Dilemmas in Implementing Change

I recently responded to this question – “What dilemmas have you faced when implementing change to a process or a system?”

Change has become a constant in organization life, due in large part to the combined elements of continuous technology change in the world outside the organization, and the intensive, continuous internal pressure for productivity improvement that characterizes global competition.  An Associated Press release today points to a problem that workers are having as the recession creates a new version of their old job – one they are no longer qualified to fill.  This is because jobs have been reconfigured to require more skills and more flexibility, in the search for higher productivity.  “There are jobs available, but the worker just has to have more skills than before,” siad Mark Tomlinson, executive director of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers.

If you are managing this kind of change in your organization, you may face the dilemma of how to make the change effective, and still retain valued members of your organization.  For this to happen, it takes individual members of the organization supporting what you want to do.  If that does not happen, the change you seek will not be as successful as you envision.  

A  perspective that might be of help to you is to think about the intrinsic motivation of the members of your organization. What is important to them?

When change is introduced in an organization, the impacts on individuals typically vary considerably. If someone is being successful the way things are now, there is an understandable skepticism about what the change may mean. While it may be, this kind of response does not necessarily reflect a selfish view — the person’s contribution to the organization is what they may be thinking about, at least at first, and their concern may emanate from not knowing whether they will perform as effectively in their redefined role (or have one). Their intrinsic motivation will have alot to do with how they see the change.

Effective change management programs figure this out as part of the planning. Sometimes the answer is not what management wants to hear. In other words, sometimes management wants to make a specific change, but it is clear that, for a significant number of other members, the proposed change is going to be difficult, or worse. This type of situation has been predominant in change efforts during the last decade, because many of them have been to implement business reengineering, downsizing, outsourcing. Most existing members in the affected part of the organization quickly figure out the personal consequences for themselves. This may not be aligned with how they want to be rewarded in their role in the organization. If this occurs with a significant number of the members – it is typically characterized as “resistance.” What then ends up happening is that the “change management” process becomes focused on how to minimize this resistance to the change, as opposed to using what has been discovered to figure out a change that fits with the intrinsic motivations of the organization members.

Management needs to be realistic in managing its change initiatives in how they will affect individual members of the organization. Understand that most are likely to be behaving very rationally from their own perspective. Naturally individuals will find others who share their perspective. If you do not address this, you will not bring these individuals along with you in your change process, no matter how well “managed” it may be.

Management needs to analyze the longer term strategic implications of change. If management decides to make significant changes that are unaligned with the intrinsic motivations of a significant number of the organization members, they must understand that they will most likely not effectively engage these individuals in the change.

The alternative is to be open to the ideas of the organization members, who may have ideas that management never considered.  Challenge them with the result you want to achieve, and use their creativity, together with your own, to collaborate in producing an even better solution — one that you may not have thought possible.


About Wendy Vittori

Wendy Vittori is Strategy Consultant. With over 30 years of executive business leadership experience, Wendy works with dynamic small and mid-size organizations to help them improve organization performance and business results. She is a Certified Master Practitioner for MBTI® and conducts MBTI individual and team assessments and workshops.
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