Change management is the approach of transition within an organization that is designed in a structured manner to cater to the organization itself, its people at individual capacity as well as a team or group level. The past two decades have seen a growing need for management change, especially in information systems. The dramatic pace of change that we have seen take place in different organizations during this period suggests how the need for change management is critical for these companies.
Firms have stepped up the game of competition in many aspects. To emerge successfully, every firm would consider acquiring critical internal resources to facilitate their competitive advantage. For example, developing reliable software has become a very complex task for many firms whose main aim is to serve their customers best. In addition, they need to survive in this highly competitive market environment by increasing their operational efficiency. This paper seeks to review the different approaches that can be taken to address change management. Secondly, it seeks to explain a thorough knowledge of the three approaches that might help an information system manager cope with the inherent changes resulting from the development of new or improved information systems.
Approaches to Organizational Change Management
John Kotter’s Organizational Change Model
We realize that we live in a world that is constantly changing, yet the daily business remains the same in content but different in strategy. Many firms come with different change strategies which are project-based, involve the improvement of technology, and the desire to gain competitive advantage. John Kotter, a change management expert, and author introduced 8 steps that need to be followed by a firm seeking change in the management system. He proposed the following 8-step change process:
Stage 1: Establishing a sense of urgency
According to Kottter, there is a need to establish a sense of urgency to gain the necessary cooperation during the change process. If by any means a sense of complacency has been established, the change proposed may lead to organizational failure. The whole company must show a sense of need for the proposed change. This would assist in the initiation of a motivational strategy for the organizational people to keep thinking and moving with a positive attitude towards the proposed change.
Stage 2: Formation of a strong coalition with the organizational people
Kotter observes that there is a need to convince the people that change is needed for the organization to progress (Kotter 1996). For this to happen, the organizational leadership must be strong enough, with adequate support from key stakeholders. This stage suggests that it is not just enough to manage change but it’s also very critical to lead the process to its accomplishment.
Stage 3: Establishing a Vision for Change
The moment one begins to think of the need for organizational change, abstract ideas come lurking on what is needed and why the change is necessary. These ideas will be great ones, although they may be mixed up. There is a need to merge these ideas and concepts to come up with a simple but clear vision of what is needed. The vision should be clear and easy to remember so that people involved may understand the direction of the change.
Stage 4: Communicating the Vision
Every business expert would not hesitate to utter words such as, “communication is the key to successful management” or rather “success in an organization begins with clear communication”. After creating a vision, Kotter believes that how it is communicated to the people concerned that determine the success of the organizational change. It must be noted that this message for change as proscribed in the vision will be facing competition within the organization. It, therefore, follows that it must be powerful in dissemination as well as frequent in all aspects of activities carried out. To make other people in the organization understand and take the process seriously, the proponent of change must put everything he or she says into practice, to modify other team members’ behaviors.
Stage 5: Eliminate Obstacles
After going through all the first four steps and reaching the core of the change process, members of staff begin to work on the process that has been put on the plan. However, some resistance must be noted from among the team members or from some stakeholders of the organization. In addition, the organizational structure may be rigid so getting the change process to start becomes a problem. It is next to impossible to get an organization that seeks change without experiencing any form of resistance at all (Kotter 1996). It is therefore the responsibility of the change leader to remove these obstacles.
Stage 6: Creating Short-term Wins
During the process of change, there are times when certain goals may be achievable in short term. It is always important to give the organization a taste of victory, a sign of good things to come by making short success. This will motivate the team to keep going for the bigger and ultimate goal. Within a short time, it is possible to have some results that are visible to members of the staff. If such short-term successes are lucking, the change process may receive some criticism from skeptics who might jeopardize the progress by making negative comments.
Stage 7: Build on the Change
Many projects designed for “the organizational changes normally fail” because change leadership is not patient enough to wait for full success, just declaring success prematurely (Larkin & Larkin 1996). In his view, real change takes more than what we see at face value, and the need to focus on the bigger goals even after getting quick wins is paramount.
Stage 8: Instilling the Changes realized into the organizational corporate culture
To make these changes “embedded in the organizational culture, they should be made part of the organization’s inner core” (Larkin & Larkin 1996, p.96). That is, the corporate culture of an organization is a strong determinant of what will happen or what will people in charge do. In this case, the values that determine the vision need to be shown through the daily works within the organization.
Satir Change Model
Virginia Satir developed a change model that is based on a belief that every process of change has a possibility of improvement regularly. In other words, Satir’s conviction is that improvement will always be necessary during the process of change and that five stages need to be followed when carrying out organizational change. These are: what we feel, what we think, how we perform, and the physiology of our body. When these principles are applied, the change process can be improved. The following are the stages for the Satir Change model:
Stage 1: Late Status Quo
This stage involves putting the group members in a familiar place, to have some level of consistency in the organizational change process (Larkin & Larkin 1996, p.95). Once stability in terms of the relationship between members has been achieved, members can develop a sense of identity and belonging, hence can understand their expectations, when and how to react to a situation, and define their behavior towards certain issues.
