In business today the change process can be a difficult undertaking filled with uncertainty
and doubt. Managers not only need to understand the fast pace and necessity of change, but they
must also be able to identify the keys to the successful implementation of major corporate
change. Change management is defined as a bench-
marking process in which a business organization
strives to align itself with its marketplace more effec-
tively than its competitors do (Duening & Ivancevich,
2006). Successfully implementing any type of change
requires accurate planning, overcoming organizational
and management issues, and addressing an array of behaviors along the way. In addition, atti-
tudes are critical to the successful implementation of change and one of the single most impor-
tant commitments the manager must make is the relentless pursuit of excellence. These days no
organization can be content to rest on its laurels. The reality of change is that it is occurring
more frequently and the manager’s ability to prepare for it is growing shorter and shorter. Man-
agers must not ask whether change will happen but how well they will manage the change when
it does occur. The benefits to corporate change are vast. It is important that managers have the
tools available and the knowledge to successfully implement change.
While every situation is unique, many of the challenges that managers face in implement-
ing change are both broad and unpredictable. As managers attempt to facilitate change in an or-
ganization it is likely they will face an arsenal of resistance. Most people are not willing to
change without an upfront realization of some specific benefit.
Individuals go thru different stages of change at varying paces. These stages are depend-
ent on the individual’s personality, life experiences, and stake in the outcome. The possible out-
comes can be mapped on a simple change graph.
Table 1. Typical Attitudes Towards Change.
If we look at the change graph from left to right we begin with a neutral attitude. At this
stage the Individual is a spectator and is waiting to see what happens during the first few weeks
of change. Those individuals participating by design are already on board with the change proc-
ess. These people represent approximately 20 percent of the initial spectators and are typically
the facilitators of the change process. Because they have a stake in the process, they are quick to
see the positives of change. In the majority of cases; however, individuals by default tend to
have negative feelings concerning the change process. They feel betrayed and deny that change
is even happening. During this time they begin to soul search and ask themselves if this is the
right thing to do. This is a critical time in which they need coaching and motivation from super-
vision. If led down the right path they will begin looking for answers and implementing solu-
tions. If individuals are defiant they will begin looking for negatives and promote the negatives.
Defiant individuals tend to speak the loudest and it is important to quickly cut off their
support. The notion that people resist change inherently has recently come under attack. People
do not resist change itself, but rather the anticipated consequences or expected effects that may
be associated with change, such as loss of status, loss of pay, or loss of comfort (Armenakis &
Once the manager knows what to face, and has some idea of how to manage the problem,
the plan becomes a little easier. If an organization does not define its desired opportunity, its ef-
forts may well get it just about anywhere. Defining the
vision of what the organization wants to become, clari-
fying the target of the change effort, developing mis-
sion statements, and identifying goals are all means to
define where the business is headed. These can be
highly motivating and exciting avenues for change, but they will all fall short unless people can
translate the sweeping concepts and worthy goals into practical terms. Because of the powerful
resistance any change effort faces, there is an overriding need for strong able leadership. In or-
der for the change to work, the leader must be a catalyst for change and supply the initial activat-
ing force. The leader must also define the vision of what the change should look like and pro-
vide the wisdom and skills to guide the ongoing effort. Leadership requires quite a diverse and
well defined skill set. Unfortunately, this rare set of capabilities is often missing in organiza-
tions. In most situations, it makes sense to address the issue of strong leadership prior to launch-
ing the proposed change process. Many implementation plans do not anticipate or address the
major stumbling blocks to change, nor do they anticipate the impact of the change.
During the course of any change process, the capability of the organization will be tested.
If the facilitator cannot apply the required capability, the change effort may fail. It is too easy to
say that lack of capability is a major cause of implementation failure. It is more accurate to say
that most organizations have
or can develop the skills and
know-how to do great things.
