12 November 2006

Change management

Change is difficult. Human systems resist change. Part of it is that sometimes organisations misunderstand the importance of a change. Here are two very different examples of types of change:
  • the implementation of a new ERP or financial system
  • a change in week-end or late night access to a building
A new enterprise system may be strategically important to the business, but for most people it makes little difference to how they do their jobs so most people would not see this as a major personal change. In contrast, access to a building may have real repercussions for the individuals who have got used to working on projects at odd hours so although this may not rank as a strategic decision for the business, it might well class as a significant personal change for the people involved.

Change requires individuals to do something tomorrow that is different from the way they do them today. It requires encouragement, but it also requires a significant focus on communication so that people can understand why the change in behaviour is important. People go through a series of phases in accepting major change and although the primary work was concerned with personal reactions to bereavement, the multi-stage model of apprehension, denial, anger, resentment, depression, cognitive dissonance, compliance, acceptance, and internalization is regarded as valid in understanding how people are likely to respond. That said, it is only a model and individuals can go through the stages at very different speeds - the model simply helps the project manager think through the problem that he or she is likely to face in winning acceptance in the organisation.

There are typically 5 elements for organisational change to be fully cemented:
  • Build awareness in the organisation of the background to the change
  • Create the desire to support and participate
  • Develop individual knowledge of the personal changes required
  • Foster the ability to implement the required changes in behavior
  • Provide encouragement to reinforce and sustain the changes in behaviour

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