understanding and coping with change

Although change has become commonplace in modern organizations, the reported failure rates of change implementation range from 40% to as high as 70% (McKay et al. , 2013). Considering our global economy and technological innovation, this rate is alarmingly high. It is no surprise that these statistics have prompted researchers to investigate the causes underlying change failure in modern organizational settings (McKay et al. , 2013). Employee resistance has been identified as a primary source of change implementation failure across a range of organizations and industries worldwide (McKay et al.

, 2013). Change is a situation that interrupts normal patterns of organization and calls for participants to enact new patterns, involving interplay of deliberate and emergent processes that can be highly ambiguous for everyone involved (Ford et al. , 2008). Employees resist change for a variety of more or less logical reasons (Baack, 2012). These reasons will be explored to understand the external and internal factors of change within organizations. In addition, a scenario will be presented to analyze how change was introduced, perceived, and implemented at a real life organization.

Change is never an easy task for change enactors or recipients. As human beings, we are naturally hesitant to embrace change (Baack, 2012). However, change is sometimes necessary for organizations to keep up in this ever changing and challenging global economy. It can mean the difference between success and failure for organizations. There are both internal and external factors impacting employees’ perception of organizational change. In addition, it may vary greatly from employee to employee, so what’s impacting an individual’s perception of the change can have opposite reactions on others.

Internal changes, or internal driving forces, are the type of changes that occur within a company. External changes, or external driving forces, are changes that occur with no say from the company, such as changes in economy or the industry itself. Such internal factors that can influence change and the opposition of that change are changes in team-work and overall changes in organizational culture. An example of an external factor can be the need of different technology and the adaptation to a different way of performing the same job due to technological advancements that are required in the industry.

Baack lists a lack of understanding as a possible reason why people resist change (2012). Not understanding why the change is necessary is a type of resistance to change that can be just as simple as that (Baack, 2012); no further explanation required. One can develop on that by exploring the reasons behind our innate human attribute of resisting what is customary. Having to adapt to new technological machinery can also seem as an unnecessary addition to the work-flow for many employees. Baack states the necessity to explain the new methods and educate employees on the reasons behind the change (2012).

By asking employees questions and taking the time in ensuring they understand why the change is imminent, one is in turn reassuring them and reinforcing the trust one has worked so hard to gain with them. Establishing a sense of urgency and a compelling reason to make the change is an essential part of the process (Baack, 2012). As a manager, one has to ensure his or her employees that the new change is for the better good and that no one employee is going to be left out on the education and proper implementation of that change.

In addition, managers should understand that change can be a very unsettling process for many employees and that it will take time for employees to get over the initial unsettling emotions that would come about the change or changes (Baack, 2012). Perhaps, however, the change is unsettling because employees do not trust management in general or their ability to execute the change properly, efficiently, and safely. Gaining the employees trust is extremely important in executing the change.

So is communicating the vision of the change to every employee and seeking their individual opinion on the change. In addition, finding their individual concerns can help managers better execute or plan the change. Current approaches to change tend to treat change agents like the umpire who asserts, “I call them [balls and strikes] as they are” (Ford et al. , 2008). As managers who genuinely care about the organization and its employees, one should never make employees feel as though they will commit to the change because it is what is desired by managers.

It is completely the wrong way to go about the change. Trust is something that a good manager should have worked to instill in his or her employees since he or she took the position or the employee had the first day of orientation. A lack of trust in management almost always resembles a bigger picture and it is something the leadership figures of the organization should have noticed and fixed before new changes were even brought up, theoretically at least.

Differing assessments of the need for change occur when employees do not view a change as necessary, because managers and employees do not see eye to eye on the nature of the issue (Baack, 2012). This ‘differing assessment’ can also indicate mistrust in managerial judgment; both certainly can go hand-in-hand. A differing assessments and a lack of trust on management is more or less what happened at Chili’s Grill & Bar when the company decided to switch its server work flow to team-service oriented environment.

In order to save labor costs, Chili’s Grill & Bar cut the busser position in its restaurants, thus allotting the busser job responsibilities among the servers. In addition, servers now shared a section of the restaurant in what Chili’s called “team service. ” The new change required servers to work as a team in administering exceptional customer service in addition to completing the extra work that was once performed by bussers, whereas before servers were only responsible for their individually assigned section of the restaurant and ‘tipped out’ the bussers at the end of the night.

Brinker International, the company which operates Chili’s, saved $25 Million in 2012 and customer satisfaction surveys showed positive numbers (Robinson-Jacobs, 2012). This change was not initially perceived well by the employees as many complained that the added responsibilities would prohibit them from performing the server duties adequately. In addition, servers complained of confusion as far as whose tables ‘belonged’ to whom. The other aspect of the dislike for the change was in the busser staff.

Chili’s retrained or temporarily lay off many of its bussers. Every busser, however, had the option to retrain in another position. Management held meetings, answered questions, re-trained many servers, and ensured that staff was well-equipped for the new change. There were still many skeptical staff-members, however, and the new change took effect with that skepticism still very much alive. Baack refers to Kotter’s 8-step plan in identifying the different elements involving change (2012).

“Empowering others to act on the vision, including encouraging risk taking and creativity” (Baack, 2012); Chili’s managers entrusted staff members in acting on the vision. They also encouraged servers to express their concerns during and after shifts. Furthermore, managers encouraged servers to come up with ways to better make the vision happen; ways that would be more comfortable and efficient for them as individuals. In essence, they gave the staff-members power over the change and that prompted servers to execute the change more smoothly.

“Planning for and rewarding short-term “wins” that move toward the new vision” (Baack, 2012); managers were very thankful with the staff and also held contests for guest satisfaction surveys handing out gift cards to winners. In addition, managers expressed to every server individually how very much appreciated their hard work was perceived by every manager and Chili’s executives as well. This allowed the servers to feel as important assets of the company.

“Consolidating improvements, reassessing changes, and making adjustments” (Baack, 2012); some adjustments were made as per server requests. Chili’s executives recognized that servers are the face of the company and as such their opinion is very much appreciated. They not only recognized it but acted on it. Today the change has saved the company millions of dollars. For Chili’s the plan of change worked because of their consideration of the recipients of the change. In Chili’s case, there were both internal and external factors that influenced employee resistance.

An internal factor was that employees were not forced to cooperate more with one another and the team-member relationships were going to be impacted by abiding to new ‘team service’ regulations. An external factor was that the change was implemented because economic situations forced Brinker International executives to seek new ways of saving money. Given that 40% to 70% of newly implemented changes in organizations fail, Brinker International executives had to be very cautious in the manner in which the change was going to be implemented and introduced to employees.

Change resistance was a given, we are more or less programmed to be hesitant to new ways of doing a job when the old ways just worked so well for everyone (Ford et al. , 2008). The important matter here was not to predict the change but to handle it. Change is inevitable. Companies whose leaders don’t adapt or embrace the change will ultimately fail (McKay et al. , 2013). It is the way companies deal with the change that truly defines them.

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