Change – A Move or Transformation?

The only constant is change”. This famous saying is a practical reality of everyday life in both personal and professional environments. The pace of change has taken rapid rise in past 2-3 decades, and will continue. Such fast pace of change demands compliance with it or else individuals, companies and organisations may fail in their aims and objectives, as the time/resources required to catch-up would be very costly.

What is change?
Often, change is responded to with resistance because of the wrong perception, people may not accept the idea of change as they are comfortable with the ways they are used to. The reality is that we as humans keep changing at least in physical form by growing older, every second of our life. Therefore, the author likes to define change as the process of transformation, where we are not moving from place A to place B, or a process is not being eradicated, but rather it is transformed from its existing stance to the next level. However, change must be thought through carefully, analysed and evaluated for risks before taking any steps towards its implementation.

Approaches to adopt change:
Change is good if it is well planned and adopted in the right sequential order for implementation. Judith R.Gordon, in her book ‘Organizational Behavior. A Diagnostic Approach’ (6th ed.), proposes three approaches to adopt change; Behavioural, Structural and Technological. All of these approaches are of equal importance and worth, they can be utilised according to the nature and requirements, but the most important aspect of the change is behavioural. If the behaviour is not changed then structural and technological changes are not going to contribute positively towards growth.

Intervention strategies:
Organisations can adopt several intervention strategies to embrace forces for change, which all depend on the type of business and how the organisation is structured. At times, a top-down approach might be useful, or in other circumstances, a bottom-up methodology might be best. Either way organisations must benefit from extensive communication with employees, educational and training programs, involving employees in decision making and re-organising structure, it can be considered an evolutionary approach rather than revolutionary.

Practical steps:
The renowned three step process defined by Kurt Lewin is a great practical model to adopt/implement change. These three steps are: Unfreeze – Change – Refreeze. As easy as these steps may sound, their actual implementation can be challenging, if not planned and managed carefully.

For any change to happen, at first the realisation/acknowledge to break out of current comfort zone is crucial – unfreeze. Only after this a restyle or redesign can take place by implementing the planned change. Once the change has been implemented successfully, a very important step follows – Refreeze. To sustain the current applied change, until the next stage of growth through change, it’s important to refreeze – meaning stabilise the change by helping others to get adapted to it and transformed according to the changes made. This stage, if not dealt with carefully, can result in failure as others needing to carry out day to day operations might not adopt fully or may adopt with resistant behaviour.

How to overcome resistance to change?
A positive environment, welcoming attitude to ideas, involvement of all during development/ implementation of change and encouraging team attitude are some of the many useful steps to overcome resistance to change. One of the key strategies to overcome resistance to change is to have ‘change agents’. Change agents must be chosen carefully as the acceptability, adaptability and implementation of change is heavily dependent upon the change agent’s input, style, methodology and handling. As much as possible, it’s preferable to have internal change agents, as the employees would not consider the agent as an outsider and would naturally have openness and acceptance to the proposed/ implemented changes.

Should change be evaluated?
Planning change, implementing it and sustaining it are good steps but not enough – it is also necessary to now evaluate and measure the change. Judith Gordon describes 4 levels at which changes can occur: Affective, Learning, Behavioural, and Performance. If evaluations show that effects have been good, individuals have learnt and built on their skills and knowledge by adopting the change, employee’s behaviour towards change is good with performance improved; this indicates that the changes made were needed, well planned, and rightly executed.

No one size fits all:
As businesses expand and operate beyond borders, it is important to understand that even within the same industry or organisation, a successful strategy in one geographical location may not be applicable in another. People have different values, belief and perceptions; therefore, it is not always possible that a very successful change idea/strategy can be implemented in other location even if the company or organization is still the same. Therefore, cross-cultural issues are to be kept in view while planning and implementing change.

Life is never simple and with given advancement in technology, techniques and innovations in today’s world, it is important to have change as the agent of our further improvement. Change should not necessarily be presumed as moving from one point of view to the other, but rather transforming ourselves to the higher level of working. Thus, change plays an important role in development and growth of both, individuals and organisations.

Simon Peter Nadeem – PhD Candidate, University of Derby

Simon is an ambitious, emerging researcher in the era of Circular Economy, Logistics and Supply Chain Management, and Business.