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effective management of Change
has become an imperative. It is not enough to think in terms of clichés
such as: "Things are changing faster than they've ever Changed before."
Today, we experience more Change in a single year than our grandparents
experienced in a lifetime.
IS organizations are at the "bleeding edge" of Change. We not only create
Change, we must also respond to sweeping Changes within our own industry.
To survive these Changes we must develop new, and appropriate skills,
otherwise we will fall further and further behind the competition.
We suffer under conflicting and confused priorities, increased demands
coupled with fewer resources, the need for higher quality combined with
a lack of stability. All of this places us under pressure, resulting
in stress, reduced productivity, lack of focus and low morale. All of
which generate a sense that no-one is in control, that we are moving
forward, but to what? The new order, is a present without reason leading
to a future without vision.
These realities are the result of globalization, emerging technologies,
shifts in social and economic structures, a reshaping of values, demographics
and business cycles, to name only a handful of the forces changing how
we live. In short, we are caught up in a storm of Change. A storm which
will only blow harder in the coming years. To survive you will require
new understanding and additional skills.
Without new skills to cope with this unrelenting Change, people in organizations
cannot steer their own course and, as a result, are at the mercy of
Change! To control Change, managers, supervisors, staff and professionals
- in all sectors of the economy - must acquire better understanding
of Change. Only then can it be managed, manipulated and mastered.
The secret to managing Change is to first understand what Change is
and what it is not. Change is not a random event. If you think of it
that way, then you will end up managing it that way, with random results.
Change has a structure and can be managed in a structured fashion. However,
most managers don't think of Change as a process, they think Change
is nothing but chaos, or as something that defies a detailed definition.
Consider the following situation. Assume for the moment you are an IS
manager with the task of implementing a new accounting package. The
accounting department has a staff of about 10 people who have been using
the old system for about 15 years. Given the tools available to them,
they achieved significant levels of productivity.
These productivity levels were achieved despite serious system deficiencies.
The staff developed some ingenious 'work-arounds' to bypass 'holes'
in the system. It not unreasonable to label these users as experts.
The company is aware of this expertise and treats these hard working
and innovative folks with respect.
Working closely with the manager of this department, you have selected
the best possible package and have added additional code to reflect
some of the more crucial business rules. You've also provided the necessary
training to each staff member. Despite all your best efforts to select
the perfect package and provide the most appropriate training, the staff
still resist the transition.
They are reluctant to make the transfer to the new system, and actively
find fault with it. In addition, certain members of the staff, have
not attended all the training sessions, instead taking holidays and
calling in sick.
None of this is unusual. Every IS manager has been through it. We have
all felt some resentment towards users who resist change obviously to
their benefit. Certainly we are seldom thanked for all the hard work,
extra hours and lost weekends involved in the implementation of new
systems. Basically, users are ungrateful for the effort we put in to
make their lives easier.
Well, that is one way to look at the problem. I've certainly felt that
way from time to time, but is it the correct way to perceive the problem?
And by correct, I mean is it a 'realistic' way to respond to this resistance
If we look at the problem from the point of view of the client, a very
different picture arises.
Bill is one of these accountants who has used the system for about 14
years. He has learnt how the system works. He is comfortable with it
even though it's missing many features. He's confident of his ability
to cajole the system through nightmarish month ends where hand holding
is required at every stage of the accounting cycle. He's proud of the
past 4 year ends which were accomplished with record low levels of overtime.
His annual performance evaluations reflect this expertise and his importance
to the department and the company as a whole. Bill feels good about
his job and the skills he's acquired over the years, even though he
openly admits he hates the accounting system.
As much as he dislikes the old system, he knows how to use it. He does
not know how to use the new system, and that is the key to understanding
his resistance to the transition.
The new system has moved Bill from a level of competence to incompetence.
We have not given Bill anything of worth by providing him with a new
system. We have in fact, taken away his competence, his self confidence
and to a large extent his self esteem.
Bill's annual performance evaluation is coming up in 3 months, for the
first time he's worried. He's heard rumours about some layoffs due to
downsizing. The recession is still on and jobs for people with his skills
and age are few and far between.
If he gets a poor performance evaluation (and he will, he is not as
productive as last year) he runs a good chance of being one of the people
laid off. He has two children and his wife is not drawing a salary,
his mortgage payments are due, he won't have money coming in, he won't
be able to get a job, he'll lose the house and be out on the street,
and winters coming and he'll die....
Yes. It sounds stupid. Not rational. Things are not that bad... But
we are talking about people and people are not logical when their security
is threatened. None of the above line of 'reasoning' makes sense...
BUT we've all had similar thoughts... Yes?
