Understanding Change in Business

Understanding change is a complex subject. It is often a difficult concept to define and it can be difficult to understand its effects on people, businesses or organizations. It is also a subject that crosses several disciplines. The fields of sociology, psychology and anthropology all have their own theories about the nature of change, but they rarely exchange notes so that the links between, for example, the theory of chaos and complexity and the process of social change are missed.

Change occurs on many levels — cultural, social and institutional – and the definitions vary widely. As a result, it is very hard to create a coherent model of change that would be useful in business practice.

In fact, much of what is written about managing change consists of post hoc explanations and tentative theories that have little practical value unless they can be translated into effective action. There are a number of reasons why this is the case. First, most academic researchers focus their efforts on building a body of verified theory rather than trying to actually induce change. Second, the academic world is very specialized and it is difficult for psychologists, physicists or anthropologists to make connections between their own theories and those from other disciplines.

Trying to manage change without a clear understanding of how and why it occurs is an exercise in frustration for everyone involved. It is especially difficult for employees of a company to embrace changes that are being implemented because it is almost impossible for them to connect the dots between the broader purpose and the specific actions that they have to take in order to succeed.

The key to successfully managing organizational change lies in understanding the motivations of the individuals that are driving the initiative. The guiding principles that should be used to determine the scope and duration of any changes are as follows:

Identify the motives behind the change. This can be done in a variety of ways. For instance, the business may have to change in order to increase efficiency or reduce costs. Or, the change may be driven by internal employee concerns. This could include issues like burnout, job satisfaction or a desire to work in a more customer-centric manner.

Establish a vision for the future state of the organization and how this change fits into it. This will help employees see the bigger picture and may reduce their resistance to the change.

Keep the lines of communication open with all stakeholders throughout the change process. This will help to quell rumors and will allow for the quick implementation of any necessary modifications that may arise.

Lastly, the plan should outline the steps that need to be taken in order for the project to reach its final goal. This should be reviewed regularly to ensure that the change is progressing according to schedule. Unforeseen events are bound to occur, but by keeping the lines of communication open you can minimize the impact of these occurrences on the project timeline.