According to Kotter (2008), approximately 70% of change projects fail however, he notes that with an effective change management plan success rates can significantly increase. There are several approaches, strategies, frameworks, and models used in planning and implementing change and to be effective change agents need to understand how to apply change principles in alignment with the context of the change (Al-Haddad & Kotnour, 2015). There is no one approach that will fit all contexts and successful change relies on a change agents’ ability to adapt to the organizational and individual needs.
There are several change management models that are widely used and accepted and the commonality of popular models such as Prosci’s ADKAR and Kotter’s 8 step model is that much care and attention must be given to the individuals across the organization that will be affected by the change. Kotter’s 8 step change model begins with creating a sense of urgency for change. Kotter stresses, “This first step is essential because just getting a transformation program started requires the aggressive cooperation of many individuals. Without motivation, people won’t help and the effort goes nowhere (p.60)”. Boyce (n.d) echoes this when discussing the first two steps in the ADKAR model (awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, and reinforcements) awareness and desire, emphasizing that without these two things in place first that the individuals involved are not ready to go any further in the change process. In my experience, a difficult barrier to successful change is resistance from those in the organization who perceive they will be negatively affected by the change, and that resistance can come from past experience, lack of capacity for change, and fear of the unknown. An HR Manager for a large retail corporation spoke with me about their experience pivoting to online learning in response to the Covid 19 pandemic and how they found success by showing employees and leaders how online learning could make their jobs easier with a small initial online offering. She stressed the importance of listening to the concerns of those resistant to changing from face-to-face learning and gaining their commitment to try something new. The initial early win set them up for continued success with future online learning initiatives (HR Manager, personal communication, February 14, 2022). The concept of design thinking or human-centered design tells us that we need to put the individual and human factors at the forefront of the decision-making process to solve problems (Baker & Moukhliss, 2020). This could also be beneficial in change projects when leaders focus on how the change will affect the individuals as much as how the change will affect the organization.
The role of leaders in change management is integral to the success of a change project and leaders can come from all levels of the organization. Effective leaders motivate and influence others in an organization to reach common goals (Kouzes & Posner, 2011; Sheninger, 2019) and this is needed in any change project. In response to pandemic-related restrictions and school closures, my organization pivoted from face-to-face to online safety meetings for our bus drivers. The early adopters who eagerly participated and shared their experience through social media created a significant impact on participation rates by prompting others to get involved through modeled and shared experiences. The locations with supervisors and managers who participated in the meetings themselves and positively championed the project saw much higher participation rates as well. This supports the importance of involving many people in the change process, listening to their needs and concerns, and getting them excited for the change and effective leaders do this. Adaptive leadership theory supports a holistic approach that acknowledges the leader-follower relationship and is a useful approach to leading change in an organization (Khan, 2017). Adaptive leaders are flexible and supportive and will be able to positively influence people in change situations through understanding and respect for their needs.
Successful change requires a trustworthy plan that is followed through on. Organizations also need to create excitement and motivation for the change on individual levels by acknowledging the individual perceptions of how the change will affect them. It is evident through my personal experience, expert interviews, and the LRNT 525 readings that a plan without the support of those involved is at risk of failure. Effective leaders of change will execute a plan that aligns with the organizational values and change context, acknowledge individual needs, thoroughly prepare individuals for change, and support emerging leaders throughout the organization.
Al-Haddad, S., & Kotnour, T. (2015). Integrating the organizational change literature: A model for successful change. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 28(2), 234–262. https://doi.org/10.1108/JOCM-11-2013-0215/FULL/PDF
Baker III, F. W., & Moukhliss, S. (2020). Concretising Design Thinking: A Content Analysis of Systematic and Extended Literature Reviews on Design Thinking and Human‐Centred Design. Review of Education, 8(1), 305-333. https://go.openathens.net/redirector/royalroads.ca?url=https%3A%2F%2Fbera-journals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com%2Fdoi%2F10.1002%2Frev3.3186
Jones, C. & Boyce, C. (n.d.). Interview with Christy Boyce: Leadership and Managing Change [Audio Podcast Transcript]. In Voices. LRNT 525 – Leading Change in Digital Learning. https://malat-coursesite.royalroads.ca/lrnt525/files/2022/01/Christy-Transcript_matched-with-audio.pdf
Khan, N. (2017). Adaptive or Transactional Leadership in Current Higher Education: A Brief Comparison. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 18(3), 178–183. https://doi.org/10.19173/IRRODL.V18I3.3294
Kotter JP. (2008) A Sense of Urgency. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press; 2008. https://www.scirp.org/(S(vtj3fa45qm1ean45vvffcz55))/reference/ReferencesPapers.aspx?ReferenceID=1970793
Kouzes, James M. & Posner, Barry Z. (2011). Credibility: how leaders gain and lose it, why people demand it, 2nd edition. [Skillsoft version] https://royalroads.skillport.com/skillportfe/main.action?assetid=43184
Sheninger, E. (2014). Pillars of digital leadership. International Centre for Leadership in Education. http://www.leadered.com/pdf/LeadingintheDigitalAge_11.14.pdf
February 28, 2022 at 9:14 am
I loved your visual, it is so representative of the evolution in the change process. I also appreciated the perspective of the HRM you spoke to. Given my experience in HR with pivoting to online learning, I could relate to gaining confidence into the change through listening and starting with small wins. Focusing on individuals at their level, and not just the impact on an organization is key to any change initiatives. From your own experience with change, how did you deal with the resistance in your field?
March 7, 2022 at 10:13 am
Thanks for your response.
In my experience, the most common resistance response stems from past experience. Change initiatives that failed to provide value or meet expectations in the past create skepticism and resistance to the potential for positive change results.
Also, this quote really resonates with me. “Such resistance to change arises when goals of subsystems are different from and inconsistent with each other” (Conway et al., 2017, p.13). In a large organization with several lines of business, there are definitely competing goals and perspectives at play.
Conway, R., Masters, J., & Thorold, J. (2017). From design thinking to systems change: How to invest in innovation for social impact. Royal Society of Arts, Action and Research Centre. https://www.thersa.org/globalassets/pdfs/reports/rsa_from-design-thinking-to-system-change-report.pdf