Almost 20 years ago, behavioral experts Kenneth Thompson and Fred Luthans noted that a person’s reaction to organizational change “can be so excessive and immediate, that some researchers have suggested it may be easier to start a completely new organization than to try to change an existing one.”
Not much has changed in the intervening years. Each year, countless organizations continue to attempt new change programs, but relatively few meet with any real success.
The HBR Blog Network offered four articles in recent weeks looking at the popular topic of change management and organizational culture with different perspectives on each of several points of view.
If you follow me on Twitter (@bzhenry), you know that I’ve made content curation in organizational communication a hobby. This blog post highlights the best of what I’ve read in recent weeks.
As the title suggests, in “Understanding Fear of Process Improvement,” Brad Power examines one aspect of change management – process improvement – and how asking a simple question (Why?) can lead to better understanding of the root causes of failure. Power
offers three suggestions for overcoming the fear that keeps companies from nurturing a “culture of continuous improvement” and provides examples of organizations that have managed to do it.
Looking at change management from the leaders perspective, Rosabeth Moss Kanter notes that fear leads to resistance, and an effective leader must plot strategy accordingly. She offers sound advice in “Ten Reasons People Resist Change.” Simple strategies from including those who will be affected by the change in the planning process to lessening uncertainty with clear communication and solid timetables may seem obvious, but make all the difference in successful change efforts.
While Kanter takes a leader’s perspective, Morten T. Hansen focuses on the individual with his own list, “Ten Ways to Get People to Change.” He notes that organizational change doesn’t occur until individual change occurs; people must think and act differently. His article links to numerous resources that support his argument. He cautions that while his principles are rooted in different theories that are rarely used in concert, using all ten is necessary to achieving any success.
Walter McFarland has the most original perspective on our topic in “This Is Your Brain on Organizational Change.” McFarland contends that a new change management model is needed. For example, establishing “a burning platform” for change is considered to be a best practice by many practitioners. Yet, McFarland notes that for most people, “a burning platform makes them uncomfortable – thrusting change upon them.” Until we view both people and the change process differently, McFarland believes our efforts will continue to fail.
Considering our rate of success, I think McFarland may be on to something.