The Need for Managing & Communicating Change at Workplace


Mrs. Reeti Debnath (Mazumdar)
NSHM College of Management and Technology
NSHM Knowledge Campus, Kolkata

All organizations today are going through change, either on their own initiative or because of compelling needs.  Today organizations big and small, public and private, domestic and global find themselves in an era of paradigm shift when a set of assumptions no longer applies and must be replaced. The recent remapping of the world, the emergence of new players on the global scene and the explosion of technology has created new circumstances to which organizations are learning to adapt. They are adopting new management philosophies and following new methodologies in order to bring about organizational change.

The necessity to change has also happened because of the far-reaching changes happening in the environment like liberalized Government policies, smart competition, high expectations of shareholders, growing awareness among the masses and hence the increasing demand of the consumer and unpredictable market fluctuations. We continue to move from a stable environment to a dynamic environment which brings in new requirements and hence new changes.

Organization Change means moving from an old way of doing thing to a new one that will bring more positive outcomes. A successful change is one where staff members understand the need for change and participate in the process via communication and consultation.

The eight Steps for a successful Organization Change are:-

1. Increase urgency -People start telling each other, "Let's go, we need to change things!"

2. Build the guiding team- A group powerful enough to guide a big change is formed and they start to work together well.

3. Get the vision right- The guiding team develops the right vision and strategy for the change effort.

4. Communicate for buy-in People begin to buy into the change, and this shows in their behavior.

5. Empower action-More people feel able to act, and do act, on the vision.

6. Create short-term wins- Momentum builds as people try to fulfill the vision, while fewer and fewer resist change.

7. Don't let up- People make wave after wave of changes until the vision is fulfilled.

8. Make changes stick- New and winning behavior continues despite the pull of tradition, turnover of change leaders, etc.

In addition to the basic message, such as the new core purpose and core values and the actual vision, preparing answers to the following questions, adapted from Daryl Conner's "Managing at the Speed of Change" also helps in the change.

* What's wrong with the way we've been doing things?
* Why were we doing them wrong before?
* What will happen to me?
* When?
* What can I do about it?
* What is expected of me?
* What does it mean in my day-to-day job?
* What will management or leadership do about it?
* If I encounter problems, what do I do, to whom do I turn?

Phases in the Change Processes

In order to successfully manage the change processes, it is necessary to analyze the phases of this process. Managers need to know in which phase they have to expect what types of situations and problems. The most successful organizations are those that are able to adjust themselves to new conditions quickly. This requires planned learning processes that lead to improved organizational effectiveness.

Normally people perceive change processes in seven typical stages.

If managers understand these phases of change, and act accordingly, they will be able to successfully manage change processes without destroying people's motivation and commitment of their staff. An important part of this change management also lies in recognizing and accepting the disorganization and temporary lowered effectiveness that characterize the transition state. The transitional change may be difficult and painful. Both management commitment and employee support are critical to the success of the desired change.

Communication is an essential element of any change management strategy. The rationale for change must be clearly communicated to all staff. People can be very opposed to change for a variety of reasons, some personal and some professional. One of the main reasons why people sometimes oppose and often fear change is that it can pose, or be seen to pose, threats.

At the individual level change can involve:

* Insecurity: fear of failure, fear of loss of status or comfort, fear of the unknown.
* Pain/grief: loss of familiar situations, loss of usual ways of behaving or working, loss of confidence in ability loss of comfortable routines and procedures.
* Effort: the struggle to learn new skills and new ways of working, the struggle to build new relationships and ways of getting on with people.

Often, when the change is properly explained and communicated, then many of the fears and anxieties which people have about it are overcome. Clear, effective communication, therefore, can be the vital key to addressing the people problems associated with the change. The process of communicating change should be seen as fair and transparent, and not rushed.

