Nov 13, 2012

Discover 12 Factors That Guarantee Successful Change

Change, What Is It Exactly?

The concepts of change and permanence have fascinated philosophers throughout history. They still do. This is the first in a series of articles dealing with change in organizational culture.

The balance between permanence and change has been seriously upset by the ever increasing pace of technological advances, the almost instantaneous transfer of information all over the globe and specific developments such as the Internet and World Wide Web. Gone are the days when it took years for a given innovation to filter down to the public and get into general circulation.

In addition to technological developments and frequently as a direct consequence of them, is the volatile nature of the external environment. These environmental factors range from new regulations to major natural or man-made disasters.

CHANGE could be defined as the continuous adaptation to developments in technology and in the external and internal environments of the organization. The pace of innovation and the succession of major environmental events will determine the rate of change. The magnitude of change is measured by the size of the gap between present conditions and future requirements. The feasibility of change is determined by the factors constituting organizational culture. The degree of resistance to the proposed changes, and our ability to overcome the resistance will make the difference between success and failure.

Organizational culture change naturally occurs in the context of societal, national and now more importantly than ever before global culture. To better understand what is involved in attempting to change the culture of an organization, we need to define 'organizational culture'. There is no single, universally agreed definition, but most researchers will include these twelve factors in one way or another:

Influence of a dominant leader

Company history and tradition

Technology, products and services

The industry and its competition


Company expectations

Information and control systems

Legislation and company environment

Procedures and policies

Rewards systems and measurement

Organization and resources

Goals, values and beliefs

What emerges as a result of the dynamics among these twelve factors is the culture of the organization. Viewed from this perspective, culture change is a daunting task. Indeed, if approached as anything other than a task worthy of the greatest consideration and respect, it will end in total failure, and may even do more harm than good to the organization aspiring to change.

"If change is so difficult and risky, why take a chance on it?" This is the logical question arising at this point. The first answer is that we often do not have a choice because change is imposed by circumstances such as an external or internal trauma affecting the organization. The present situation in many third world countries illustrates this point. The second answer is that change in organizational culture does indeed bring benefits when wisely managed. It is also a necessary adaptive strategy for organizational development and vigor.

Some of the benefits of an effective organizational culture are:

Conflict reduction by fostering social cohesion that bonds an organization together.

Coordination and control by promoting consistency of outlook which subtly limits the freedom of employees to express their individuality in inappropriate ways.

Reduction of uncertainty by transmitting 'cultural knowledge' to new recruits, thus, reducing the risk of dysfunctional beliefs, values, attitudes and assumptions; motivation by helping employees find their work meaningful and enjoyable, identify their aims and objectives with those of the organization and feel valued and secure.

Competitive advantage: when there is a strong culture that promotes consistency, coordination, control and reduces uncertainty, effectiveness and productivity are increased.

How can an organization embarking on a program of change hedge its risks? One way is to understand the issues involved in modeling culture change. We will touch on the key issues this week and follow with a deeper analysis of some typical models in next week's column. There are five central issues involved:

definitions, scale of change, locus of change, nature of change and timescales.

The definition of culture must be agreed upon. For example: "culture represents the deeply held beliefs and values or assumptions shared by the members of the organization."

Scale of change refers to the vital issue of whether the change is to be radical or incremental.

Locus of change identifies the exact location in which change is supposed to occur.

Nature of change distinguishes between cognitive and behavioral changes and the three possible outcomes of a program for change: Cognitive change without a complementary behavioral change; a behavioral change that is not matched by change at the cognitive level; and third, change at both cognitive and behavioral levels, the most permanent type of change.

Timescales acknowledge that change occurs over time and the life-cycle of the change program must be realistically proposed.

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