The defined rules do underline and determine behavior, where members consider their continual participation in the project as a survival rule (Larkin & Larkin 1996, p.96). For example, when an IT project manager has stated that a project must be completed within a particular schedule, and a delay occurs due to some cases of absenteeism because of the sickness of a team member, he or she may require that the members work more hours to compensate. This may lead to some form of protests from some members, which if not well managed, may lead to project failure. To avoid such kinds of eventuality, the project manager will lay down explicit rules guiding duties and responsibility in such a scenario. These rules are the Late Status Quo for the team members and will pose some pressure on them to deliver and compensate for the lost time appropriately.
Stage 2: Resistance
Satir believes that the moment a foreign element or information has been introduced; the group is ready to go into confrontation with such changes. Those who bring in new information are just but the minority members who desire and seek change, and more importantly, bring out confrontation with the actual issue regarding the change. It is noted that this foreign element will destabilize the familiar structure of management, and will shake the status quo. If a problem occurs or there is an imminent problem, some members will start blaming others for what has happened or deny any form of responsibility for the difficulty.
This form of resistance and denial leads to blockage of awareness that may have been brought about by the foreign element. For instance, a minority group that has a lot of powers in an organization may introduce an idea within the organization. If this idea is put into practicality through research, and the findings reveal that it is not workable, the individuals may start denying the authenticity of the report or sample used. However, several open discussions will lead to acceptance of the reality revealed by research. They subsequently begin to develop a vision that would push forward the company towards the intended goals of change. It is therefore important that members of the change team engage in open discussion, develop awareness, and try to overcome the denial habit, and avoid the blame game.
Stage 3: Chaos
This stage may be best described as the unknown boundary. The relationship between individuals may be demolished due to failure to achieve the old expectations, the old approaches become less effective, and sometimes old behaviors of each team member may be completely forgotten. This fading identity may begin to generate anxiousness as well as lead to vulnerable situations. In some instances, the feelings may cause members to feel nervous or dizzy, thus leading to uncharacteristic behavior. For instance, a newly installed information system may lead to job loss for some employees. The firm may also restructure the organizational structure; hence causing nervousness among the employees. This may lead others to seek new opportunities somewhere else, low productivity, and poor relationship between the group members.
The change leader needs to help employees refocus their goals through acknowledging their fears, and managing systems that will boost their morale in driving them towards the organizational change goal. There is therefore the need for special attention to the issues that crop up so that members would avoid quick-fix solutions to the problems encountered. Satir observes that the chaos stage is critical during the organizational change process, hence should never be taken negatively as a failure.
Stage 4: Integration
This is the state in which the organization reaches a point where members begin to realize and discover how a particular foreign idea or knowledge can be made to be beneficial to them. There is some level of excitement among the group members as they try to forge a new form of relationship, identity, and the feeling of belonging emerges within. This consequently increases the performance of team members.
Stage 5: The new Status Quo
In this stage, the change becomes well understood and information assimilation follows, hence the group develops better accord with work, where the organizational performance is enhanced. It leads to an organizational change which can be described as a learning organization, where they become positive towards future changes that may occur in the future.
Kubler-Rose Emotional Change Model: Grief Model
According to Kubler-Rose, there is normally a sign of loss during the organizational change process- a loss that impacts the staff in a massive way (Hendry, 1996). This model of change addresses issues related to emotions that come with the planned change. She outlines four emotional states that may engulf employees as they carry out change implementation. Such behaviors may act as barriers to the change process. She, therefore, states that understanding employees’ emotions are the first step in the development of a prepared mind to tackle the needed changes. The Grief Model has four stages as follows:
Stage 1: Denial stage
This is where employees cannot come to terms with what is happening in their organization. They are in constant denial of what is happening as far as change is concerned. If this fear is not resolved in the process, it may lead to mistrust and destroy the relationship between the workers.
Stage 2: Resistance
In this state, the organization is likely to face natural resistance from the group of employees. This kind of mistrust may be the source of problems people may resist in different forms as far as feelings are concerned. In many cases, the most obvious resistance that can be seen by anybody comes from those who make their dissatisfaction loud, with changes likely to take place taking its root. However, some covert resistance is the most dangerous form of resistance as it may go unnoticed till it is too late to act.
Stage 3: Exploration
If employees fail to stop the change process, they start looking for new roles to fit in the system. The roles may come in as an individual initiative or from a group. It is recommended that issues that have not been resolved and keep on recurring be resolved once and for all. The change leadership must be wary of employees who persistently criticize change initiatives, and they can be helped through counseling. In case the trust has been developed, the change leadership can use that trust among the peers to facilitate behavioral change among the critics.
Stage 4: Commitment
The last stage put forward by Kubler Rose is the commitment stage. In this case, commitment to the change initiative is established among the groups. The group is directly focused on the successful implementation of the change process and they engage in more productive initiatives that eventually benefit the company.
