to understand every aspect and try to act in a manner that pleases all. Otherwise, in cases where it is not possible to please all the parties, it is at least important to make them understand the impossibility of doing so. The management must not force its ideas down the throats of the people – inside or outside the company. All of these insights are valuable lessons that I intend to keep for future use.