|In this second debate, the panel will discuss why change management is
even necessary. Dr. Johnson will introduce the opposing viewpoint and moderate the panel.
about the debate structure: in each debate, we have asked each individual to defend one
side or the other for a particular topic. In some cases, they may be defending a position
that they personally do not advocate, but for the purpose of presenting both sides of the
debate, they will voice commonly stated positions from managers and business leaders. You
may find these debates helpful to defend against similar statements by resistant managers
in your company.
Dr. James Johnson (JJ)
Is change management really necessary? What ever happened to the good old days in
business? You did what you had to do to survive. We seem to be spending more
time worrying about how people feel about a change instead of how to implement a change.
Evolution Theory, I think, supports this premise. Plants and animals have survived
countless changes in the earth's environment. The cockroach is a perfect example; it
has been around for 300 million years - sharks, 200 million years. Why? Because they
learned to adapt to their environments. They have learned to survive. The strong
survive and the weak don't - it's the survival of the fittest!
Maybe we should get back to the science of management. Maybe Frederick Taylor was
right. Maybe management is going soft. Maybe it's time to get back to the
basics, 2+2=4. If' it's too hot in your environment, then move somewhere else.
Enough of the pampering! Can we afford the soft approach to change?
Can we just stop spending time worrying about how people feel about the change and tell
them to either (1) implement it, or (2) move somewhere else? Should managers mow people
over that don't support or resist the change? Can we afford the "hard approach"
to change? What type of message do you think would be sent if an employee was
"moved somewhere else" (fired or demoted), without any coaching on what is
expected and why and how to support the change? The message that would be sent is FEAR.
Granted, the short term decision to deal with that one employee would be quick and easy,
however the long term ramifications would be great.
Melissa talks about the FEAR message sent in JJ's "survival of the fittest"
world. I agree with JJ's use of the evolution theory in this situation, but his
interpretation of the analogy is wrong. The companies that are leading the evolutionary
campaign are the ones that have figured out their greatest assets are their people, and
the old theory of dealing with change (implementing a FEAR philosophy where it is
"change or get out") is not in the company's best interest. Contrary to JJ's
statement about the 'good old days', it is the companies that operate in the 'good old
days' that are stuck in the Dark Ages! Change management helps create successful
adaptation in a win-win situation for both parties and is certainly the evolutionary wave
of the future.
Not to just side with JJ and be the devil's advocate, but I have one question: Aren't
we in business to do business, not to make people feel good about themselves? I've been
working in a project team during my MBA courses this semester, and there are times when we
spend hours tip-toeing around issues because no one wants to rock the boat - no one wants
to implement the 'hard-side' of change. A business that operates this way will not be in
business for long. Why do managers have to be so careful these days? Maybe I've become a
bit jaded, but I think that at some levels, there are certain expectations of any job. If
most jobs require change, why should businesses be going out of there way, spending
valuable time and resources "managing change." Change is part of your job; we
pay you to do your job, so do your job.
"How high?" That certainly would be a preferred answer to a management
directive to jump than the more typical "Why?" that is heard
today. Yet, in a recent study with more than 327 companies implementing major business
change, project managers stated that the single most important success factor was managing
change. [Ref 1]
Have we really become soft when it comes to leadership and managing change, as Tim and
JJ argue? What has happened that requires today's leaders to manage change differently
than in the past? First, I believe the workforce itself has changed. Employees today are
more educated and more knowledgeable about business in general and their role in the
company. Just as the notion of "job for life" has disappeared from our
concept of employment, employees are stepping up and taking on more responsibility for
Second, companies have asked employees to be more accountable for their work
performance. "Take ownership of your work. Find ways to improve work performance
every day." This management mantra for quality and process improvement does not
come without a cost. If you give an employee ownership of their work, then don't expect
them to just stand by while you change it out from under them. With accountability for
results comes ownership of the process, and with ownership of the process comes both
emotional and professional attachment and commitment. We should expect resistance to
top-down change to increase as employee ownership of their work increases.
The net effect for managers is that top-down change requires a new approach. New
competencies are needed for today's leaders and managers. That does not mean business
leaders need to be "soft" on change. This is misunderstanding what is means to
Dr. James Johnson (JJ)
Im a big proponent of empowering employees and making them responsible and
accountable for their work. Ive seen
it work both in large and small organizations. But
if they are worth their weight in salt, they will recognize the need for change and just
do it. They wont need handholding or
the like. Good people will always find a way
to make it work. They wont need
management looking over their shoulders. Theyre
not afraid to take a risk.
point needs to be reinforced that change management is not the handholding, touchy feely,
please-everyone style of management. Good change management is not synonymous to
pampering, comforting and carrying employees from one side of a difficult situation to
another. Change management is about implementing change with visible and active executive
sponsorship, clear and constant communication, excellent training and education, involved
coaches and employees, and proactive resistance management. Change management is
about using proven change leadership skills to implement new projects.
Adrienne is on the right track here. Change management is concrete steps that
management can take to effectively lead change. Change management is not the goal in and
of itself. Change management is means to an end and the end is business results.
