Sunday, August 9, 2009

Your Change IQ

How much do you know about the most effective methods of communicating organizational change? How much do you know about the effects of organizational development and change on the people affected by the change? Take this quiz to test your understanding. The answers are listed below.

1. The initial communication regarding the change should be:

A. To the point and as brief as possible.

B. Include as much detail as possible.

C. Down-played to reduce possible reactionary stress.

2. The change should be explained as:

A. Routine and something not to be feared.

B. Something that complaining won’t fix.

C. In the best interest of the organization.

3. Frame the message on change from the perspective of:

A. The executive level.

B. The managerial level.

C. The employee level.

4. Objections to change should be:

A. Brought out in the open.

B. Down-played because they will soon disappear.

C. Dismissed quickly.

5. Structure the message on change to:

A. Foster good feelings.

B. Build compliance.

C. Build understanding and commitment.

6. In follow-up meetings and communications describing change:

A. Divulge everything you know.

B. Explain only what they need to hear.

C. Admit what you don’t know.

7. Change is best explained in:

A. Small functional groups.

B. Large groups.

C. Using media like TV or email.


1. A. Those who plan and deliver the initial message on change can overstate and over communicate in the statement- too much, too soon can overwhelm the receiver, which lead to confusion and misinformation. It can also be viewed as an attempt to deceive. The first statement announcing organizational change needs to be honest, straightforward, brief, and constructed in relatively simple language. Make the message to the point, with little hype, and include no empty promises.

2. C. The participants of change need to believe that the change is needed at this time and is in the best interests of the overall company. If this message isn’t clearly communicated, some people may believe that the change is intended to benefit a small minority or select group. Words that tend to communicate business necessity include: growth, competitive position, market share, market position, stability, strategic strength, and so forth.

3. B and C, and possibly A. Too often executives construct a message for other executives and the media, but then try to deliver it to individual contributors and their managers. Messages that describe change need to be constructed in language that benefits people at all levels. Both managers and individual contributors need to buy into the change, so the words and concepts need to be aimed specifically at them.

4. A. During the communication of change it is common to hear comments and/or objections. If there is a perceived attempt to conceal or dismiss the comments, it will be difficult at a later time to build understanding and commitment to the plan. Let comments come to the surface and deal with them in an honest manner.

5. C. Commitment to the plan and trust of its consequences can only happen after the people understand what is going to happen, why it is necessary, why now, how it will be accomplished, and who will be involved. Skipping the understand step or failing to answer questions will likely lead to dissent and distrust.

6. A and C. It is important for people hearing about change to believe that they have heard the entire story. Remember, perception is reality. If a critical mass of the people involved comes to believe that not everything has been divulged, then a covert or overt resistance can seriously thwart the plan. Likewise, if the answer to a question isn’t known, it must be admitted, but include how and when the answer will be communicated.

7. B is best, but A and C may be necessary. It has been my experience, both receiving and delivering messages on organizational change, that small groups are the best venue (fewer than a dozen people). The personal touch and attention affords a more conducive atmosphere to not only communicate the message, but also to defuse misconceptions or misinformation. Some organizations, however, due to logistics and size are constrained to communicate via large groups and/or media.

The Effects of Organizational Development and Change

has been said that organizational development and change is inevitable in today’s competitive business climate. However, only selectively is change received with welcome arms by those most closely affected by it. So if organizational alteration is inescapable, how then can it be accomplished with the least collateral damage to those most closely involved? That is a question leaders and managers all too seldom seriously consider and plan for, but desperately need to understand and prepare for.

A number of years ago I found myself in a position in an organization that underwent frequent acquisitions and reorganizations. It seemed to those of us experiencing the changes that the frequency of change was weekly, but realistically it was annually. Therein lies an interesting fact: even to a psychologist who ought to know and understand change and its impact on people, when it happens close to home the frequency seems to be exaggerated. That is because change is often a traumatic event that can distort a person’s perception of reality. It’s also because change is typically viewed from an egocentric perspective: how will this new change impact my work situation and me?

Before we explore how organizational development and change impacts and is received by its participants, let’s be clear about the necessity of changing things in the first place. Although the status quo is comfortable and appears desirable from a personal perspective, it is in the vast majority of situations unrealistic to expect for any extended period of time. Speaking on this subject, Dr. George Odiorne once said, "That which does not change tends to stand still and soon becomes obsolete." In other words, the failure of an organization to effect strategic change could make the organization obsolete: that means out of business! Franz Kufka said the same thing another way, "In a fight between you and the world, bet on the world."

Organizational change could be as straightforward as changing the day people receive their paychecks, or it could be a major restructuring involving merging, divesting, or downsizing. There are small changes and there are big changes and the planning and executing of each requires understanding, wisdom, preparation and careful execution.

Organizational Development and Change Model

Models have been created to explain both how and why people affected by change behave as they do. While most models describe the effects of organizational change, the one described here is different because I, as an organizational psychologist, developed it while working for a company that was experiencing frequent change. Perhaps the insights of seeing the effects of change first hand, gives this model a different perspective than other models of the same type.

Although the six stages of reaction described in my model don’t occur every time and with every person, it’s amazing how accurately this model can predict how people behave when faced with organizational change. Many times in my consulting practice clients have said how this model explained behavior better than any other system they have seen.

Stage 1: When significant organizational change is first realized it is common for those affected to feel shock. It’s not uncommon, for example, to physically see the effects of shock in the faces and body language of those persons. The reason for the shock is a personal fear of how the change might impact the status quo. It’s important for leaders and managers implementing change to be aware that initial fear of the event is common, because it is a natural reaction. A person demonstrating shock from a personal fear should not be considered a problem. Rather, it is a reaction that usually dissipates in most people.

