The ability to manage and adapt to organizational change has never been more important. Change has become today’s norm, not the exception, and those businesses that grow comfortable with it in all its facets, adopting clear methodologies and processes to respond efficiently and effectively, will emerge ahead of the game.
Getting there is where challenge lies. It starts with understanding the more common change management models so the organization and its people are best equipped and prepared to respond. Three of the most common models include the evolutionary, revolutionary and Lewin’s three-step models.
The evolutionary model, as the name implies, involves incremental change. An example would be change in an organization’s pay structure or schedule to stay market competitive. It would not be a wide, sweeping change, but one that is still very important to the organization and its employees.
The revolutionary change model involves all or many parts of an organization with changes that are more strategic in nature. One such change would be to take a business from brick and mortar to online sales, which would certainly involve tremendous change across many areas of an organization.
Lewin’s three-step model involves the unfreezing of an organization’s culture. If you want to change an organization, one of the ways to start, and is critically important in Lewin’s model, is to thaw what has been frozen into the company culture.
In Lewin’s three-step model, the first step toward unfreezing is to overcome areas of individual and group resistance to change. It’s important to understand the pressures and kinds of resistance that will be met in terms of group reformity, conformity and individual conformity.
The second step is to get employees involved in the change process, and the third step is refreezing and stabilizing the change. The goal is to balance the process of driving and restraining forces to get the organization where it feels comfortable operating, resolve uncertainties and then refreeze and stabilize.
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Unfreezing can sometimes create dissatisfaction with the current state. It involves activating top management support, as this group of change sponsors is critically important to the process. It also often involves participative decision making versus top-down decision making, where management attempts to force and coerce people to change. Change is best when it bubbles up from the bottom, as well; individual participation in decision-making creates buy-in.
During the moving phase, some vision of change must be established and shared. That includes setting clear goals and creating a support structure that reinforces the organization’s change process and bolsters people’s willingness to change. Communications are critical, as well. It is important to establish an open and two-way flow that explains the need for change and where it will take people and why.
Once the organization has successfully undergone change, the change needs to remain. People need to see what success from making the change looks like and how those who are successful in this environment are rewarded. It’s important that people see that change is actually working and once it does, that the systems, structures and policies that institutionalize the change are well-adopted.
This is how change can be effectively implemented, preventing people from reverting back to old behavior. Whatever model is used or the extent of the change needed, the ultimate challenge is to unite people at all levels in the organization around a new mission, vision and goals that will lead to success in challenging times.