Lisa R. Arcemont
“A house is built by wisdom and established by understanding.”
Change is constantly occurring around us…whether we like it or not. How many times have you heard that lately? The thought that change is constant is not a new concept. Greek philosophers such as Heraclitus (536-470 BC) proclaimed their belief more than 2000 years ago that everything was in a continual state of unrest and the only thing that was permanent was change. The only differences today are that the speed and scale of social, politico-economic and technological changes are quickly increasing (Smith, 2010).
With change happening all around organizations, individual members can act or react to the changes in many different ways. They can accept the proposed changes and try to work with the new concepts, or they can resist them entirely. When a work environment is accepting and supporting of change efforts, enthusiasm becomes infectious. It can assist members to recognize and identify the value of the organizational change as it affects their productivity and work environment, and encourage their attitude towards change to become positive. When their attitude changes, they get excited about their work that in turn modifies how they carry out their daily responsibilities. Successful experiences in dealing with change encourage them to be advocates of the change process. Advocates can spread the word about the effectiveness of the change efforts and how it improves their achievements in their daily work. “When they change the way that they think about their jobs and become committed to it, real change can spread through the organization….much like the way an epidemic spreads through a population” (Shapiro, 2003).
Acceptance and support that leaders and change advocates can provide can fit into two categories: people and environmental support. People support can include explaining what to expect from the proposed change, listening to concerns and cultivating relationships between change advocates and others. Environmental support help sets the foundation for the change that will happen. It creates an atmosphere that communicates the change process to stakeholders, puts policies and other necessary infrastructure in place, and rewards those who support the change effort. Problems arise when either or neither people or environmental supports are lacking. If neither type of support is evident, even the die-hard advocates will recognize the doomed change and place their energies elsewhere. If the people support is high but the environmental support is low, people will see there are no resources to support the change and view the communication as “fluff”. If environmental support is high but people support is low, members will become confused as to their role in a change effort which they know nothing or very little about.
Change management leaders must focus their attention on both people and environmental support for change processes to be effective. Every change effort is different and every organization unique which requires leaders to know, understand and apply the people and environmental support needed by their organization and for their change process. Ignoring either people or environmental support will only leave the change implementation process vulnerable to anyone’s interpretation. This can only lead to organizational member confusion, skepticism or both.
Shapiro, A. (2003). Creating contagious commitment: Applying the tipping point to organizational change. Hillsborough, North Carolina: Strategy Perspective.
Smith, I. (2010). Organisational quality and organisational change: Interconnecting paths to effectiveness [Electronic version]. Library Management, 32, 1/2, 111-128.