In Your Organization in today’s deregulating and increasingly competitive business environment, organizational change is becoming inevitable. Today’s successful organizations are experiencing transitions in the areas of technology, process re-engineering, mergers, and organizational restructuring in order to remain competitive. However, although these areas impact employees at all levels of the company, senior management often overlooks this fact. Therefore, it is imperative that company management understands the impact of organizational change on employees and manages these effects accordingly. By doing so, organizational leaders minimize the negative impact change has on productivity and performance. This paper will focus on the activity of successfully leading employees through significant changes brought about by new technologies and process changes and will focus on three areas of transition leadership.
First, the discussion conveys the impact that change has on an organization’s employees. Second, an overview and discussion of transition leadership and its role in managing organizational change is given. Finally, ways to effectively manage employees through these reactions to change is presented. By understanding the elements of organizational change and its impact on employees as well as the appropriate ways of managing people through these revolutions, organizational leaders will be better prepared to address the challenges that are inherent in major business transitions.
The Impact of Change on People
Frequently, information technology professionals overlook the impacts of technology changes on people.Almost any change to technology will have an impact on business processes, which will directly impact the day-to-day jobs of individual employees. As a result, changes to technology require attention to the impacts that they have on both processes and people.
The practice of Organizational Change Management (OCM) focuses on ensuring that the people side of change is addressed appropriately. OCM is the process of aligning the organization’s people and culture with changes in business strategy, organizational structure, technology, and business processes.OCM is important because, at the most rudimentary level, all change involves some degree of loss whether it is loss of stability, loss of expertise, loss of relationships, or loss of understanding. People often try to avoid the experience of loss by resisting change. Resistance can come in different forms and be expressed with different emotions such as anger, frustration, fear, etc. Due to the tendency for change to elicit an emotional response, any large-scale change initiative will likely remove the employees’ focus from the business to transition-related issues.This shift in focus will likely disrupt the productivity of the business.
Many technology implementation/business process redesign efforts fail because they overlook the impacts that change will have on the people in the organization. An organization that ignores the importance of OCM could experience the following risks: increased resistance to new technology, decreased quality and customer service, high turnover and absenteeism, difficulty recruiting and retaining high performers, and damaged internal and external brand equity. On the other hand, an organization that implements a technology/business process transformation with integrated OCM will experience the following benefits: realization of the business transformation objectives, higher return on technology investments, retention of high performers, maintained and improved productivity, improved employee satisfaction and morale, and increased discretionary effort.
Given the impact that change has on employees, it is clear that managers must learn to proactively manage employees through the many changes that are inherent in most organizations. In geospatial environments, managers and other key stakeholders often focus on technological and process changes that will make their businesses competitive in the 21st century. These issues are important, but the changes ultimately will not be implemented successfully without the cooperation of employees. Only through effective transition leadership are employees able to effectively cope with and accept the changes they are presented with.
Ten Characteristics of Effective Transition Leaders
The role of transition leader is an often overlooked but important aspect of management. There are several characteristics that make up a good transition leader. Here we identify the main characteristics that are needed in a successful transition leader. In general, there are 10 characteristics of effective transition leaders:
- Gains support from and confidence of others. Change is not accepted and work cannot be done without the buy-in of key stakeholders. For this reason, it is imperative that transition leaders gain the support and confidence of other key employees in the organization.
- Listens and collaborates effectively.
- No matter how good a manager is, people will not follow without a sense of ownership in the organization. One of the key ways to secure this ownership and trust in employees is through listening and collaboration.
- Takes accountability. As with any effective manager, successful transition leaders take accountability for their own work as well as that of the entire organization that he or she manages.
- Provides constructive feedback to others. Transition leaders also provide constructive feedback to employees and colleagues. This type of feedback enables employees to be more effective in adapting to and accepting change.
- Builds relationships with customers, peers, and project team members. Effective transition leaders are also successful in building relationships with customers, peers, and project members. This alliance-building enables leaders to effectively delegate and gain the buy-in from key resources, which further enables change within the organization.
- Inspires and motivates. In order to manage change effectively in the organization, transition leaders need to have inspired employees and stakeholders.
- Communicates openly, early, and often. Since change is such a complex and fearsome idea for most people, it is important for transition leaders to open the flow of communication. This holds true on a day-to-day basis as well (and especially) during times of change.
- Provides clear direction. In order for the organization to get to where it needs to be, employees and stakeholders have to understand where they are and where the organization is going. With this in mind, transition leaders need to clearly communicate the organization’s vision and goals to stakeholders and clarify individual roles and responsibilities within that context.
- Models the way for the team. Successful transition leaders do more than just delegate work and build relationships. They also lead by example in order to build credibility and trust.
- Creates opportunities for small wins. The change involved in large-scale and complex IT implementations often appears insurmountable to employees. Therefore, it is important to frequently reward and recognize team members to help boost morale and to keep change initiatives from failing due to a burned-out staff. These 10 characteristics of a good transition leader ensure that change is implemented successfully and that major obstacles and resistances to change are minimized.
