Management of Change

Information age

Management of ChangeWe have moved from the industrial age to the information age. Changes are taking place so rapidly, that it is difficult for most individuals and organization to keep pace. While there is an element of challenge and adventure due to the fast pace of change, there is also the fear of being left behind.

Necessity for change, its adaptation and management

In the current scenario it is not enough to maintain one’s position or status. If one does not adapt to change, there is a very strong fear that one will be left behind. Evidence of this is visible in the way in which many industrial monopolies have crumbled. Bajaj scooter, which had a years long waiting list, is today struggling to maintain its market share. More recently the Maruti is faced with stiff competition from newcomers. Many public sector units that had enjoyed decades of profitability due to a protected market, are now finding it very difficult to face the global competition, and are gearing up to meet the challenge of the new millennium.

Management of Change
Credit: Mary Anne Enriquez, cc-by-nd-2.0, flickr.com

Adaptation to change, and management of change, has to begin at the individual level. Each executive and manager need to ask himself/hersef: "Am I more of a maintenance engineer; keeping today's business humming along, or an architect imagining tomorrow's businesses?" For soon, today’s business will become obsolete, and there will be nothing left to manage.

It is said that the change that took place in the hundred years of the early twentieth century, the same quantum of change took place in twenty five years towards its end, and similar quantity of change took place in the past five years alone! This will give an indication of the rate at which change is taking place, and the necessity to be able to manage it.

New age - Consumerism

Management of Change
Credit: Mary Anne Enriquez, cc-by-nd-2.0, flickr.com

As is visible everywhere, we are being bombarded with consumerism through the electronic media. Today even small children are aware of brands and their preferences. Total Quality Management (TQM) and ISO 9000 have brought in a new concept of quality of the entire system as opposed to quality of the finished product only. The customer has been redefined. Educational institutions recognize the student as a customer, the production department identifies the marketing personnel as their customers. One has also become aware of the fact that in this highly competitive age, one cannot afford to have poor quality – because the cost of servicing the poor quality products is far higher than the cost of originally producing a good quality product.

Another factor in this new age is the understanding that every organization is composed of people, and the personnel alone can determine the success or failure of the establishment. Developing and managing better manpower should be the prime focus of every organization, be it a manufacturing, servicing, educational or marketing set up.

Why we resist change?

There is inevitably a resistance to change, both at the individual level, as well as the organizational level. An individual’s resistance to change may be due to:
  • Habit which one cannot let go. The more senior a person, the greater his tendency to stick to old habits, and a rigid mind set that only the old method is correct.
  • Security of the knowledge that the old method works, so why experiment with something that is unproven.
  • Economic strain that an individual may face to implement the change.
  • A fear of the unknown and an unwillingness to experiment.
  • A threat to one’s expertise or power, since inevitably new methods will bring into focus the younger and junior employees, while the senior ones may tend to become redundant.
  • The stress that any change will induce in the individual, since people are most relaxed when they settle into a routine that they have been following since a long time.
  • Selective information processing whereby important areas are left untouched and undue importance is given only to certain factors.
At the organizational level, resistance may be due to any or many of the following reasons:
  • Structural inertia. The hierarchy pattern is set and has become a comfort zone. Tampering with it may raise so many doubts and new conflicts.
  • Limited focus change (sub systems get nullified). Often people look with a narrow vision only at their own role or their department, and cannot visualize the total picture.
  • Threat to resource allocation, since old patterns of economics may change and bring in discontent and resistance.

Steps to overcome resistance to change

Management of Change
Credit: Steve-h, cc-by-sa-2.0, flickr.com
An enlightened manager needs to become aware that such resistance is bound to surface when change is brought in. But resistance can certainly be overcome if one takes the following steps:
  • Education of the staff by informing them beforehand of the changes that are going to be implemented, the reasons thereof, and what the likely benefits are.
  • Maintaining a good, free and frank communication at every level in the organizational structure. Taking in advice or suggestions from every team member, and encouraging everyone to talk and express opinions.
  • Allowing some degree of participation in decision making. It is important that it appears that justice has been done. Delegating authority makes people rise to the occasion and take greater responsibility.
  • Facilitation and support to make the line managers feel that they are not being burdened alone, and that the management is with them.
  • Manipulation and rewards to act as incentives. Understanding that every individual is likely to ask the question “how will I benefit from this change?”
Change has to be brought in by people, and people have to be motivated enough to see through the change. Happy Changing!

The last one is a crucial question that has to be addressed compulsorily. Unless we take along with us every team member, someone or the other is likely to pull in a different direction and hamper the implementation of change.

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