Leading and Managing Change; HR Issues


Vandana Mohanty
Lecturer (HR)
Rajdhani College of Engg & Management


Today's business world is highly competitive. The way to survive is to reshape to the needs of a rapidly changing world. Resistance to change is a dead-end street for the organization. Customers are not only demanding excellent service, they are also demanding more. If the companies do not supply it, the competitors will. Catalyzed by technological breakthroughs in distribution, information and communication systems, we are moving rapidly into a world in which geopolitical boundaries that have been the hall marks of our history are fading (Toffler, 1980).What Toffler had predicted in the 1980's has actually happened .This is an era of tremendous change, marked by globalization, technological advancements, telecommuting and e-commerce that are shrinking global boundaries and accelerating the pace of change. Organizations are reshaping themselves to change quickly in order to meet the needs of their customers. In this rapidly changing world as the speed of change continues to increase, change management is a fundamental competency needed by managers, supervisors, Human Resources staff, and organization leaders. This paper establishes and evaluates the key steps used by a leader during the change management process to ensure the effective implementation of organizational change in a manner that has a positive impact on the organization's workforce.

Key Words – Organizational Change, Technological Breakthroughs, Information, Communications, telecommuting.


In order to manage change, not to mention change in HRM, it is necessary to first understand what exactly the word 'change' can actually mean. The common way of referring such to an Oxford English Dictionary, the word 'change' stands for "making or becoming different; alteration"; and 'change' has "a general use and indicates any act of making something different". Hence by all means change is constantly involved and related to anything in general within our lifestyles through time. The crucial point is, change is an inevitability yet not necessary detrimental. It creates opportunities and space to allow development and improvement. Apply change in organizations and to have it being properly responded and dealt with can often lead organizations to success, and thus where competitive advantage comes from. Since change is inevitable, in addition to the fact that change is constantly changing its form, it is thus often an essential element for many of the organization strategists to create competitive advantage or to take a lead in the market among their rivals. However, organizational change requires considerable amount of stability as both the individuals and organization itself need time and room to adjust and compromise with the change.

Outside environment of the organization is ever changing, even socially and politically we are always on the move, looking for newer and better ways of doing things. The industrial revolution & shareholders and other stakeholders demand in an organization today also presses the organizations to move. Added to this, the globalization and inter-cultural exchange had made us even more susceptible to change than ever before. We are becoming increasingly expected to adopt new techniques, due to the fast additions & changes in technology and even in management theories and practices. Competition and changing management focus also makes it inevitable.  The strategic emphasis on cost cutting and being innovative and competitive makes it even more important to be open to change rather to resist it. Accepting change whether it is structural, operational, functional, role oriented, compensatory or strategic is important.

Change is difficult to define because each organization will face its own challenges and, therefore, its own rationale for change. Equally, each organization has differing resources, company culture and personal dynamics. The leaders of individual organizations have varying aims. Among all differences, one point remains intact and that is change is the only permanent thing that modern day organizations of varying businesses, sizes and ethnicity have to adopt in order to survive and sustain.

Literature Review

Recent literature on change management posits that organizations are facing an accelerating and pervasive need for continual and increasingly rapid and dramatic change (miller and morris, 1999; fradeette and Michaud, 1998).Christensen and Overdof (2000), Miller and Morris (1999), Tushman et al (1997) and others highlighted the need for change and inherent challenges in managing organizations through changes in the external environment. Such changes in the environment are predominantly the result of globalization, advancements in information technology and communications systems, changes in international relations, breakthroughs in numerous fields amongst other factors. This calls for organizations to become flexiable, adaptive, innovative and open to learning in order to grow or survive (Hargadon and Sutton, 2000; Sapienza, 1995; Senge, 1990). Change is an inevitable part of existence for individuals and organizations and is a prevailing factor faced by leaders in the workplace when dealing with adaption to a dynamic business environment. During the change management process, adaptive leaders provide direction, protection, orientation, conflict control, and the shaping of norms while managing the change process (Conger, Spreitzer, & Lawler, 1999; Heifetz & Laurie, 2001). An individual must thoroughly understand the various stages involved in change management to successfully navigate dramatic change in their lives. Likewise, at the organizational level an adaptive leader must understand the important change management process while also being proactive in change implementation by focusing on developing an adaptive work environment (Asoh, 2004; Locke & Tarantino, 2006; Powell, 1987; Williamson, 1991). This paper establishes and evaluates the key steps used by an adaptive leader during the change management process to ensure the effective implementation of organizational change in a manner that has a positive impact on the organization's workforce.

Objective of the Study

The Present study explores the relationship between leadership and the phases of organizational change. It aims at analyzing the process of change and how to overcome with effective leaders.

