Article: Organizational change: Easy or tough, asks Uma Arora


Organizational change: Easy or tough, asks Uma Arora

When a plant is taken out of a pot and put in another, it takes some time to grow roots and thrive in the new pot
Organizational change: Easy or tough, asks Uma Arora

The top management of the organisation undergoing the change must internalise the new vision, new role models


A typical scenario: A consultant receives a call from a HR manager of a medium-sized organization in the ITeS industry - ‘we have a requirement: our organization has gone through two takeovers in the last couple of years. Our employees are de-motivated, do not give their best at the workplace and blame the culture.’

What do they want? A magic wand to fix this in a day, preferably half-day workshop on change management! Quite often, some people are not able to acknowledge the fact that managing change has its own technology and if we want it to work, we need to understand its operating system and respect the algorithm.
So, what is the algorithm of managing change? According to Edgar Schein, there are three stages of implementing any change management program:

1. Creating the motivation to change

How do you create the restlessness that ‘I’ need to change at an individual level? The interesting observation is everyone thinks that the other person needs to change. We worked with a large multinational company having 15,000 people. We were talking to the key stakeholders and they kept briefing us about the need for change for everyone else in the system. When the consultant team did diagnosis, they found that the real need for change was at the top!

Therefore, the question is where does change begin? Does it have to be from the top? Or maybe change can begin anywhere. The answers are not easy.

Survival anxiety: ‘I must change or else there are consequences.’ ‘Will I fit in? Do I have the skills? In one organization in the aviation industry that we were working with, we found that most people just froze when a large scale change was implemented. The productivity/revenue dropped temporarily. High performers started leaving, and bad performers started strategizing for sucking up! Average performers continued working, but under distress.
Learning anxiety: How do you create psychological safety for people to create motivation for change? For example, an organization took very systematic steps to create safety by creating a shared vision, engaging the whole organization in creating shared values, coaching and mentoring people in the process. This was a high impact step to create ownership at all levels.
Once people take ownership, the task just gets done!

2. Change: Welcoming the new and bidding goodbye to the old

William Bridges in his book, ‘Transitions’, dwells upon three critical aspects of change:
• What ‘new’ I need to adopt
• What ‘old’ I need to let go
• Twilight zone - I don’t know what to do/expect!
Herein lays the arduous task for change agents and the top management. They need to manage the twilight zone and bring clarity.

3. Refreezing

The top management of the organization undergoing the change must internalize the new vision, new containers, new role models, new structures, new meanings and stories of success.
Time for the consultants to move out.

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Topics: Leadership, Learning & Development, Strategic HR

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