Businesses are not in place to make people feel good about themselves (this is
hopefully a side effect of a well run business), businesses are expected to make money. A
business' viability is directly related to its ability to generate revenue and profit.
Change management is about effectively managing change to maximize business results.
It makes good business sense to spend time and resources managing change because it
will pay off a thousand fold in the commitment and quality of work from the employees of
the company. JJ's correct - good people will find a way to make change work. I think the
important distinction is that good people will find a way to make a change work if they
understand how the change is directly related to achieving business results. Smart people
do not blindly follow. Smart people seek understanding and then execute.
There are plenty of people that will reject changes no matter how effectively the
change is implemented. In those cases, their resistance to the change should not be
ignored and clear consequences should be presented and executed.
Jeff Hiatt (the last word for Round 2)
This discussion has closed on several key issues around "Why manage change?":
1. Managing change is not about "soft" skills. It is about developing
specific management competencies around effective change leadership. These new management
competencies are essential in today's workplace.
2. Change management is necessary to manage business risks during change, including
avoiding the loss of valued employees, minimizing productivity drops, avoiding negative
impacts on customers and enabling the change to be implemented on schedule and on budget.
3. Managing change benefits employees by keeping them involved and informed throughout
the change process. This enables employees to make informed choices about how they will
transition through the change rather than react based on fear.
4. Change management provides the tools to proactively manage resistance to change and
to deal decisively with resistance to change that is persistent and threatening to the
organization. Without these tools, changes can become mired in workplace politics and
The workplace is different today than even 10 years ago. Change is the norm. Employees
view their career and role in the company in new ways. In response, management
competencies must adapt and businesses should work to develop change management and change
leadership competencies from the CEO down to the front-line manager.
|Thank you. Interesting!
Important! One question to Jeff: Why is managing change
not about "soft" skills, too (!). Points 2 to 4 of your final statement
correctly reveal that CM is a lot about dealing appropriately with people. I claim that
you absolutely need hard (management) skills (methods, etc.) as well as soft skills
(talk/respond with empathy, e.g.) to be successful with CM. Even task-oriented
top-employees have feelings (like, e.g., fear to lose their job). You need soft skills to
be able to deal successfully with such employees in a change projects. Looking forward to
From Jeff: I agree. Your
point is right on and exactly correct. Thank you. I would edit my 1st bullet above to read
"Managing change is not only about "soft" skills.
Change should be managed to avoid waste; wasted energy, time and
resources and most importantly to enable the change to take place. Poorly managed change
results in additional resistance which can act as a brick wall to an implementation team.
Change is hard enough without planning and managing it. I've heard people say that they
don't have the time to manage the change and they just do it but I often wonder if they
have taken into consideration how much time the worker's resistance consumes in their
The consequences of poorly managed change are : low morale, low
productivity, conflict, employee dissatisfaction levels increase, personal loss of trust
and confidence in employees also results.
The most common result of a poorly managed change process is the
lack of motivation among the general ranks of employees who feel some what threatened by
change. Our organization recently went through a merger in which the soft skill issues
were some how not given priority. The majority of employees from the two entities felt
apprehensive about the top down approached implemented during the change process. There is
need, therefore, to sell the change process through employee participation. While
cognizant that the executives have ultimately the responsibility to manage change, the
process should indeed be owned by every employee in the organization. Soft skills are
based on the concept of people as the key drivers of change. Leadership should therefore
promote the right environment that waters the growth of the change tree or seed.
Shouldn't we distinguish the difference between Change, and
Transition. Change being external, new plant and procedures. The transition is internal to
the individual, resulting in a change in behavior. Is this debate not about the later? As
individuals we are/will be chiefly concerned with the 'what's in it for me, what am I
going to loose or gain?' Geoff Hiatt summed up the consequences of poorly managed
change,that do's not deal with individuals resistance, by good communications, support and
participation. As "change" managers should we not be developing change competent
teams who expect that change will occur and that it can be initiated by both employees and
senior management. Thanks for the opportunity to participate and share my views.
Management and Leadership is a continuum of techniques effective
in a wide variety of situations. At times, the comprehensive application of change
management must be partially sacrificed to deal with the urgent priorities of business. In
other situations, the best solution is found in a more complete change management
solution. Time and preparedness are key factors. There was no time available for teaching
the crew of the Titanic about change after they hit the iceberg - and, clearly, this event
dictated a massive change in their mission. The key to good management and leadership is
knowing how to judge the situation at hand and employ the best available techniques to fit
Yes, I agree quite alright, even with Melissa, that change
management is about effectively managing change to maximize business results.That is why
it is not an end itself but a means to an end. That end is to maximize business success,
maintain financial improvement and above all to consider people issues that would help to
effect changes in an organization. Any organization that wishes to be at competitive edge
must inevitably pursue these three goals which can also be used to evaluate business
effectiveness. That is why we here in the human resources department translate such change
in terms of quality product and service.We make sure that stockholders get good returns on
investment and that customers get high quality goods or services and most importantly that
employees are happy with the working condition and compensation. These with management
innovation and good HRM practices can bring about desired change in an organization.
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Reference 1 - 2002 Best Practices in Business Process Reengineering Benchmarking