Change Management and Cultural Change

Over the years I have heard the leaders of many organisations say

The problem is the Culture in this business is all wrong” –

“We need to change the Culture”

“The people need to change their attitude if the business is to be successful!”

This has been particularly common in organisations that have been trying desperately to foster a relationship of participation and contribution by the workforce.

Organisations that, for some reason, have had difficulty in getting all employees “buy-in” to the organisation’s improvement efforts.

I have worked in and with such organisations.

What some business leaders do not recognise that there probably is some deep-seated reason for this workforce apathy. Maybe it is because of distrust or because of past failures of such initiatives for which they received the blame.

Switched on” leaders are led to the inevitable conclusion that it is not just the employees that need to change but also the entire organisational approach. Indeed the major changes are often actually applied to the management function and its style!

I am not saying that radical cultural Change is required for all organisations or is indeed desirable, however, if such a change is deemed necessary, please have a look at the following view (my view based on my experience and some theory) of how it can be obtained.

Why implement Change Management?

Change is necessary for a variety of reasons;

  • Survival – by not changing the organisation fails (Burning Platform)
  • Improved Performance – is required to improve and to be profitable
  • Growth – expand and develop new markets and opportunities

How do we implement Change Management?

Have a clear vision – clearly communicate what changes are required and what the changes mean for the organisation and individuals.

Employ a proven strategy to overcome doubts and entrenched attitude.

What is meant by the term Un-Freezing?

Un-freezing is to move people from their current position or beliefs we need to be able to un-freeze their attitudes.

  • To begin to move them toward the desired position – the position we want the organisation to move to.

Disconfirming their current beliefs

In order to move people, we need to create a state or event that disconfirms their current beliefs about the organisation.

These beliefs are often manifested in statements such as:-

  • “They are not serious about these changes”
  • “If we ignore them they will forget about it”
  • “They never see things through”
  • “Its all talk, It will never happen”

The Disconfirming the Event

  • The event should be designed to show that things are going to be “different around here”
  • It may be the introduction of new technology.
  • It may be a substantial change to policies and procedures.
  • It may be changes to how the business is structured.
  • It may be anything that creates surprise or causes to show that changes are here to stay!

The Disconfirming the Event

  • CRITICAL TO THE EVENT IS TO ENSURE THAT THE EVENT OR CHANGE IS COMMUNICATED WELL AND THAT IT IS SEEN THROUGH TO THE END.
  • IT SHOULD CLEARLY DEMONSTRATE THAT THE ORGANISATION IS SERIOUS.
  • BE HONEST AND UP-FRONT WITH ALL STAKE-HOLDERS – TELL IT THE WAY IT IS – GOOD OR BAD!

The Disconfirming the Event

  • The disconfirming event has the effect of making people doubt their original beliefs about the organisation.
  • These doubts make people malleable and more open to accepting and understanding the reasons for the change.
  • At this point, people in the unfrozen (liquid state) of belief can be re-positioned and be helped to move toward the desired place.

Re-Freezing

  • Once people have begun to accept the new state and are accepting the new conditions within the business it is time to re-freeze them in the new place.
  • Ensure that the reality of the new state is indeed the new reality.
  • Do not let the organisation slip back into its old ways.
  • Continually re-confirm (through positive action) that the new reality is here to stay.