If change is to be successfully introduced then the process has to be carefully managed.
Research by John Storey has suggested four different approaches to managing change:
- A total imposed package - this would be a whole package of changes and as the title suggests would simply be presented to the employees as a 'fait accompli'. The senior management team would work out the restructuring they feel is required and then simply impose this on the firm. This has the advantage that it will create rapid change and ensure that the vision for the direction of the company is clear, but if the organisational culture does not match this approach then there may be significant resistance to change.
- Imposed piecemeal initiatives - this is a more gradual approach. Change and restructuring is still imposed by senior management, but in stages rather than all at once. This may give employees more time to adapt and may help alleviate resistance, but it will still need to be accompanied by changes in the organisational culture to encourage change. To help the introduction of the initiatives the firm may offer incentive payments or perhaps other non-financial rewards for the successful implementation of the changes. They may introduce quality circles, or team meetings to help manage the process.
- Negotiated total packages - similar to no.1 with the obvious difference that the aim is to agree the package through negotiation with the workforce. This may help significantly reduce the level of resistance to change though it may also act as a constraint on the extent of the change. However, this type of approach is growing more popular with trade unions keen to negotiate changes and ensure that their members benefit from change and are helped to cope with change.
- Negotiated piecemeal packages - similar to no.2, but as with 3 the gradual implementation will be negotiated at each stage. Once again the change may be linked to incentive payments - perhaps through productivity deals.
Kurt Lewin believed that to achieve change effectively, it was necessary to examine all the options for moving from the existing state to the desired future one. His change management model is linked to force field analysis and he classifies resistance into two categories. The first relates to 'social habit' or 'custom' and the second to 'inner resistance'. These classifications are rooted in the link between a group as whole and the individuals within it. He developed a three process of change management designed to break the habits, challenge the self interests and 'unfreeze' the customs of the group:
- Unfreezing - this stage involves overcoming any resistance or inertia to change among employees. This is done through discussion groups, meetings, information dissemination or any other process. At this stage, preconceptions, values and beliefs need to be challenged if the change is to be successful.
- Change - the second stage is where the change itself occurs. The shift from unfreeze to change may not happen overnight, but the idea is that people gradually adopt a new mindset and are therefore more open to accepting and implementing change.
- Refreezing - the final stage is to set the change in place. This process will institutionalise the change and ensure that it is embedded in the organisation. The new patterns of working can be built into job descriptions and changes in the organisational structure formalised and confirmed. The change is now embedded
Not surprisingly, Lewin used the analogy of a block of ice. He suggested that if you have a block of ice, but want a cone of ice, you will need to unfreeze the ice, mould it to the new shape required and then refreeze it. However, managing the process of changing a block of ice into a cone is probably much easier than change management in many large firms!
Leading change - Kotter's model of change management
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