The Roles of Transition Leaders
In addition to these characteristics, transition leaders must play a number of roles in order for organizational changes to be successful. Since transition leaders are responsible for directly influencing the outcome of IT and process change implementations, successful change requires that transition leaders assume different roles. In general, transition leaders have four primary roles: catalyst, system and process helper, solution giver/gatherer, and resource linker.
The first and arguably the most difficult role that a transition leader faces is that of Catalyst. While many organizations are content with the status quo, it is the transition leader’s responsibility to create and communicate the need for change within the business. This involves instilling a sense of urgency and purpose for the change and overcoming organizational inertia. In addition, this role entails acknowledging areas of resistance and addressing them appropriately. The change will not happen successfully if key stakeholders do not realize and understand the need for change, and it is the responsibility of transition leaders to make this need evident. The second role of a transition leader is that of a System and Process Helper. Once the need for change has been recognized by the organization and change initiatives are created, it is the transition leader’s responsibility to ensure that the organization is assimilated into the process and IT changes that ensue.
This involves understanding the process and IT changes, the impact these changes have on jobs and policies, and effectively communicating these changes to the individuals impacted. The tasks performed by the System and Process Helper help permeate the required change throughout the organization. The third role that a transition leader plays is that of Solution Giver and Gatherer. This role is needed to identify and resolve issues that may hinder the success of the implemented change. In particular, the Solution Giver and Gatherer will promote the use of an issues resolution mechanism, provide solutions that benefit the entire organization, and assist in the development and implementation of solutions. In addition, an important element is a need for leaders to listen to suggestions and provide feedback and recognition when appropriate. As discussed above, effective transition leaders communicate, provide feedback, and celebrate small wins, which is important to inspiring and motivating project teams.
The final role of a successful transition leader is that of Resource Linker. This role involves the more traditional management like delegating tasks, and most experienced managers are capable in this arena. In short, the Resource Linker brings people and resources together, recognizes resource constraints, leverages skills and resources across site locations, and acts as a communications link between resources. This role is important, but it is the three roles described above that most managers overlook when implementing change initiatives.
How To Manage People Through Change
When incorporating change in an organization, it is useful for transition leaders to understand how change impacts people and how to minimize the negative reactions to change. All successful change initiatives follow a similar pattern or sequence. The first step consists of “unfreezing” the current way of doing things.
This is the phase in the project where the burning platform for change is realized and the vision for a new way of operating is created. The second phase of change begins when it is time to begin energizing the workforce by involving more and more people in the change process so as to begin building ownership over the final outcome. This is also the point where it is critical to identify and secure early project wins. Ensuring that the right resources are provided for achieving early milestones will ensure that the project is perceived as a success. The third phase of the change process consists of building the infrastructure (i. e., job and organization designs) required to make the change successful.
For example, if the technology changes are intended to automate processes that were previously done manually, changes to job designs will be required. The final phase consists of a series of activities aimed at measuring results and identifying lingering gaps and issues that need to be addressed in order to achieve the project’s intended benefits. While the above phases outline the sequence that change initiatives normally follow, there are three corresponding phases that describe the psychological experiences that people have when affected by change. These come from William Bridges’ book Managing Transitions (1991).The first phase is called “Letting Go. ” This is the time when employees will begin to understand that things are changing, and that in the near future they will be challenged with letting go of the old way of doing things. This may include letting go of old ways of working, relationships, feelings of competence, etc.
The second psychological phase, the “Neutral Zone” is the difficult period when the work is done to implement change and the transition from the old way to the new way begins. Trying to handle implementation and balance the transitions may make this period the most difficult period of change to manage. The last psychological phase is what Bridges refers to as the “New Beginning. ” This occurs when changes have been fully implemented and expectations for people to change the way they work are realized. Each of the phases described above consist of many people-related challenges, and there are many specific strategies for helping to manage people through these phases. Some of the important critical success factors for managing change are the following:
- Identify potential barriers or risk factors that will inhibit success, and create action plans to address them appropriately. Use was written and face-to-face communication to help people understand the what, why, and how of change.
- Identify opportunities to involve large numbers of employees in the change process; research shows that there is a correlation between involvement and commitment. • Seek to understand and manage individual and team-level resistance.
- Listen to your employees, acknowledge their losses, show empathy, strive to reduce their stress levels.
- Recognize and reward behaviors that support the achievement of intended goals.
- Systematically analyze the impacts change will have on corporate policies, individual jobs, and organizational structure. Ensure that employees receive sufficient training and the other on-the-job resources necessary to raise people’s level of confidence. By addressing and incorporating these success factors into their management toolkits, effective transition leaders greatly increase the likelihood that their change initiatives will be successful.
Transition leadership, while often viewed as a “soft” or “touchy feely” issue not appropriate to geospatial managers, is clearly a relevant and critical issue to managing the changes that are inherent in organizations today.Even the most robust GIS package with the highest benefits potential is meaningless if employees and key stakeholders do not effectively accept and adapt the changes to their everyday lives. By embracing the understanding of the impact that change has on employees, the role of transition leaders, and how to manage employees through change, managers will ensure that the changes stick and the anticipated benefits are realized.