Today, teams and organizations face rapid change like never before. Globalization has increased the markets and opportunities for more growth and revenue. However, increasingly diverse markets have a wide variety of needs and expectations that must be understood if they are to become strong customers and collaborators. Concurrently, the compensation of executives seems to be increasing while wages of others seems to be decreasing or leveling off. Thus, the ability to manage change, while continuing to meet the needs of stakeholders, is a very important skill required by today’s leaders and managers. Significant organizational change occurs, for example, when an organization changes its overall strategy for success, adds or removes a major section or practice, and/or wants to change the very nature by which it operates. It also occurs when an organization evolves through various life cycles, just like people must successfully evolve through life cycles. For organizations to develop, they often must undergo significant change at various points in their development. That’s why the topic of organizational change and development has become widespread in communications about business, organizations, leadership and management.
Leaders and managers continually make efforts to accomplish successful and significant change as inherent in their jobs. Some are very good at this effort (probably more than we realize), while others continually struggle and fail. That’s often the difference between people who thrive in their roles and those that get shuttled around from job to job, ultimately settling into a role where they’re frustrated and ineffective. It is necessary to identify critically important priorities to address (such as systemic problems or exciting visions for change) and then undertake successful and significant change to address those priorities. Organizational change is undertaken to improve the performance of the organization or a part of the organization, for example, a process or team.
The past few decades have seen an explosion in the number of very useful tools to help change agents to effectively explore, understand and communicate about organizations, as well as to guide successful change in those organizations. Tools from systems theory and systems thinking especially are a major breakthrough. Even if the change agent is not an expert about systems theory and thinking, even a basic understanding can cultivate an entire new way of working. The following link is to many well-organized resources about systems thinking and tools. The field of Organization Development is focused on improving the effectiveness of organizations and the people in those organizations. OD has a rich history of research and practice regarding change in organizations.
Your nature and the way you choose to work has significant impact on your client’s organization, whether you know it or not. You cannot separate yourself from your client’s organization, as if you are some kind of detached observer. You quickly become part of your client’s system — the way the people and processes in the organization work with each other on a recurring basis. Thus, it is critical that you have a good understanding of yourself, including your biases (we all have them), how you manage feedback and conflict, how you like to make decisions and solve problems, how you naturally view organizations, your skills as a consultant, etc.
Nowadays, with the complex challenges faced by organizations and the broad diversity of values, perspectives and opinions among the members of those organizations, it’s vital that change agents work from a strong set of principles to ensure they operate in a highly effective and ethical manner. There are different overall types of organizational change, including planned versus unplanned, organization-wide versus change primarily to one part of the organization, incremental (slow, gradual change) versus transformational (radical, fundamental), etc.. Knowing which types of change you are doing helps all participants to retain scope and perspective during the many complexities and frequent frustrations during change. Successful change efforts often include several key roles, including the initiator, champion, change agent, sponsor and leaders.
Why Is It Critical for Leaders and Managers to Be Successful at Organizational Change?
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