A clear communication should include the following:

* The background and reasons for the workplace change (clearly stated objective to be achieved)
* Detail on the organizational changes (e.g.: revised structure, budgetary constraints, internal and external factors impacting on an area or technological change, the impact on the workforce and timelines);
* Presentation of relevant financial data to staff to assist with understanding why change is necessary;
* Management of the change process;
* Information on the support mechanisms for staff (for example, counseling services);
* Information about how concerns will be managed, including grievance mechanisms;
* Keeping people well informed in an accurate and timely manner. A record of all meetings should be taken and disseminated to staff, including those on leave;
* Official lines of communication over informal networks;
* The ability for staff to ask questions and clarify matters (e.g. hold information sessions);
* Affirm that the area wants to retain and will need good staff in the new structure;

There are different options as to how Managers can communicate change. Some options would include:

* Distribution of an initial handout (memo, flyer, brochure) explaining the initiative and the process involved.
* involvement in the decision-making process;
* Discussion Paper and project newsletters;
* agency magazines;
* briefings and workshops and interactive presentations;
* Communication through E-mails
* educating and training management and staff on how to use the new systems and technology;
* And also ensuring that the staff who are on approved absence from work are also consulted and kept informed of the progress of the change.

Communicating in times of organizational change, be it a change in leadership; service unit restructuring or modifications to individual roles and job descriptions typically involves the following two things:-

1. Content and
2. Process.

Content is generally fixed and readily defined. For e.g. Someone in a leadership role may resign, or be dismissed. Redundancies voluntary or otherwise or the creation of new positions may alter the duties of existing staff. Most managers are clear on content. This means that they understand what they have to say and do.

Managers fail to communicate change due to weak processes. If managers are poor at getting their message across their staff, it leads to misunderstandings, frustration and conflict. Failure to achieve new goals, to survive and thrive in a changing atmosphere cannot always be attributed to poor strategy or thinking. The failure is the inability to engage with employees, to renew their commitment and harness their enthusiasm a failure that comes back to communication.

The good news is that even bad news can be communicated well. It may not be possible to alter the content, but being up-front and respectful can reduce personal distress and enable people to move forward. Even in a fast-moving crisis, such as a serious workplace accident or the dismissal of a public official or senior manager, there is always time to determine the goal before engaging others.

Implementation of the Change Proposal

It is very important to communicate to the staff, the decisions that have been made from the change proposal, the effect these decisions will have on the workplace and the details of the implementation plan.

The implementation plan includes:

1. Preparing and disseminating information on the new work groups and their functions;

2. Providing transition counselling to staff;

3. Providing retraining to staff where necessary to undertake new work roles - training may need to be provided to staffs who undertake additional or different tasks from their role prior to the restructure.

4. Filling positions if a new structure is to be implemented - the establishment of an internal transfer mechanism will hopefully minimize disruption and displacement of employees:

5. Providing training to managers on how to provide leadership and support to staff;

Review the Change Process

A review of the change implementation process should be undertaken after a timely interval. Staff feedback and the effect on the operations of the area should be evaluated. It is recommended that this review take place six to twelve months after the change has been implemented.

Change is never easy. Some would say that communicating change is not easy, either. But without relentless communication to the point, change may never occur.

The most common cause of change failure is lack of information, or inappropriate communication of information. An organization may need to enforce certain changes. But it needs to win the hearts as well as the minds of its workforce, in order to implement those changes effectively. What happens all too often is that people are 'told' what the change will be and how they will be expected to implement it. There is a vital piece missing in the middle here, which is that people need to understand the reasons 'why' they are doing it. They also need to have an opportunity to express their views and contribute their own ideas about how it might be implemented.

Hence the formula for managing change is to get everyone involved in the process and communicating about it at an appropriate level. The culture which trainers need to encourage is one in which 'permission' for making decisions is allowed and given at each level accordingly. This makes people feel that their fears and concerns about the change are respected and valued. This in turn is more likely to win their support for the change.


1. Carnall, Colin, Managing Change in Organizations, 2nd ed. London: Prentice Hall, 1995.
2. Conner, Daryl. 1992. Managing at the Speed of Change: How Resilient Managers Succeed and Prosper Where Others Fail, Villard Books, New York.
3. Danes, Sharon M. 1999. Change: Loss, Opportunity and Resilience, University of Minnesota: St.Paul. 
4. Kotter, J.P. and Cohen, D.S. 2002. The heart of change, Harvard Business School Press: Boston.
5. Recklies, Oliver, 2001, Managing Change Definition und Phases in Change Processes.

Mrs. Reeti Debnath (Mazumdar)
NSHM College of Management and Technology
NSHM Knowledge Campus, Kolkata

Source: E-mail April 4, 2009


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