Taking care of the human side of organizational development and change
One doesn’t manage change, one manages the transformation processes leading to change. Change is the de facto measurable objective we aim for in any organization development initiative. It answers the question “What will be different – and how will we know we have achieved the desired change?” Change is achieved when we will have passed from state A to the new, desired, and defined state B.
The transition or transformation is subjective. It is the period of time needed for those impacted by the change to assimilate with it, thereby letting go of A and fully embracing B. It is the submerged face, the human aspects of change. Using the Theme Centered Interaction (TCI) Model, the objective change is the top point of the triangle, whereas transition is concerned with the triangle’s base, i.e. the individual employees and the group interactions, and how they react, resist, participate and eventually embrace the change, or leave the organization.
To change from A to B means moving from the known to the unknown. And even with a change that is freely chosen, such as getting married, bridal showers and bachelor parties are events marking the burial of a known life A before jumping into the unknown, and creating a new, common life B.
Once the objectives of the necessary/desired change are defined, “transition management” consists of anticipating the concrete consequences that the change will have on employees (and possibly other stakeholders), informing and training them (if necessary), and clearly defining what new values, beliefs, attitudes, methods, applications and procedures are expected of them, as well as what measures can be taken to support them on this journey.
The fundamentals of transition management can be summarized in the following questions.
Why & What for?
Unlike freely chosen marriage, organizational change makes most employees question the purpose of the change. Why do we need to leave A, and to what B are we heading? A strong vision for formalizing the desirable future and the means to achieve it is, therefore, essential and provides both the direction to and the meaning of the change.
Who & How many?
What actors, individuals or collectives/groups are actively or passively affected by the change? How many actors (spread over how many locations) are impacted (small or important change)? What might their attitude towards the change processes be (accepting, neutral, resisting)?
What are the concrete impacts on the identified actors/actor groups (change of competences, job/position, procedures, structures, management, values, etc.)? How was it in state A? How will it be in state B? What leverage actions must be put in place (i.e. education, communication) to ease the process from A to B?
→ To ensure that organization development (OD) and change initiatives do meet their expectations and do not derail, it is crucial to take care of the human side of it and work on the fundamental questions mentioned above. In doing so, one can provide an understanding of the known and the unknown lying ahead, as well as help define and determine the actions needed to achieve the objectives.