More flexible, responsive
forms of organizing, able to
cope with change and uncer-
tainty are required in order
for businesses to stay com-
petitive. That these new, more flexible forms can operate successfully within larger, bureaucratic
structures testifies that bureaucracies are dynamic entities, able to adapt and accommodate new
forms of organizing. The problem lies more often in its ability to develop and then properly util-
ize the human resources already present in the organization (Graetz & Smith, 2009).
Major change typically means that new perspectives and skills will be needed to do new
jobs. Of course some changes may dictate supplementing or replacing personnel. It is often less
chaotic, less costly and more rewarding to provide the people already in place with the skills they
will need to do the work of the future. To fully utilize people's capabilities, managers must want
to make the change, or at least be willing to support it with their own efforts. It is not enough
just to have a solid implementation plan, support systems and the required skill base. In most
organizations, it is also a matter of commitment to the change through participation in a lengthy
and complex interactive process. A change is not fully stable and irreversible until it has become
the norm. The problem is that most implementation processes never reach this point. Project
teams are often disbanded or diluted once a new system is up and running with tile initial teeth-
ing problems solved. Training may stop before people have truly integrated new priorities, pro-
cedures and skills into their jobs. Practical problems of making the change work under real job
conditions may not get the attention required, because resources are shuffled to the next high pri-
ority project prematurely. The time and effort needed to integrate the change may be grossly un-
derestimated, and the organization may simply give.
Change efforts frequently fail because not enough people become committed to the
change. The leadership may be committed, but that is far from enough. What is needed is com-
mitment from a large proportion of those people who have to actually change the way they do
things. To gain enough support for the change, people must be engaged in a process of consider-
ing the change from the very beginning of the change cycle. That is, people must be involved in
discussions and perhaps demonstrations and proofs of various sorts, in a variety of settings and
formats. Questions of why change or why make this particular change, need to be considered in
depth. Each person must come to his or her own decision of the rightness of making the change.
Each person must reach the point of saying yes internally. Until this point is reached with many
participants in the change process, managers may face an uphill battle. People don't need to have
guarantees, nor do they need to understand the implementation process in detail to buy into it.
What they do need to be certain of is the necessity for change, and the fact that this particular
approach seems to be a promising one. How much discussion this will take varies greatly from
situation to situation. But gaining people's commitment through this kind of involvement is im-
perative. There is quite a bit of inertia to overcome before any change effort can get started. En-
trenched attitudes and values, habits, formalized procedures, existing skills and personal prefer-
ences are all forms of individuals resistant to change. Aside from this, there are some people
who stubbornly resist any change, regardless of how much it is needed, and even in the face of
considerable personal consequences. Inertia poses such a threat that many changes never get off
the ground. There is only one way to overcome inertia, and that is to supply enough driving
force to overcome it. This driving force comes in the form of a compelling vision and persistent
leadership, thorough plans that involve people, and sufficient discomfort to motivate all but the
most resistant individuals.
Trust is a swing factor that can make the difference between success and failure when
trying to obtain change through a participative process. If people do not trust their managers,
they will have trouble believing the reasons that a change is needed. They will also doubt the
wisdom of implementation plans, as well as the potential for real benefits from the effort they
make. Trust is needed because everyone involved in the change effort is entering the frontier
together. The path is not altogether known by anyone, and so there must be trust in the leader-
ship to guide the process. If there is insufficient trust,
people will find creative ways to resist and undermine
progress. If there is a lack of trust in the organization,
it makes sense to overcome this problem before launch-
ing a major change. The situation may call for an entire
change cycle aimed at increasing trust before any other
change is initiated. This effort will require clear and
specific promises by management and delivery on those promises. There must be concrete
proof. Where trust does not now exist, or worse yet, where it has been violated, it must be
earned. Trust cannot be built overnight, but developing trust within the organic increases its po-
It is easy to underestimate the level of effort and difficulty, time and funding needed for a
successful project. Once the project is under way, inevitable barriers are encountered, real costs
become apparent, doubts emerge regarding how real the benefits will be, or how long it will take
to achieve them, Support can
quickly evaporate. Enthusiasm
can turn to cynicism. The change
process can stall or fade way, be-
coming nothing more than another
failure, and to persuade people to
commit them-adding to the diffi-
culties of making other changes in
the future. The solution is to be enthusiastic, yet realistic, from the beginning. Leaders, sponsors,
shareholders, political opponents, line managers and participants all need a realistic view of the
situation. They need to have as balanced a perspective on the project as possible. None of the
"realism" takes away from the need to generate real excitement by painting the picture of the fu-
ture boldly. But it does alert one to the dangers of promising too much.