Stage 2: Soon after the Shock Stage sets in its common for people to go into denial. You can usually hear this stage more than see it, as in Stage 1. You’ll recognize Stage 2 by hearing comments like, "They’ll never go through with this!" Or, "I can’t believe this is going to happen!" Or, "Watch, they’ll change their mind before this ever gets off the ground." Or, "If we ignore this long enough, it will just go away." The reason people experience denial comes from their disbelief or even anger over what they think is about to happen. Whether it’s real or not, disbelief can trigger feelings, and expressions, of denial.

Stage 3: After experiencing shock and then denial, a person can make a conscious or unconscious decision that the impending change will be bad. This rejection of the change usually comes as a result of the person trying to preserve the status quo and/or a zone of personal comfort. Rejection of change can result in either a "fight or flight" reaction from persons affected by it. This is why it’s not uncommon for turnover to increase after changes are announced. People can believe that the possibility of comfort elsewhere is more probable than the uncertainty of change where they are.

Stage 4: The people who choose to stay, but who have not accepted or embraced the change, typically shift to a mode of tolerance. They may appear to be on-board, but in actuality the tolerance is only masking either overt or covert resistance. It is easier to deal with overt resistance than covert resistance. Overt behaviors are in the open and can be seen and diffused, whereas covert behaviors are difficult to recognize, let alone deal with.

Stage 5: When people who have been subjected to organizational change become involved in aspects of the changes, there is a possibility of strategic understanding. Involvement could be membership on a team, being asked for an opinion or suggestion, or participating in some way in the evolving organization. Without deliberate involvement, many people will take a "wait and see" attitude. The key to move people to ultimate embracing is maximum involvement of as many people as possible.

Stage 6: After a person has been involved in the planning and/or mechanics of the changes, and then has developed a strategic understanding, feelings of commitment can grow. While a few people can indeed gain commitment without moving through the five preparatory stages, most people will progress through the stages until they gain a sense of commitment or buy-in. People in the commitment stage tend to give advice to others about how the impending changes could be in the organization’s best interest. They also volunteer for assignments and are quick to give positive suggestions.

Rumination Loop. Many people who don’t become involved in the change process revert back to Stage 1 through a Rumination Loop. While experiencing resistance to the change, people can cycle back to the Shock Stage through the loop. In fact, it’s not uncommon for people to cycle through the Rumination Loop several times and even over several years. The key to moving people out of the loop is involvement.

Key Action Steps: When planning either a minor or significant change within an organization, consider these action steps to achieve maximum commitment from as many people as possible.

1. Describe what is going to happen.

2. Explain why the change is necessary.

3. Ask for reactions; listen to comments and feelings.

4. Acknowledge comments or objections and check for misunderstandings.

5. Ask for suggestions.

6. Ask for support.

7. Involve as many people in any way possible.

8. Follow through and monitor reactions.

Summary: In today’s business climate organizational development and change is a regular occurrence. While it’s true that many years ago change happened as at a snail’s pace, today it seems to be on a daily menu. Leaders and managers clearly need to be sensitive to the impact of change on their human capital. But at the same time they must weigh the benefits of what the change might do for the overall organization against what the change might do to those affected by it.

Leading Organizational Change Expert Reveals The 3 Greatest Barriers To Organizational Change

Many businesses make significant strategic changes in their organizations from time to time. Organizational Change Expert Gayla Hodges, reveals the three greatest barriers to organizational change and why they can completely undermine business strategy if handled incorrectly.

Glendale, AZ (PRWEB) June 24, 2007 -- The need for rapid organizational change is a fact of life in today's business environment. It is often necessary to make strategic changes in order to achieve key strategic business goals. The key to successful change is in the planning and the implementation. This is the reason Change Agents, Inc. is one of the few business consultants to stick around during the implementation of strategic change rather than leaving when the planning is done.

Gayla Hodges, President and Principal Consultant of Change Agents, Inc. recently revealed the three greatest barriers to organizational change. "No matter how necessary change seems to upper management," she says, "many barriers must be broken down if a planned strategic change is to be implemented successfully." The three barriers she identified are often overlooked by businesses contemplating change. They are:

  • Inadequate Culture-Shift Planning. All organizational change affects people. It is easy to forget that, even at work, people make many decisions on the basis of feelings and intuition. When changes in corporate culture and the feelings of employees are overlooked, the result is often deep resentment because some unrecognized taboo or tradition has not been duly respected.
  • Lack of Employee Involvement. People have an inherent fear of change. When asked to assume new responsibilities or focus on different aspects of their knowledge or skill, they also fear failure. Involving employees as soon as possible in the change effort, letting them create as much of the change as is possible and practical is key to a successful change effort. Employees need an opportunity to "try the change on for size" to obtain buy-in.
  • Flawed Communication Strategies. Ideal communication strategies attend to the message, the method of delivery, the timing, and the importance of information shared with various parts of the organization. Solid communication strategies do not overwhelm people with too much information, or leave them guessing about how they will be affected by the change. Information will be provided consistently by supervisors, and people will be allowed time to think about it and talk about it.
There are other barriers, to be sure, but the three outlined above are extremely common and highly likely to create havoc in the organization. "By planning and dealing with these three areas thoroughly, carefully, and sensitively," says Hodges, "people will be most likely to get on board and help implement the change and adapt to organizational change far more readily and supportively.