Organizational Change

Companies grow by expanding into new competitive space, attaining a complex mix of financial, material and knowledge assets, expanding market scope, and replicating and standardizing their wins in similar market spaces. Competitive spaces undergo change, new technologies emerge, and customers change. But companies sometimes fail to change and make the most of new opportunities because they are still trying to get the best out of the old opportunities. They find this convenient and less risky.Organisational change, a vibrant force in the current scenario of rapid developemets, is an inevitable feature of organizational life. The environment within and outside the organizations is changing at an ever – increasing pace, creating the need for faster response to the environment and eventually for deep seated transformations within the organizations themselves.

One of the well known models of change has been given by Kurt lewin .According to Lewin (1975), change underlies the modification of those forces that keep a system's behavior stable. In this model organizational change affects three levels – Individual level, Structure and Systems level, and organization climate level.

* Individual Level(Change affecting individual's attitude,beliefs,values,skills and behaviour)

* Structure and Systems level(change affecting incentive system, information systems etc)

* Organizational Climate (Change Affecting leadership styles, interpersonal relationships, decision making)

In order to provide a basis for change at all these levels in an organization, Lewin's model consists of the following three critical steps:


This involves reducing forces that maintain the organization's present behaviour.This may be accomplished at the individual level by disconfirming individual's present behaviour .The individual here may be given information that reveals incongruity between the behaviour  desired by organizational members and his/her current behavior. the systems level, new and more effective designs  such as matrix management etc. may be demonstrated to initiate change. At the climate level, survey feedback methods may be used to understand and feel about certain management practices. The purpose of unfreezing is to heighten the awareness of employees about discrepancies currently prevailing in their behaviour ,the system and the organizational climate, and attune them to the need for change.


This refers to the shift in behaviour to a new level resulting in the development of new behaviours, values and attitudes in individuals through changes in the organizational structure and processes. The changes initiated must be perceived as solutions to problems identified during the unfreezing stage .This often leads to organization shake ups .Organizational change may include restructuring, change of roles and change of jobs.


This is the stage where the organization stabilizes and achieves a new state of equilibrium and a preferred behaviour .it is often accomplished through the use of various support mechanisims,all aimed at reinforcing the new organizational state .The new state is made relatively secure against change until the next cycle of change is planned .The different ways to freeze behaviour in organizational members may include awards,recognition,rewards and demonstration  of benefits to individuals.

Skills Required for the Role of a Change Agent

T he wind of change is sweeping the organizations across the globe and in the uncertain times nothing is more certain than a constant change .The change agents would require the following skills to be able to keep themselves and the organizations afloat in the future.

* A sensor of the business environment
* Vertical to Horizontal functioning
* Leadership at all levels
* Manager as a catalyst
* Shorter time frame horizon
* Balancing work and Personal Life
* Maximization of information flow

An effective Change Management needs the following areas of expertise

* Strategy Formulation
* Human resource Management
* Marketing and sales, and
* Negotiation/conflict resolution.

The Role of Leadership

A change agent needs to have a vision and dream for the future of the organization. As leaders they need to inspire a shared vision, a clear image of the future to take the people along. To enlist people's cooperation they need to communicate at the level of their constituents and speak their language. They need to inspire trust and make people believe that they have their interest at the heart. They need to arouse hopes in people about exciting possibilities the future would offer. In order to unite people they need to forge unity of purpose, by expressing enthusiasm for the compelling vision of the organization .They need to challenge the status quo , which is ineffective need to  ,and search for options and opportunities to innovate ,grow and improve. As leaders they need to acknowledge and support new ideas, processes, products, services and sytems.There is always a risk in entering an unknown path. Therefore Risk taking and experimentation are necessary attributes for leading change.

In an organization where there is faith in the abilities of formal leaders, employees will look towards the leaders for a number of things. During drastic change times, employees will expect effective and sensible planning, confident and effective decision-making, and regular, complete communication that is timely. Also during these times of change, employees will perceive leadership as supportive, concerned and committed to their welfare, while at the same time recognizing that tough decisions need to be made. The best way to summarize is that there is a climate of trust between leader and the rest of the team. The existence of this trust, brings hope for better times in the future, and that makes coping with drastic change much easier.

In organizations characterized by poor leadership, employees expect nothing positive. In a climate of distrust, employees learn that leaders will act in indecipherable ways and in ways that do not seem to be in anyone's best interests. Poor leadership means an absence of hope, which, if allowed to go on for too long, results in an organization becoming completely nonfunctioning. The organization must deal with the practical impact of unpleasant change, but more importantly, must labor under the weight of employees who have given up, have no faith in the system or in the ability of leaders to turn the organization around.

When change affects an organization, the leaders of the organization- from the top management to the line supervisors – need to demonstrate effective leadership skills.   The role of the manager becomes critical in leading teams and employees through the change process so that the organization can implement new ideas and maintain its customers while retaining and engaging talented employees.  To be a successful leader of change, each manager needs to first understand the dynamics of change and how uncertainty affects them and others.  The change leader has to recognize how ambiguity can be used to adapt to changes, how improvement forces work units to make the best of their situations and how change brings up the need for clear, crisp and empathic communication.

