Managing Change - An Organizational perspective


Vani Venugopal
Department of MBA
AMC Engineering College

Managing Change is probably the single most important issue today for all those who have undertaken the difficult task of managing organizations. Around the world, organizations big and small face the inevitable prospect of Change. This article presents a summary of significant ideas and insights on the management of organizational change, in terms of growth , transformation and decline.


Today's business environment produces change in the workplace more suddenly and frequently than ever before. Mergers, acquisitions, new technology, restructuring and downsizing are all factors that contribute to a growing climate of uncertainty. Jobs, health, even marriages can be placed at risk, jeopardizing productivity and profitability.

People have deep attachments to their organisation, work group, and way of working. The ability to adapt to changing work conditions is key for individual and organizational survival. Change will be ever present and learning to manage and lead change includes not only understanding human factors but also skill to manage and lead change effectively.

What is Change?

Change is concerned with making things different. Change intervention is a planned action to make things different. The person or persons who act as a catalyst and assume, the responsibility for managing the change process is the change agent.

From birth to death change is our constant companion. Mankind noticed the ever presence of change centuries ago. From the changes we ourselves initiate to those we don't have anything to do with, to changes that occur without a moments notice, change is perceptual, natural and frequently a sign of life. Change can also leave us feeling lost, out of control and uptight.

Organizational Change

"Change or die" is the rallying cry among today's organisations world wide. Organisational Change can be defined as concereted, planned effort to increase organizational effectiveness and health through changes in the organisation's dynamics using behavioral science knowledge.

The Three Shades of Change

"What type of Change are you trying to implement?" To most people that's a nonsensical question. A typical response is, "Type? What do you mean 'Type of change"? We're implementing a Change! Change is Change!" Or, they might have some sense that they can distinguish different types of Change. Some changes are "easy", others are "difficult"... this is an "organisational change", while that one is a "Technological change".

There are fundamental problems with distinctions of easy vs. difficult, and technological vs. organisational. They either fail to cover the entire spectrum of possible changes or the lines separating the categories are too fuzzy.

At what point along the spectrum does a Change project shift from "easy" to "difficult"? Where do we place the Change "Learning to play the bagpipes"? Organisational? Technological? Or do we need another category? Painful?

Another failing is that the distinction between one category and another doesn't provide us any benefit. How is "Organisational" Change fundamentally different from "Technological" Change? Unless the scheme we use adds value to the process, it only adds confusion. What is required is a division which makes "sense". Usually, after such a scheme is proposed, the reader responds with, "Of course! Why didn't I think of that? It's obvious!"

Perhaps worse than choosing inappropriate categories, is using no categories. This strategy leads to confusing assertions such as "People resist Change", spoken by people who have willingly embraced huge personal changes; gotten married, had children, moved house, learned a second language etc. etc. By continuing to think of Change as "one thing" they ignore the consequent contradictions.

There is a way to split Change up into three distinct and useful categories. Consider the following division based on the "source" of the Change relative to us as individuals:

Type I      – That which is done to us.
Type II     – That which we do to ourselves.
Type III    – That which we do to others.

As a rule nobody likes Type I Change.

We hate being told what to do. Why? Because it interferes with our definition of "self", it violates our sense of independence, freedom and control of our own destiny. This is the type of Change we're most likely to resist within the context of organisational Change.

Type II Change is different, very different.

We're in control. We're deciding for ourselves that doing something different is necessary. Because it's our decision, we don't "resist" our decision to Change. This does not mean Type II Change is easy. Learning to play those bagpipes or to speak Chinese, losing weight, moving to a new city, starting a new job or position, are all difficult tasks, but we don't resist them in the same way we resist when someone else tells us we have to do these things.

Type III Change is Type I Change from the other side of the fence.

If we're inflicting Type III Change, then they perceive it as Type I Change.

Relocating the Factory:

Let's assume Management has decided, for a variety of reasons, to relocate the factory. This Change falls into all three categories depending on who's looking at the relocation.

For Management, the relocation is obviously a Type II Change. It's their idea, they're in control. While relocating is difficult, it's something they've embraced by deciding it is necessary. Coping with this self inflicted Change is relatively easy.

