Project Management

What is Change Management and How to Manage Resistance to Change

Change Management – Meaning

Change management is a universal concept. In our changing world, the only permanent thing is “change”.

Management keeps trying continuously to cope with this change in the environment in which the organisation operates.

Change management is the management of change. It involves the entire corporation in planning, implementing, managing and evaluating change in the organisation. It is both the process of managing change and the product of change.

Although all of us get caught up in the process of change, we should not forget that the process of change is an organic part of any company, and the way we respond to this change will determine the amount and nature of the change. Change management is therefore different from other organisational changes because the process and objective of change are the same.

change management explained

In managing the change, the first step is to plan the change, for which an analysis of the existing organisational mechanism is a prerequisite. The key elements which force an organisation to change are people, technology, competition, and social trends.

Let us understand the primary process of change using an example. There was a time when companies sold raw materials and produced finished goods. The raw materials were produced using a process that involved a lot of energy and was extremely wasteful. The raw materials produced by such processes were sold at meager prices and were much more expensive than the finished goods.

Companies with such an organisational structure were not sustainable. To save costs, the company started changing its strategy to produce finished goods directly and manufacture them from raw materials. This was a good change because the finished goods were made from expensive materials, and there was much less energy used to produce them.

The raw materials were produced using much less energy, and the cost of raw materials was very high. The raw materials were sold at much higher prices. The organisation of such a company needed to change. However, the change was very difficult.

The change was so difficult that most of the employees and people within the organisation had to leave the organisation, some were happy to leave, and many others became demoralised. The organisation was changed because it had to be changed, but it was such a struggle.

What is ‘resistance to change’?

Resistance to change can seem like an insurmountable obstacle to achieving the desired outcome. While some resistance to change is natural and a normal part of life and the way things are, much of the resistance comes from the past and is an attempt to keep going back to that place.

However, if this process results in the introduction of too much change in too short a period of time, resistance can develop and cause problems. It’s a classic problem: the more that change impacts the existing culture of an organisation, the more resistance to change that exists.

Resistance to change can be a significant barrier to the effectiveness of change programmes and processes and resistance is a common cause of poor project results and poor change outcomes.

Resistance to change is often driven by one of three factors:

Fear

In a business sense, fear can be based on a negative outcome that people may anticipate. However, what we are referring to in the business context is that people are afraid of the unknown. People might be fearful about change because it makes them feel vulnerable, uncertain or uncertain about their own position in the organisation.

Concern

Concern can stem from feeling that their status will be reduced or that their position will be affected. Alternatively, change might be seen as a threat to an individual’s perceived value, or the way that they see themselves compared with their colleagues.

Identity

Identity refers to a person’s value system and sense of belonging. Change can upset an individual’s sense of personal identity and that person’s identity as a member of the organisation.

Managing Resistance to Change

In order to prevent resistance, change is usually accompanied by a series of communication activities. For example, there is a formal process to “educate” employees, there is a focus on “selling” the new system, there are workshops and training sessions, there is information on how the change will be delivered, and there is a constant updating of people about how the change is evolving and the progress being made.

In some organisations, these communication activities become excessive and ineffective and an organisation can spend inordinate amounts of time and money on them. Resistance can become endemic in an organisation, making it difficult to carry out any more change.

Communicate

Some forms of change need lots of communication and information dissemination. It works because you’re building awareness of a possible change and the need for it. By communicating about the need for the change, you’re also building empathy for the potential change and the possible new ways you can achieve it.

Communication must be planned. People have to be told what they are meant to do, how they are to do it, and why they need to do it. It is often difficult to communicate the need for change, and the way change is going to be delivered. Some organisations might find it more effective to implement change by stealth. They might do this by stealthily introducing new ways of doing things without the people involved in the change process being aware that this is happening.

Organisations should be aware that their culture influences how they communicate, and they need to make sure that they communicate with their culture and not against it.

Conclusion

It’s important that organisations have a strategic plan for change management that ensures change is implemented in a planned and controlled way. An organisation can only gain from a comprehensive change strategy if it is properly communicated, understood and implemented. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Change processes can become disjointed, they may be uncoordinated and people do not always understand the reasons for change. It’s vital that organisations have a change management process in place, and that people know what to expect and how they can best support change and help it to progress.

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