Why should Bill thank us for implementing the new system? When all we
have really done is take away his job security. It is pointless for
us to argue that Bill 'should not' feel that way. Bill 'does' feel that
way. If we chose to ignore these fears, then we will not remove the
resistance to change.
Patting someone on the head and saying "Bill, you have nothing to worry
about, you'll learn how to use this system very quickly and will soon
be more productive than you ever were." ignore the real issue that Bill
has lost his competence at the task that provided him a living. He has
a right to 'worry'. Ignoring this reality means that you cannot communicate
with Bill in his time of Chaos.
If we choose to ignore the natural human response to a large change
then we lose the opportunity to manage the 'reality' of change, instead
we try to manage it the way people 'should' react. In the language of
change, that's called denial. Using behaviours no longer appropriate
to the reality facing us.
When we arrive on the scene as 'Change Agents' we think of ourselves
as the source of positive change, we are sometimes (always?) blind to
the realities of how we, as humans with illogical emotions, react to
threats against our security.
"Change hurts". This is the primary reality of change. We must stop
thinking of ourselves as 'Change Agents' if we wish to take the human
element of change into account. An alternative is to call ourselves
'Inflictors of Change' this reminds us that Change hurts, that the real
issue of change management is not whether the 'system' is right, but
are the people involved prepared for the change?
This is an alternative, and more productive way of thinking of the nature
of Change. Change is not Chaos, we react to change based upon our perceptions
on how the change will affect our ability to cope. Change is not so
much about what the change will bring us, as it is about how much the
change will cause us to lose.
Someone who has only worked with a system for a few weeks, will be much
more likely to embrace a new system, than a person who has worked with
a system for 15 years. To get a feel for the size of a change ask yourself
the question, how much of the past must someone let go of, in order
to embrace the future.
This might appear to be a simplistic way to look at the Change process,
but it provides the beginning of a Change model which can provide a
deeper understanding of change than the idea that Change is just chaos.
Each Change situation is unique. However, a consistent Change model
can draw a road map of how people and organizations will react to a
Change. Without this road map, Change is nothing but surprises and detours.
With a map, a manager can predict specific reactions to Change. In other
words, the manager can be proactive rather than reactive.
The adjustment phase to any Change takes time. Change is about moving
from what you know, to something new. Learning to do something new takes
time; Change cannot happen overnight.
That Change takes time is contrary to the predominant belief amongst
many managers that there is some way to bring about immediate Change.
They look for courses which will tell them how to bring about instant
Change; If such courses exist, they can only raise false expectation
because real world changes take time. For proof look to newspaper headlines.
The Berlin wall can be knocked down overnight... but the adjustment
phase takes time.
It takes time because people require time to learn new skills. Bill
needs time to learn how to us the new system. He cannot, it is physically
and mentally impossible, for him to learn it overnight, he is only human.
Change is a process. If follows a sequence as predictable as an assembly
line. People in organizations react to Change in a consistently predictable
Knowledge and acceptance of how Change really takes place enables you
to manage it by communicating directly to real issues. Focusing on the
real issues of fear of incompetence, job insecurity and not on the bogus
issue of 'they resist change because they're not team players' is the
basis of good (effective?) change management.
As managers we have to deal with two fundamental aspects of Change.
The first is obviously the direct management of Change - getting your
organization to Change (ie. prescribed Change.) The other is personally
coping with Changes forced upon us (ie. proscribed Change.) A Change
model recognizes both aspects of Change. A Change model provides insights
into your personal reactions to Change, resulting in more rational decision-making
during times of chaos and crisis.
Without a model, Change and how we react to it, make no sense. The benefit
of a model is that it provides a consistent way of understanding a process.
A good reality based model can transform Change into a process enabling
us to understand why people react to Change in the way they do. In other
words, a model can make sense out of seemingly irrational behavior.
We can all manage what we understand; if you don't understand Change,
you can't manage it. Once you understand and accept the mechanisms of
Change, it becomes manageable, perhaps for the first time.
During times of change there are at least two camps. Those wanting to
implement the change and those suffering under the change. Both groups
are motivated differently, one by the desire to move forward and the
other by the understandable desire to remain within the safe and comfortable
status quo. To be a Master of change, its necessary to understand both
motivations and be able to communicate to both groups.
The problem with the way we manage Change today, is that the models
and tools we use, are inappropriate. We apply solutions and communicate
with each other based upon our inaccurate and incorrect understanding
of how Change works, and then we are confused when these solutions fail
to deliver the desired results. Our solutions can only be consistently
appropriate when they are based upon a model and related strategies
and tactics, which accurately represents the reality of Change.
A Change model based upon the idea that "Change Hurts" is a good start.
Reprinted with permission
of the Author, (C) 2000, Peter de Jager firstname.lastname@example.org
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