Leadership before, during and after change implementation is the key to getting through the swamp. Unfortunately, if haven't established a track record of effective leadership, by the time you have to deal with difficult changes, it may be too late.

Leading Change : Process

The role of a leader is to facilitate change that helps in improving organizational performance. But the challenge before a new leader is how to be effective in the face of dissatisfaction, discomfort, dislocation and increased stress among people. Various organizations adopt various strategies. One of the well known models of change has been given by Kurt Lewin.The model advocates that change goes through three processes, unfreezing, movement to a new state, and refreezing.

Each of these phases is extremely important and requires the leader to take concrete steps. Unfreezing involves breaking away from the way things are done in the past .movement to the new stage involves identifying and trying innovative ways to do things or doing new things.Reefreezing involves stabilizing and reinforcing the new ways or new things to do.

Change leaders are required to take the following actions:

* Establishing Relevance – Leaders need to get into the shoes of the employees and see from the employee's perspective about the impact of change.

Jack Welch in his efforts to bring about change at General Electric (GE) put forth before the workers the view point that employees needed to learn new skills not for lifetime employment at GE but to acquire employable skills with which they could find job as well when the skills were not required at GE.In other words he presented the concept of change as an investment by the employees in their future employability and not merely a means of improving GE's performance.

* Asking Right Questions – The starting point of any change process is inquiry,which means asking relevant and strategic questions.People are also required to visualize the future and identify various possible scenarios.One of the methods to take initiative could be benchmarking against the best practices or to  set up internal benchmark to improve performance .People are more likely to commit themselves to the new realities when they realize that the changes are inevitable or certain changes are possible.

* Changing the mindset – Transforming individuals can bring about organizational transformation. The process starts with changing oneself. The change master requires a candid self appraisal and see if he has the qualities – flexibility and understanding. It is important because every word spoken or every action taken by the change leader either reinforces or undermines the change efforts. Having done that one needs to create an environment, which is conducive to bringing about change.

* Declaring the early victory – Reffering to Lewin's model the steps mentioned above will initiate the process and unfreeze or stir the present stage. Having achieved that, the change processes can be initiated. This stage provides multiple options- a number of ideas can be developed to deal with the new challenges but the executives ought to be selective keeping in view the importance and the time to be taken by various ideas. As a leader, leading change, seems to be working in an emergency situation with limited resources, he needs to establish priorities that optimize importance and urgency.

As the process of change may take years before providing any significant return, people may lose patience and therefore, the leader needs to make an effort to do things that produce results. This implies that opportunities for early victories have to be identified while pursuing the change efforts. There is a lot of untapped potential among people at various levels that needs to be harranessed. it has been observed that an average Japanese worker gives more than 100 ideas every year. In case of Toyota 80 % of the ideas given by workers have been implemented  and have been found to be useful. However in order to have early victories one does not have to come up with quick- fix solutions. It has to be borne in mind that early victories help in sustaining energy and momentum in the change process.


Organization change is a strategic imperative in today's global and fast-paced environment. There is much that we know about change that is useful. Unfortunately, in the pursuit of change, of trying to be the best, of standing out from the pack, and of seeking higher and higher levels of status and power, managers and leaders in organizations urgently and impatiently clamor for the "latest and greatest ideas." In their haste, they forget the fundamental and sound principles which are prerequisites for a successful change to occur—and wonder why they are not making progress.  Although managing change is difficult, implementing these few tried and true principles can help managers and leaders improve the organization's success.

Managing change has become the "silver bullet" in seeking the final component of successfully managing strategy, process, people and culture in most modern organizations. More and more, staying competitive in the face of demographic trends, technological innovations, and globalization requires organizations to change at much higher rates than ever before. Few people will argue with this statement, but fewer still will say their organization does a good job at managing those changes. Managing change well is a continuous and ongoing combination of art and science that assures alignment of an organization's strategies, structures, and processes. A growing number of companies are undertaking the kinds of organizational changes needed to survive and prosper in today's environment. They are streamlining themselves and thereby becoming more nimble and responsive to external demands. They are involving employees in key decisions and paying for performance rather than for time. They are taking initiative in innovating and managing change, rather than simply reacting to what has already happened. Leadership in a change management environment is a razor's edge. Change tremendously affects both employees and organizations, and consequently, both are highly resistent to its inevitability.


* Palmer / Dunford / Akin (2006), Managing Organizational Change - A multiple perspectives approach, McGraw Hill International Edition.  
* Hayes, John (2002), Theory & practice of change management, McMillan
* Robbins, Stephen P.(1999), Organizational Behavior, Eight edition, Prentice Hall of India
* Lewin, K. (1951). Field theory in social science. New York: Harper & Row.
* Radha R Sharma. Change Management – Concepts and Applications:Tata McGraw Hill Publication.
* Citehr.com
* Google.com

Vandana Mohanty
Lecturer (HR)
Rajdhani College of Engg & Management

Source: E-mail July 31, 2010


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