Since change in the workplace is constant, a good leader knows how to implement and lead effective change. A description on p. 418
(file attached in uploads) and 419 explains how change affects top management, middle management, and frontline employees. Read
this section, and consider a time when you experienced change in your organization.
Describe how people at those three levels in the organization initiated or responded to the change. Did top management help his or
her middle managers prepare employees for and implement the change? Did management understand the “losses” experienced by
employees? Were employees resistant to the change? How did management overcome that resistance?
Manning, G., & Curtis, K. (2015). The art of leadership (5th ed.).
Managing People through Change
Figure 17–1 depicts the all-too-common responses to change at various organizational levels.
Top management. Top leaders may underestimate the impact of change on lower levels of the organization. They expect employees to go
along when a change is announced and blame middle managers if people resist or complain. They may be so insulated that they truly
don’t know the results of their decisions and programs.
Figure 17–1 Organizational Response to Change68
Middle management. Managers in the middle feel pressure to implement organizational change, but often lack information and top
leadership direction to be successful. They may feel squeezed between resistant or withdrawn subordinates and demanding but out-
Frontline employees. Frontline people may feel threatened by changes announced by management and may respond with denial and
resistance, leading often to worry and protective behavior. At this point, employees may shut down and be morale casualties. In
this state, lack of willingness to take initiative and to be accountable is not uncommon.
People judge a change primarily on the basis of how it will affect them. If a change is personally disruptive, resistance can be
great. Even computer professionals resist change when computerization has an impact on their own lives. Loss of control is one of
the things people dislike most about change. Out of a need for control, they may choose dysfunction over uncertainty. Often the
only way to get people to say good-bye to the past is to convince them that the price of holding on to it is too high and that
change is the only way to survive.69
Rules to Guide Leaders in Implementing Change
Leading change is one of the most important and difficult challenges facing any leader. When organizations have the right goals in
mind—they want to be customer-focused, quality-conscious, empowered, and profitable—and the reason for change is accounted for by
market competition, customer demands, and other forces, the question of how to implement or manage change should be addressed.70
Seven rules should guide leaders in all change efforts:
1. Have a good reason for making a change. Consider each change carefully against the following criteria: Will it support the
organization’s purpose and goals, and does it reflect the organization’s basic principles and core values? If the answer is no,
don’t change. Change for the sake of change is a waste of precious resources, including people’s time.
2. Personalize change. Let people know where you stand. Explain your commitment. Why is the change important to you? How will you
be affected if the change is successful or if it fails? Why is this change important to them? What do they stand to gain or lose?
People may resist or give lukewarm support to a change initiative unless they see how they will personally benefit.71
3. Implement change thoughtfully. Follow four proven principles: Involve the people who are affected by the change (if you want
people in the landing, they have to be in the takeoff); go slow, giving people time to adjust (if you go too fast, you will have an
empty train going down the tracks; sometimes you must slow down to carry more passengers); keep people informed through constant
personal communication (however much you communicated before the change, raise the level by a factor of 10); be available (not just
mentally, but physically as well).
4. Put a respected person in charge of coordinating change. Select someone who is trusted by all. Then tap the constructive power
of the group through transition teams to plan, coordinate, and communicate change efforts. Provide training in new knowledge,
attitudes, and skills to support change.
5. Tell the truth. When change is necessary, give the facts and rationale, not sugarcoated pep talks. Trust goes up when the truth
is shared. Only after people know the truth and come to terms with negative feelings can they focus effectively on the future.
6. Wait patiently for results. It takes time for a seed to grow, and it takes time to realize benefits from change. Change that is
too rapid can be destructive. Rush the process and reduce the results. The effective leader knows personal, political, and
financial costs accompany any organizational change, and is willing to pay the price. To ensure success, install methods for
tracking progress and stay personally involved.
7. Acknowledge and reward people. As change is made, take time to recognize people and show appreciation. Acknowledge the
struggles, sacrifices, and contributions people have made. A word of thanks goes a long way.
In helping people through change, leaders must remember the different time and information perspectives of different levels of the
organization. Usually the first people
aware of a change initiative are senior leaders, then middle managers, then first-line supervisors; last is first-line personnel.
Senior leaders may be eager to implement changes that frontline personnel are just learning about. Maintaining an open door,
listening for understanding, and being patient are necessary leadership behaviors for successful change to occur.
Social psychologist Kurt Lewin identified a three-step process for helping people through change: First, unfreeze the status quo;
second, move to the desired state; third, live by conditions that become the new, but not rigid, status quo.72
■ Unfreezing involves reducing or eliminating resistance to change. As long as people drag their heels about a change, it will
never be implemented effectively. To accept change, people must first deal with and resolve feelings about letting go of the old.
Only after people have dealt successfully with endings are they ready to make transitions.
■ Moving to the desired state usually involves considerable two-way communication, including group discussion. Lewin advised that
the person leading change should make suggestions and encourage discussion. Brainstorming, benchmarking, field study, and library
research are good techniques for channeling the energies of the group. The best way to overcome resistance to change is to involve
people in the changes that will affect them.
■ Living by new conditions involves such factors as pointing out the successes of the change and finding ways to reward the people
involved in implementing the change. Recognizing the contributions of others shows appreciation for their efforts and increases
their willingness to participate in future change efforts.
Understanding Complex Organizational Change
Does this sound familiar? Senior leaders spend months coming up with a plan for moving the organization in a new direction. The
board says, “Full speed ahead!” There is only one problem: The managers who actually run the place and the employees who actually
do the work have no understanding of the plan, and are maybe even complaining about the newest “new thing” of senior management.
The only way to move from boardroom discussion to on-the-job reality is to help managers and workers understand, share, and commit
to a vision for change.73
There are many models and perspectives for understanding organizational change. Valuable insight is provided by the following
authors: O’Toole, Pritchett, McNulty, Kanter, Rock, and Ostroff.74 One of the best models for leading change is an eight-stage
process provided by John Kotter of Harvard University. Kotter’s model summarizes the steps necessary to produce successful change.
The first four steps unfreeze the status quo and energize the organization around a new vision. The remaining four steps help move
the organization to the desired state, including implementing new practices and reinforcing changes in the organizational
culture.75 See Figure 17–2.
Effective leaders of organizational change are boundary spanners. They are able to assess the external forces shaping the
organization and determine how the organization must respond. They are also system thinkers, recognizing that change in one area of
the organization can impact conditions in other areas. To illustrate, in a well-intentioned “green” initiative to reduce waste and
save time at a public university, trash cans were removed from all classrooms. The aggravation and inefficiencies experienced by
students and professors were not anticipated, and these outweighed the efficiency gains forecast by physical facilities management.
The change was poorly conceived and deemed a failure.