What is organizational change management?

This is a process, an essential activity company employees need to undertake in order to move to a new position or state. It’s a process about change, about helping staff to see the need for change, to become aware of change and to be able to change without difficulty. The process aims to make people better contributors to the company and better all-round individuals.

Organizational change is divided into two distinct areas – the event or change material itself and the move towards that change, the transition. The event could be the introduction of a new operating system, the application of new software, the amalgamation of different sectors within the company or pretty much anything else which is a major break from the previous system or operation. This event has to be able to be defined in simple but precise terms. It has to actually be something physical as opposed to an idea or concept.

The second aspect is then the exact opposite. It is not something physical; it is the actual transition and is sometimes referred to as the ‘white space’. It’s the way each individual makes the move from the old to the new. It’s a subjective and personal thing. You accept the change in your way and I in mine. This aspect is harder to understand by management because it can’t be defined precisely and for that reason is often neglected by leaders.

The whole point about change is that while systems, plant and equipment may all change and often do, they don’t mean anything unless the people who use them make the change too. Companies are made up of people and people must learn to change so that the new systems, plant and equipment can be used at all and hopefully effectively. By all means introduce new software but unless you bring your people with you, the new software may just as well have stayed in the box.

So how does a company assist its staff to move through the white space, to make the transition to change? Well there is no fixed method. That’s because people are individuals and each will react and respond in their own personal way. And that makes it a challenge for management.

They must understand how people respond to change and help each person to make the transition. It’s part of being a good manager. Leaving staff members to cross the white space on their own has the potential for disaster. Some may only half make it and others not make it at all. How does that engender teamwork within the project and company? It doesn’t.

Management’s role in this whole process is to create an imaginary picture. Staff must be able to picture themselves working with the new system or product. They must feel confident that the change will be for the good of everyone and particularly for them. They will be confident and benefit from the change. On the surface, no easy task but that’s the challenge for today’s modern leaders.

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