Revamping the status quo: Organisational mantra for 2023
It’s astonishing. The world around us can change so quickly that it sometimes surprises us. Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Robotics, and other forms of technological advancement have resulted in an increase in productivity at a rate that is hard for us to keep pace with.
However, one area where we are still behind the curve is organisational change. On average, more than two out of three organisations experience four significant changes over the course of five years. The resistance to change discussed here isn’t necessarily a negative thing; it’s just natural. Any time we’re faced with a significant shift in our lives (and thus our environments), our initial response is to freeze. This isn’t always bad – it can be positive when used with caution – but changes should be made regardless of when practical benefits outweigh potential costs.
This reminds me of one of the cornerstone models for understanding organisational change developed by Kurt Lewin back in the 1940s that still holds true today. He explained organisational change using the analogy of changing the shape of a block of ice. If you have a large cube of ice but realise that what you want is a cone of ice, what do you do? First, you must melt the ice to make it amenable to change: Unfreeze. Then you must mould the iced water into the shape you want: Change. Finally, you must solidify the new shape: Refreeze. The above-mentioned three-step revised model gives leaders and change agents an idea of what implementing change means when dealing with their team.
Let’s attempt to manage organisational change by understanding the change process, creating a novel plan for a smooth transition, and overcoming any possible resistance in advance.
Unfreeze: Unlearning resistance to change
This step calls for reassessing current practices and processes for the wheels of change to be set in motion. This is a fundamental change in mindset that needs to happen at every level within an organisation. Unfreezing is about gaining a new perspective by changing one’s point of view. The fixation on certain ways, processes, and models hinders the way to paving a solid, unshakable organisational foundation. It’s certainly not a one-man job.
To do this well, managers need to be able to identify what’s going wrong with their team or department and then get everyone involved in figuring out how to fix it. They need to ask questions like: “How can we challenge the current status quo?” or “How to design the most suitable implementation strategy?” Well, to answer similar questions, one must break free from the resistance and learn to embrace the change.
Change: Identify additions and deletions
Recognising the need for change and knowing how to implement that change are two vastly different skills. Undergoing change management is critical—but where do you start? It all starts with understanding what types of organisational changes you’re attempting to implement.
1. People-centric changes
These kinds of changes are prone to emotional responses. Brace yourself for the emotional journey and be ready to guide your team towards acceptance. It includes evolving job responsibilities and roles as the job description changes overtime, inculcating a 5-day working model to initiate work-life balance, or even bringing in purposeful changes like communicating company values/Code of Conduct and the ‘why’ behind them will help employees better understand and adapt to the changes and so on.
2. Structural changes
These changes often coincide with the people-centric changes mentioned above, as they directly affect most, if not all, employees. Expanding a company’s domains or going in for a merger or acquisition are a great way to challenge the current status quo. It can also apply to smaller adjustments such as forming focused teams for specific assignments, for example analytics.
3. Transformational changes
Every organisation has a sound idea of what is not going right or what needs to be fixed, changed, or transformed. But the need often is to create an acceptance about the desired change. So, these are in the realm of strategic interventions that will primarily impact its operations and in fact transform the organisation to better equip it to face the competitive needs. Organisations often seek the help of experts or OD Consultants in securing the desired transformation both to reap the dividends of the transformation and ensure implementation with minimum social costs.
Inducing modern technologies and new ways of working can foster growth, but it should not in the process undermine the employees’ skill or efficiency on account of not preparing the person with the required familiarity. For that, it is important for the employees to be provided with proper training to equip them with the right competencies to embrace and be successful with the changes. Lastly, an apt remedial plan should be in place to address emerging situations or things not going as per the plan. Managers should be sensitive to the stated and unstated concerns of the employees and other impacted parties by being for example, proactive in dealing with the loss of a talent, communicating the plan of action to their employees, updating on progress of implementation, addressing customer communication issues to avoid collateral damage etc.
Refreeze: Internalising novel operations
The refreeze stage of change is the final stage where the new ways of working are entrenched and used in everyday business. This means that people are comfortable with change, and they have internalised them. They need to be given time to get settled in their new ways of working and Role. This is also an opportunity for managers to provide performance feedbacks with employees on a regular basis. This means making sure that the changes are fostered all the time, and that they are reinforced into everyday business. With a new sense of stability, employees feel confident and comfortable with the new ways of working. In this stage, the organisation needs to make sure that successes are celebrated, and people are given credit for the same.
In conclusion, to institutionalise change, leaders and employees must embrace it, rather than fighting the tide. Accordingly, the role of leadership and change agents is not overcome resistance much less wish away resistance to change, but pragmatically accept it, and manage it sensitively. The organisation will benefit from a new sense of optimism and flexibility that comes with being receptive to different ways of working once they sense the larger good. The social pressures that are engendered by working with a sense of urgency, constant improvement, and a willingness to change will help create an organisation where the mantra is ‘Readiness to Change” a state where envisaging and orchestrating change instead of being forced to react to the circumstances when events have overtaken us, is the new normal.
Research has shown that if your organisation has excellent change management chops, you are six times more likely to meet your objectives. By fully understanding the extent to which a culture change program is a long-term initiative and recipe for success, managers are better able to measure the long-term impact and benefit of the program.