For Management, it's also a Type III Change. It is one they are going to inflict on their employees. Inflicting Change is different than coping with it.

And for the Employees, this is a Type I Change. Change is forced on them by someone else.

Where we typically make our mistake as management, and where Change becomes difficult, is we assume that because this is a Type II Change for us, it's a Type II Change for everyone else.

Unless we take into account how we react to Type I Change and accept that our employees see this as a Type I Change, then the relocation will be unnecessarily difficult.

Specific Types of Organisational Change

There are different overall types of organizational change, including planned versus unplanned, organization-wide versus change primarily to one part of the organization, incremental (slow, gradual change) versus transformational (radical, fundamental), etc.Knowing which types of change you are doing helps all participants to retain scope and perspective during the many complexities and frequent frustrations during change.

Major Types of Organisational Change

Typically, the phrase "organisational change" is about a significant change in the organisation, such as reorganisation or adding a major new product or service. This is in contrast to smaller changes, such as adopting a new computer procedure. Organisational change can seem like such a vague phenomena that it is helpful if you can think of change in terms of various dimensions as described below.

* Organization-wide Versus Subsystem Change

Examples of organisation-wide change might be a major restructuring, collaboration or "rightsizing." Usually, organizations must undertake organisation-wide change to evolve to a different level in their life cycle, for example, going from a highly reactive, Entrepreneurial organisation to one that has a more stable and planned development. Experts assert that successful organisational change requires a change in culture – cultural change is another example of organisation-wide change.

Examples of a change in a subsystem might include addition or removal of a product or service, reorganisation of a certain department, or implementation of a new process to deliver products or services.

* Transformational Versus Incremental Change

An example of transformational (or radical, fundamental) change might be changing an  organisation's structure and culture from the traditional top-down, hierarchical structure to a large amount of self-directing teams. Another example might be Business Process Re-engineering, which tries to take apart (at least on paper, at first) the major parts and processes of the organization and then put them back together in a more optimal fashion. Transformational change is sometimes referred to as quantum change.

Examples of incremental change might include continuous improvement as a quality management process or implementation of new computer system to increase efficiencies. Many times, organisations experience incremental change and its leaders do not recognize the change as such.

* Remedial Versus Developmental Change

Change can be intended to remedy current situations, for example, to improve the poor performance of a product or the entire organisation, reduce burnout in the workplace, and help the organisation to become much more proactive and less reactive, or address large budget deficits. Remedial projects often seem more focused and urgent because they are addressing a current, major problem. It is often easier to determine the success of these projects because the problem is solved or not.

Change can also be developmental – to make a successful situation even more successful, for example, expand the amount of customers served, or duplicate successful products or services. Developmental projects can seem more general and vague than remedial, depending on how specific goals are and how important it is for members of the organization to achieve those goals.

Some people might have different perceptions of what is a remedial change versus a developmental change. They might see that if developmental changes are not made soon, there will be need for remedial changes.

* Unplanned Versus Planned Change

Unplanned change usually occurs because of a major, sudden surprise to the organisation, which causes its members to respond in a highly reactive and disorganised fashion. Unplanned change might occur when the Chief Executive Officer suddenly leaves the organization, significant public relations problems occur, poor product performance quickly results in loss of customers, or other disruptive situations arise. Planned change occurs when leaders in the organization recognize the need for a major change and proactively organize a plan to accomplish the change. Planned change occurs with successful implementation of a Strategic Plan, plan for reorganisation, or other implementation of a change of this magnitude.

Note that planned change, even though based on a proactive and well-done plan, often does not occur in a highly organised fashion. Instead, planned change tends to occur in more of a chaotic and disruptive fashion than expected by participants.