Implementation of Organizational Change of Information Systems
An information Systems manager seeking to implement an organizational change is likely to face several challenges in the process. It is noted that the successful growth of a company is highly dependent on the ability to rapidly improve the process of change management and widen the product base in line with customer demand. An information system is one area that is constantly changed due to increased competitiveness as well as increased productivity.
Thorough knowledge of the three models of change will come in handy when dealing with which information system management change in an organization. According to Kotter, the change management process involves steps in which a complex system of people and technology are integrated to run smoothly in an organization (Kotter, 1995, p.25). For example, the entire organizational stakeholder needs to know that something is lacking in the organization that has led to poor productivity or the continuous competition that has caused a dip in profitability. Engaging the people in an open and honest discussion is needed so that they begin to discuss the proposed change that would eventually heighten the urgency of the matter.
An information Systems (IS) manager needs to be a more effective as well as credible agent of change. Why is this necessary? There are three primary reasons why IS manager needs to be a better change agent (Galliers & Leidner 2003, p.213). The first reason is that new Information technology is an organizational intervention. In other words, it is an attempt by the IS manager to create change that will affect the entire organization. A lot of studies have shown how information technology should be implemented so that an organization can achieve its intended change initiatives in terms of new IT. That is there is the need to learn how the information system is specified, designed, described, conceived by the people, and accepted by the management structure.
Change management does not need the traditional organizational hierarchy of leadership but will require a coalition of experts, and leaders from various backgrounds of socio-economic and political management. After the formation of a team as proposed by Kotter, there’s a need to develop a working relationship among the team members to facilitate a strong urgency for needed change. In this perspective, an IS manager should acknowledge that he or she cannot achieve an information system implementation on his or her own. It thus follows that executives, managers, and users (other employees) must do their part in the process.
The need for an IS manager to be effective change managers is paramount because they can communicate the message of change to other members of the company (Galliers & Leidner 2003). This can be done by establishing the structure for change and carrying out continuous monitoring of the process to identify and eliminate any form of barrier. For example, there are situations where the top management is not able to communicate the needed change since they lack technical skills. It is at this point that an IS manager with the right credentials to communicate the needed change. Moreover, eliminating the probable barriers can best be achieved through proper communication, which eventually empowers the team to work towards the vision without obstruction.
Using Kotter’s 7th step, an IS manager can avoid the early celebration of early victory. For instance, a new information system that has been used to produce one more product is good. But it would be better if the same system can be made to produce ten more products, which, if achieved will show that the system is working very efficiently. It, therefore, follows that to reach the biggest success; every single success should be used as a stepping stone towards bigger success in the implementation of the information system. At the same time, Satir illustrates that there is normally a lot of pressure in the overall management system during the implementation of the new IS. In this case, the IS manager can relieve pressure on the members by seeking information and concepts from outside to help develop new strategies and make necessary changes to the process of managing change. The information will make them feel that the necessary changes are not only internally generated but come from external demands and needs (Ward & Peppard 2002). This will enhance acceptance and the organization will not face resistance to the proposed IS change since they can engage in the overall discussion of the process.
Change must meet resistance. Information System change is even more difficult to accept due to fears of uncertainties of one’s job security. How can an Information System manager avoid resistance? To overcome this, it is necessary to solicit feedback from individuals who have expressed their dissatisfaction, so that he may be aware of their position as far as the proposed changes are concerned. This will help the manager understand their objectives and incorporate the important ones. Some employees would overtly embrace change but inwardly undermine every effort made to effect the change. It is through Kubler-Rose’s model that one can identify different forms of resistance to know how to deal with it.
For example, a group of accountants in an organization resists a new computer system, fearing that its use and application may make them lose their positions. However, later they get to realize that the skills they acquire with the new system become more valuable than they anticipated. Once the belief that the change will lead to more productivity which may translate into a better salary is instilled, they begin to develop more interest and build a new relationship with work. This can only be achieved through a proper understanding of the integration process that would help develop an amicable working relationship with the help of new information technology.
Emphasis should be made on the fact that the role of organizational change management is to improve the efficiency of an organization in terms of employee as well as customer satisfaction. The occupational role of change management is therefore not a creation of the occupation’s members. It should be a joint product of what experts do and what is done by other nonspecialists in the organization. It, therefore, follows that for successful change management, one must note that people who can lead the organizational change process do come from all levels of the organization, hence the need for human interrelation management and the ability to lead change acceptance among the people involved.
Galliers, R., & Leidner, D. (2003) Strategic Information Management System: Challenges and Strategies in Managing Information Systems. New York: Butterworth-Heinemann.
Hendry, C. (1996) Understanding and Creating Whole Organizational Change Through Learning Theory, Human Relations, 49, 621 – 639.
Kotter, J.P. (1996) Leading Change. Chicago. Harvard Business Press.
Larkin, S., & Larkin, J. (1996) Reaching and Changing Frontline Employees, Harvard Business Review, 74, 95 – 104.
Ward, J., & Peppard, J. (2002) Strategic Planning for Information Systems. New York: Wiley Publishers.