There is a direct relationship between an organizations culture and productivity, quality
and service, generally three of the most important marketing advantages a company has in com-
petition. It is only when there are negative or counterproductive elements within the culture that
change becomes necessary. Even so, within any culture there are many elements that are either
traditional or institutional and of a positive nature that should be preserved or revitalized and re-
established. It is only the bad or negative elements that we want to change, but to do this suc-
cessfully we have to instill new elements to substitute for the ones the manager wants to elimi-
There are four critical aspects that must be addressed through a formal, structured ap-
proach that must be done as an integrated intense group effort. These parts that make up the
whole are: once the profile has been established we convert these into a set of measurable, attain-
able values. These in turn, become the goals and expectations that will be rolled down through
the organization to the supervisory, salaried and hourly levels. This is the benchmark to give the
organization a clear understanding of why the change is necessary, how it is going to be accom-
plished and what are the organizations expectations from each level. Coupled with the above, an
ongoing communications program must be introduced. It should be published and distributed on
a weekly cycle, disseminating information that is of value and benefit to the organization as a
whole. In particular, articles and information supporting the change process along with the rea-
sons or logic should be sandwiched between articles concerning the industry. Using the diagnos-
tic tools as the focal point, each individual’s strengths and weaknesses must be analyzed and a
group composite is generated. This group composite is then used to develop a customized train-
ing program that will reinforce those strengths and correct the weaknesses. The training is
started in a workshop atmosphere structured to create group dynamics and formation of commit-
ments by consensus. However, change does not take place by merely imparting knowledge and
a one-on-one on the floor follow-up must take place to get the individuals to actually use and put
in place those beliefs and concepts that they have committed to support in the workshops.
It is at this point that all of the interventions previously implemented start to come to-
gether and become permanent changes in attitude and behavior. This change then must be con-
tinuously reinforced by the other facets of the process. To be totally effective, any change proc-
ess must reach down to the "grass roots", the people at the entry level, the new hires, the talent
who will become tomorrow's supervision and the bulk of most organizations, salaried and hourly
employees. They must see, feel and be part of the process. In a study conducted by Armenakis
and Harris it was found that recipients of any type of change underwent an emotional reaction to
the process (2009). They have to be assimilated to help form the new culture in order to make it
complete and lasting. Through the goals, values and expectations, communications and attitude
and behavioral training the supervisor has been transformed into a "role model" to set a model
for his people. This advantage is then used to form small groups of employees into teams headed
and coordinated by the supervisor.
Structured, short meetings are held on a weekly cycle in selected employee groupings
where they are provided with the right coaching by the supervisor to freely discuss problems per-
tinent to their groupings that represent barriers to achieving goals. They are encouraged to not
only identify and present the problems but work on and develop solutions. There has to be a rec-
ognition and reward through the communications vehicle and by management to encourage and
stimulate the process. This is not a time related, one shot process, but a permanent ongoing insti-
Armenakis, A. & Harris, S. (2009). Reflections: our Journey in Organizational Change Re-
search and Practice. Journal of Change Management, 9 (2), 127-142.
Duening, T., & Ivancevich, J. (2006). Managing organizations: principals & guidelines. Ma-
Graetz, F. & Smith, A. (2009). Duality Theory and Organizing Forms in Change Management.
Journal of Change Management, 9 (1), 9-25.
Van Dijk, R. & Van Dick, R. (2009). Navigating Organizational Change: Change Leaders, Em-
ployee Resistance and Work-based Identities. Journal of Change Management, 9 (2),
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