Change Management - Design and description of an ideal change process based on the existing literature

Term Paper, 2012
21 Pages, Grade: 2,0



List of abbreviations

List of figures

1 Introduction
1.1 Problem definition and relevance of the topic
1.2 Scope of work and methodology

2 An ideal change process – fiction or reality?

3 Understanding organizational change – four basic metaphors

4 Frame construction of an ideal change process
4.1 Define need for action and develop a plan
4.2 Get the commitment of powerful people and form a strong team
4.3 Create a sense of urgency and clearly communicate the need for change
4.4 Help to overcome resistance to change
4.4.1 Making the affected to participants
4.4.2 Reducing fear by advanced learning
4.4.3 Creating trust
4.4.4 Leading the change
4.4.5 Tying rewards to successful implementation
4.4.6 Celebrate successes
4.5 Review and learning phase

5 Summary and conclusion


List of abbreviations

illustration not visible in this excerpt

List of figures

Figure 1: Four different approaches to the change process

1 Introduction

1.1 Problem definition and relevance of the topic

If you want to make enemies, try to change something – Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the United States of America

The statement of Wilson is timeless. Resistance to change, especially when people are pretty much satisfied with what they do or have is obviously nothing new. Neither is change management itself. In fact its origin can be traced back to the 1930s when Roethlisberger and Mayo figured out that commitment and performance of the workforce can be increased, simply by providing more attention to the workers from sides of the management. Following up on that, Kurt Lewin conducted advanced studies in the 1940’s on how to reduce social conflicts and support people in change efforts. His “resistance to change”-model (a.k.a. three-phase-model) can be seen as a great contribution to the science of change management.

Since that time, a lot has happened; the world and global economies in particular have fundamentally changed, especially since the 1990’s. Nowadays, change is omnipresent everywhere. The dynamics of globalization accompanied by increased levels of competition throughout the whole globe pose huge challenges for the companies that strive to succeed in the long-term. The “luxury” of not managing change professionally is a thing that less and less corporations can afford.

The awareness for that is meanwhile there but it did not come overnight. Many enterprises seem to have underestimated the role of professional change management for a long time and paid a high price for that. Donado (2005) states that the legitimization of its importance and the willingness to dedicate money and resources to the activity as a function both stem from the fact that companies have experienced disastrous results when they ignored the social and human dynamic of change in the workplace. Without effective change management efforts, new corporate initiatives, mergers and acquisitions, and brilliant strategies are likely to fail as they are not accepted and adopted by the needed critical mass of the workforce. According to her, people would fight tooth and nail to protect the status quo in order to avoid leaving their comfort zone and to prevent potential disadvantages from the new setting.

However, keeping the status quo is for many companies not really an option as changes and adaptations to new market conditions are often a necessity in order to secure jobs and the survival of the companies in the long run.

So, this being said, it is a challenge to manage change in such a way that the intended results can be achieved while at the same time the affected (and potentially disadvantaged) people keep their performance and return back to normal within a short time.

The goal of this paper is to design and describe an ideal change process that shall ensure exactly that.

1.2 Scope of work and methodology

This work deals exclusively with describing a generic ideal change process from the perspective of an organization based on the existing literature.

After quickly elaborating on the relativity of the term “ideal” change process and the determination of a clear definition within the context of the paper, the author will introduce the reader to four basic mindsets and assumptions about organizational change. Background-knowledge about that is to be used as input for the design of the ideal change process. Once this is done, the ideal change process is to be defined on a generic level with all of its components. The paper closes with a summary and a conclusion.

2 An ideal change process – fiction or reality?

Is there such thing as an ideal change process? Change processes in organizations tend to be tricky and complex. As conflicting interests can be considered rather the norm, the term “ideal” automatically implies the question “ideal for whom”. As conflicts have to be resolved somehow, it is hardly possible to make everyone really happy at the end. Therefore, in the course of this paper, ideal is to be understood as a state in which the planned changes are successfully implemented within a given time frame and the vast majority of employees support the course (no retaliation measures!)

The literature reviewed by the author did not come up with a silver bullet for an ideal change process that seems to be optimal in each and every scenario. The reason for that is quite trivial. It depends on the organizational change context which change process is ideal in a particular case depending on a multitude of factors such as the overall economical situation of the company (how quickly is change needed), its corporate culture, the scope and severity of the aimed changes and of course the individuals that are affected and confronted with change. Hence, there is no one size fits all solution! An ideal change process is individual and has to be specifically designed and customized. This does however not mean that there are no common success factors. In fact, successful change management projects have a lot in common – according to the reviewed literature – and share to a great extent similar frame constructions. The author of this paper tries to focus on these commonalities and to describe an ideal frame construction for a change process of an organization based on the analysis of contemporary literature.

3 Understanding organizational change – four basic metaphors

Before starting to describe an ideal frame construction for a change process, it makes sense to elaborate on some of the basic mindsets and assumptions people have about organizational change; knowledge about that can be used as input for the design of the change process.

According to Cameron and Green (2012) there are four organizational metaphors most often used by managers, writers and consultants, to describe the processes of organizational change. Those are:

- organizations as machines;
- organizations as political systems;
- organizations as organisms;
- organizations as flux and transformation.

In reality most organizations would use combinations of these approaches to tackle organizational change, but pulling the metaphors apart helps to see the difference in the activities resulting from different ways of thinking. The design of the change process differs depending on which mindset is predominant.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 1: Four different approaches to the change process (Cameron and Green 2012)

Metaphor: organizations as machines

Assumptions: This picture of an organization implies routine operations, well-defined structure and job roles, and efficient working inside and between the working parts of the machine (the functional areas). Procedures and standards are clearly defined, and are expected to be adhered to.

The organization can be changed to an agreed end state by those in positions of authority. There will be resistance, and this needs to be managed. Change can be executed well if it is well planned and well controlled.

Limitations: The mechanistic view leads managers to design and run the organization as if it were a machine. This approach works well in stable situations, but when the need for a significant change arises, this will be seen and experienced by employees as a major overhaul that is usually highly disruptive and therefore encounters resistance. Change when approached with these assumptions is therefore hard work. It will necessitate strong management action, inspirational vision, and control from the top down.


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Change Management - Design and description of an ideal change process based on the existing literature
University of Applied Sciences Frankfurt am Main
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change, management, design
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Diplom-Betriebswirt (FH) Matthias Heerd (Author), 2012, Change Management - Design and description of an ideal change process based on the existing literature, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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