Change Process Management in organisation

Management always recommends changes in the organization depending on the changing needs, and it is its first importance to implement that change successfully. Management is often called change agent as it often initiates changes and look it to work. Changes originate from external environment too. These changes depend on the nature of environment also. A stable environment will have lesser changes. But organization always tries to be dynamic which may effect in quicker changes. Change management is initialized in 3 steps. Those are Unfreezing, Changing and Refreezing. Unfreezing process prepares the change through disconfirmation of old practices, thinking and behaviors. In this initial stage, change agents sense a need for new things. That is how the system is to be unfrozen. Changing is the stage where planned change is initialized and implemented. It may be any aspect of change in organization with the participation of members affected by change which may be carefully done. Refreezing phase ensures that the planned change implemented is working to the satisfaction. It ensures that there is a reasonable guarantee that change will indeed fill the gap and renews the system. If this refreezing stage is neglected, the change will not give the expected results or result in disorder.

The Reaction to Change

During the change process, there are common predictable stressors, but how we react to those stressors will differ for each person since we are all unique individuals. The anxiety and confusion that result from not knowing what lies ahead can create stress. People will utilize basic defenses when there is a high degree of uncertainty. In this state of ambiguity, people can easily resort to distrust, withdrawal and self-protection. People are told that the old ways are no longer working and often this message becomes personalized that they are not valued.

For the employee, the emotional reactions while going through an organisational change can be similar to the stages of grief associated with personal loss. The employee may initially feel shock or denial when the organisational change is announced. Reactions such as "they can't do this," this can't be happening" are common. At this stage, most employees will want to know exactly how this change will affect them, their benefits, their work hours, their family and will not "hear" much atmosphere of ambiguity and uncertainty, individuals may withdraw support from one another and become self-protective. Superiors may provide less information and that which is provided may be more inconsistent. Working relationships can deteriorate as competition  increases and turf battles are intensified in order to justify and protect departments and jobs. 

Loss of Valued Employees : Confident, skilled, and experienced employees in the midst of ambiguity and uncertainty may be looking for or are invited to consider other career opportunities.

Another stress may result from the feeling of being insufficiently skilled as changes are implemented and new ways of conducting business begin. New practices and skills must be intentionally learned and practiced. Consider what you have to offer and what you need to learn.

There is no right or wrong way to react to change. But, there are things you can do to help yourself adjust to change and get involved in positive ways

Communicate the Facts

Employees view the change process differently. They often view change as disruptive. A

Successful change program requires that employees understand why the need for change is necessary. Employees must buy into the change program. Employees' commitments must be linked to the company's change outcomes. During transitions, employees speculate about how change will benefit or possibly harm them. People require more information during the change process. They want to know how changes will affect them and how to prepare. By providing specific information to everyone at the same time, rumors can be minimized.

Communicate only the facts. Not communicating to employees when implementing change programs is the worst mistake a company can make. During times of uncertainty communication voids are filled with rumors. Communication lowers stress and anxiety. When restructuring jobs or refocusing the organisation's direction, it is very important to clarify roles and how they support each other. Role clarification helps raise issues in a neutral manner and avoids confusion when change is in process.


Organisational Change comes in many forms.Organisations may grow bigger, they may become better without becoming bigger, they may shrink and become smaller or they may even die.

Change must be continually managed to yield sustained results. Measurement provides a way to track progress. An effective measurement system would be specific, simple to understand, creative and involve both managers and employees. The results should be visually displayed so that employees can track their progress. A consistent process of measuring the results of the change initiative combined with a rewards program that reinforces the desired behavior is the backbone of an effective change program. How ever, once we consider change in depth we can view it with more understanding, and make it work for us in a positive manner.


* R.L Nandeshwar and Balakrishna Jayasimha, Change and Knowledge Management (2007), Excel Books, New Delhi

* S. Ramnarayan, Managing Organisational Change (1998), Sage Publications India Ltd,    New Delhi

* Managing Organizational Change, By Michael W. Durant, CCE, CPA.Retrieved from:

* Managing Organizational Change, By EAP

* Managing Change: Retrieved -

* Achieving Results with Internet Recruiting (1998). 1998 Survey, iLogos Research, San Francisco. Retrieved from:

* Adapted from "Field Guide to Consulting and Organizational Development" –Retrieved from:

* Change Management seminar, By  Peter de Jagert Retrieved  from :

Vani Venugopal
Department of MBA
AMC Engineering College

Source: E-mail July 9, 2010


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