Managing change and organizational development

March 18, 2003
It's something everyone should learn to do in this economic environment

According to the first great political philosopher of the Renaissance, Niccolo Machiavelli (1469 - 1527), there is nothing more difficult to carry out, more doubtful of success, or more dangerous to handle than to initiate a new order of things. And, according to at least one report you'll find highlighted here, the odds are three to one against pulling off a successful initiative aimed at re-engineering a process or making related changes.

That dreary prognostication offers a perfectly good reason to dive into the morass we call the Web in search of zero-cost, non-commercial, registration-free resources. This time we'll be looking for practical information about the organization, people and processes undergoing some form of transformation, adjustment and transition designed to allow the final result to function more effectively.

Resistance to change

Before we get too far into this, take this challenge: name one business, regardless of size, product or service, that's immune to change. When you think about it, change is perpetually the immediate reality of life in the business world.

People's fear of change often surfaces in the form of obstructionism. Getting evicted from your comfort zone and the change that goes with it are spooky, unpredictable events. Yet, sometimes progress and taking control of the future demands we make a change. And change is something many people simply would prefer to avoid. The Psychological Management of Change by Johnson and Outcalt of Retail Strategists, LLC, offers five reasons why resistance to change is so great. They also offer some suggestions for defusing those objections. Although the article is directed at owners of retail stores, human nature being what it is makes me think some of this content would work in your plant as well as it would in the neighborhood dollar store. If you're curious, bop over to for the details.

From the Ivory Tower

Grad students are a consistent source of research. It seems a shame to reduce the countless hours they devote to a given topic to a few pages of printed material. Nevertheless, I'd like to direct your attention to one piece of research, United Parcel Service and the Management of Change, a report submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of a graduate level management course at the College of Business and Public Administration, University of Louisville, Louisville, Ky. The purpose of the project, according to authors Decker, Engleman, Petrucci and Robinson, is to highlight change efforts within UPS, show how UPS identified the need for organizational change, and explain how it started and managed the change process. It's a long read, but for someone responsible for changing something, a good read. Visit for the view from academia.

Organizational development

This field of study also is aimed at making companies better. OD is a planned, organization-wide effort, the intent of which is to increase organizational effectiveness and health. It's managed from the top, relies on planned interventions and uses behavioral-science knowledge to achieve its ends. Organization development: The management of change by Robert H. Rouda and Mitchell E. Kusy, Jr., defines organizational development, explains why it should be done and describes who should be doing it. The document also explains how to tell when a company is ready for an initiative. If you want the details about the nine steps to action research, click over to

Advice from down under

Change Management Guideline, published by the Office of Information Technology, which is part of New South Wales Department of Information Technology and Management, is a Web document that addresses changes in work practices and business processes associated with information and communications technology projects. It details objectives and scope, the six concepts that ensure project success, 17 key issues to address and the five major activities common to every project of this type. Read all about it at

They serve and protect

The next Web reference is not a recipe from the change cookbook. Rather, it's a treatise on the psychology and philosophy of change in a culture with which few of us ever have significant contact. In the manufacturing world, The Management Of Change In Police Organizations by James M. Hart probably would have value to the designated agent of change in an organization. Hart's writing seems a bit stiff and a bit heavy on the passive voice. That's not to denigrate the article. On the contrary, it makes some interesting points. For example, it introduces the idea of "openness" and its value as an impetus to change. A system closed off from its environmentone that lacks opennesshas minimal impetus to change or evolve. It's worth reviewing as background. When you check it out, be sure to read and heed the section discussing sunk costs. Point your 357 mousie to to get this report.

More from down under

Australia's Natural Heritage Trust was set up in 1997 to help restore and conserve the environment and natural resources on the continent. Since then, thousands of community groups have received funding for environmental and natural resource management projects. This is the largest environmental rescue plan ever undertaken in Australia. Its Skills Tool Kit is a competency-based, national training resource aimed at the needs of regional facilitators, project coordinators, land care leaders and volunteers in rural and regional areas. The kit helps build the skills and capacity base in rural and regional Australia to underpin sustainable and viable regional industries and communities. The only reason I mention it here is that part of it applies to the topic at hand. Taking the information from a green group and generalizing principles that apply to manufacturing is what you should be doing when you click your way to, where you will find guidance for the groups and activists on:

Providing support for persons or businesses to change their management of resources.

Change management processes that should be facilitated in a group and community context.

The competency to introduce, manage and evaluate change in an organizational, regional or program-wide context.

Unions and change

Making changes in unionized work environments sometimes can be problematic. Labor agreements ought to include some procedure for making changes in work rules, job assignments and other issues that characterize the relationship between workers and management. Take, for an example, the Community and Public Sector Union, which represents 250,000 telecommunications, broadcasting and public sector workers in Australia.

Change and RestructuringA Guide for NTPS Members and Delegates is posted at The paper outlines the principles and practices that ensure change and restructuring are managed properly, that affected employees have input on change, are treated fairly and looked after. The objective of this union's agreement is to facilitate necessary change and reform through a co-operative approach between unions and management. It sounds so civilized. It sounds like something we can use in this country.

Flowchart the change process

If you expect any sort of procedural change to be accepted universally, you'll probably need a roadmap to keep everyone moving in the same direction. One form of roadmap that can support a change initiative is a flowchart. Thanks to Concord Associates, Inc., Knoxville, Tenn., you can see a management of change flowchart, OPISSample MOC Program, derived from the software the company sells. Keep in mind that I'm promoting neither this company nor its software. It's just that I want you to be aware that a flowchart is another tool for implementing a change and it's in your best interest to know what it should look like. So, go forth and aim that mouse at to get the details.

Ten tips

Inspire Change Limited, a consultancy based in Great Britain, offers tips on a variety of topics at One of the choices you'll have when you get there is called 10 TipsEffective management of change. Click on it and absorb the advice it offers to those trying to make a change permanent.

Smooth or lumpy

Consider the idea that change has a tempo. Each move has rate, rhythm and pattern of work or activity. According to Karl E. Weick, one can distinguish between episodic change and continuous change. Episodic change involves unfreeze-transition-refreeze. Continuous change, on the other hand, follows the sequence freeze-rebalance-unfreeze. In his paper, a rather scholarly work titled Organizational Change And Development, Weick provides a framework for analyzing the two types of change. His work provides excellent background reading for a committed agent of change in any workplace. Mouse your way to   for the details.

Before I pull the plug on this article, you should know that you can learn more about Niccolo Machiavelli at

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