Change Management ZAA101 - WEEK 6

Change Management

Up until now we have looked at the contemporary workplace and how organisations operate in this space, how organisations need to be innovative and how they can develop competitive advantage. Now we move to organisational change, where in the current contemporary business environment the only constant is change!

As Schermerhorn et al. states: “We are living and working at a time when intellectual capital, knowledge management and learning organisations are taking centre stage”. Michael Beer and Nitin Nohria from the Harvard Business School comment “the new economy has ushered in great business opportunities and great turmoil. Not since the Industrial Revolution have the stakes of dealing with change been so high. Most traditional organisations have accepted, in theory at least, that they must either change or die” (Schermerhorn et al. 2017).

When organisations are looking at implementing a change they spend a lot of time around the strategy for the change, the following video clip by Dr Britt Andreatta provides a useful five phase process for leading change in an organisation which consists of the following:

  • Identify the change
  • Build the team
  • Design the change process
  • Announce the change
  • Implement and maintain the change

So if we have a great strategy and process, why do so many changes in organisations fail? Many managers forget that if any change management strategy is to work they need to understand the human side, the alignment of the company’s culture, values, people and behaviours.

Please watch the following video that illustrates why people resist change and provides some insight on how to deal with some of the responses.

Jason Clarke - Embracing Change | 17.52 Mins

It is important to understand that resistance to change will happen no matter how great you think your process is, the key is knowing this and embracing it so that you give yourself the best chance of success when implementing a change in your organisation.

One of the most unsettling changes in an organisation is when there is a restructure. When a new CEO joins an organisation, one of the first things they usually do will look at the structure and see what changes they want to make.

In one of my previous roles I witnessed two restructures, the first when the CEO joined the organisation and the second three years later under the same CEO. The first restructure didn’t affect my department and so we were relatively unscathed, except for the fact that any restructure is very unnerving for staff, whether they are directly affected or not.

When you are in a relatively small organisation that employs around fifty five staff, any structural change especially forced redundancies makes it hard for people to process and even though they have been told their position is safe, the next question they tend to ask is yeah, but for how long? People also spend many hours per week at work, some think of their colleagues as a second family and many friendships are formed that continue outside of the workplace so any forced redundancies makes it stressful for everyone.

The second restructure did affect my department, I had five direct reports and two of the positions were being made redundant and one new position was being created. One other department also had a position that was being made redundant. These positions were not being made redundant for cost saving purposes, they were being made redundant because the CEO wanted to change the direction of those roles within the organisation.

I will go through the two processes that were undertaken by myself and the other manager, not to say one was right and one was wrong but to highlight the outcomes of each approach because when you are dealing with these situations they are not easy and you do what you think is right. Telling people they no longer have a job is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do throughout my career.

Approach One
When the decision was made that the CEO wanted to review some positions within the organisation, two were identified in my area and two were identified in another department. The CEO told both managers that could potentially have affected staff that we could handle the situation any way that we saw fit.

As soon as I knew which positions were being reviewed I made a time with both employees to let them know their positions were under review. A hard conversation to have, especially as one of the employees had been my first appointment when I joined the organisation and we had worked well together for over seven years. The other employee had been with the organisation longer than I had and we also had a great working relationship.

I still remember very clearly the day that I told these two employees that their positions were under review and I came out of my office and saw all of my direct reports and a couple of other staff from our department in a huddle at the end of the hallway. I must admit I stood there frozen for a minute, not sure what to do, do I go and speak to them or do I let them be so they can process it together?

After what seemed like a lifetime I decided to bite the bullet and I went up to the group and I said “Am I persona non grata? “ Thankfully one of the employees whose position was under review laughed loudly and said no don’t worry, join us. We then had a long debrief together as a team and in many ways it brought the team closer.

About four weeks later after the review had taken place, the CEO and I broke the news to the two team members that their positons were being made redundant. As I had been having open and honest conversations with the team throughout the last four weeks, neither person was surprised and both were prepared for the decision. Both employees decided to leave that day.

I have maintained a relationship with both these people and still catchup with them for coffee every now and then. One actually got a full time positon two weeks after being made redundant. That person has thanked me for being honest with them because as soon as they knew their positon was under review they started applying for other positions and hence was only out of work for two weeks

The other started their own business and is very happy with the new direction in their life.

Approach two.

The review process was undertaken and it was determined that only one positon from this department was going to be made redundant. The manager did not mention anything to the employee that their positon was under review.

The employee did approach the Human Resources person and made a comment that they didn’t have to worry because the only two who were under review had been told so everyone else must be safe.

The employee found out they were being made redundant the same day as the other two employees were told. The employee was not expecting the news and became quite abusive and had to be escorted from the premises.

The employee did get another job but it did take a while and at any opportunity they talked quite disparagingly about the management team. The person blamed the whole management team for the way their positon was handled rather than just their manager.

You can make up your own mind about these two approaches but I do want to reiterate that as managers we all do what we think is right but we are dealing with people and emotions and you never quite know how something might turn out so make sure you equip yourself with the tools to deal with this sort of situation. Although, I sincerely hope you never have to do anything like this!

What I hope it highlights though is that change is not easy for people whether it is a small change or a large one so make sure you spend some time dealing with not just the process and the plan but also the human side, show patience, empathy and communicate openly and you are much more likely to be successful with implementing change.

The following series of videos are from an interview with John Kirwan - CEO Royal Flying Doctors Service, Tasmania

Introduction | 54:secs

Why do you think it is important to understand Change Management? | 1:18 mins

What actions have you taken to deal with resistance to change? | 1:16 mins

The process of implementing change | 4:03 mins

Tips for students on change management | 2:20 mins

Conclusion | 1:55 mins


Created with images by Larisa-K - "forest nature trees" • Zaimful - "sunrise pond fog" • Josch13 - "drop of water drip blade of grass" • geralt - "tree sunset beautiful" • RyanMcGuire - "fence wooden border" • Maria Keays - "Grass" • Bessi - "alps tree snow" • KeYang - "horseshoe bend american landscape curve"

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