Organizational Change Management 

In 21st century, organizational changes have been a constant part of business life. The only way for organizations to survive in the tough competition today, is to keep up with the changes and developments in their industry and environment. For some industries, even following and adapting is not enough, there is a competition to control and lead the change.

With the availability of advanced communication technologies, there is a huge flow of information between organizations, their employees, customers and all stakeholders. The ability of an organization to read and analyze this information, together with the flexibility of making the correct changes, determines their position against competition today.

However, while concentrating on constant improvement and development, organizations may overlook the importance of having a strategy for applying the changes and making them accepted and internalized by everyone.

Main Elements of Change in Organizations

Regardless of how detailed and perfectly it is planned in theory, no organizational change is applied without any problem or resistance. Below are the main elements of change process and how they should be managed;

1-)  Resistance and Reactions to Change

Most critical decisions are taken on a managerial level, but performed by front line & operational staff. Therefore, the most important part of managing the change in an organization is "selling" the idea internally to their members. Successful implementation of a new idea depends on the involvement of all departments&levels within the organization.

During changes, organizations face a resistance from their members, mainly because it threatens current status quo and puts people out of their comfort zone. Another type of resistance comes from members who disagree with the idea, or think that the new structure will not be in line with their personal interests.

The degree of resistance may vary depending on character, position, job description and many other factors, but the process generally goes in 4 steps as analyzed by Kreitner and Kinicki;

Reactions to Change

The desired way is to get over the first three phases as soon as possible and gain acceptance. To achieve it, organizations must communicate the change in detail with all members and make sure they participate in the process. The management should analyze the effects on all parties to see if there are members who will be negatively affected and try to find solutions. Besides, there must be a rewarding system for the ones who get adapted quickly and support the process.

2-) Creating a Vision, Structure and Objective-Setting

Before initiating a major change; what, when and how to change must be clearly defined. In the beginning of a change process, organizations should have a clear vision of the point they will reach, when it is accomplished. So instead of making small random changes to find the best fit with trial and error, it is better to define exactly "what needs to be changed", "what the benefits are" and work on a clear structure.

It is also important to set short term objectives, because trying to apply large organizational changes all at once can lead to chaos and huge resistance. Taking it down into smaller steps and giving them deadlines leads to better performance and more acceptance by organization members.

Another major mistake is setting the objectives too high. Challenging objectives and time limits increase performance and speed, but the line between "challenging" and "impossible" should not be crossed. If people realize that the objective is out of their capabilities, they feel pressured, stressful and unmotivated.

3-) Establishing Tools to Measure Progress and Results

Lack of measuring tools means lack of execution. The organization may have set the objectives clearly and set performance criteria for each, but if they do not have the tools to measure it correctly, the whole process will be unclear.

Organizations need to continuously measure 2 performances. One of them is keeping track the progress to make sure all steps are  being implemented as planned. The data should be available to all members of organization so that they can follow their performance and share ideas.

Second one is monitoring the results of the change and their effects in the organization. This data enables the organization to reevaluate the "change" itself, and predict if the final outcome will be satisfactory when it is completed.

4-) Information Flow and Involvement of all Parties

Applying changes through a set of top-to-down orders, procedures and deadlines kills motivation and creativity. Involving all organizational members, even the external stakeholders, from beginning to end, increases ownership for the change. People tend to dedicate themselves more, if changes are structured by the whole organization instead of a selected group of managers or a project team. Every member of the organization needs to be informed about whole process. Two way communication also enables continuous feedback from all stakeholders, which provides valuable data for improvement.

5-) Availability of Resources

Changes cannot be achieved unless the organization has enough resources to support the whole process. So before implementing a change, the required resources (Time, Money, IT Infrastructure) must be identified and availability must be checked.  The whole change plan should be in line with the availability of required resources.