Evolving economic conditions, technological advances and increased competition in business, are changing the way organizations do business. Change is inevitable and must be strategically planned and implemented. Leaders as change agents are in a position to get to know their followers and foresee issues that will likely present as resistance. Building relationships, listening, caring, empowering followers, and practicing good communication skills are strategic tools to prepare for and implement organizational change, with the least resistance and most effective outcomes.
Organizational change is inevitable and must be embraced if the organization is to prosper and survive. According to Cohen (1999), “Organizations must implement continuous and transformational change to remain competitive.”
Change is difficult and often meets with resistance. The failure rate of such change efforts is estimated at 60%-70%. The common denominator of organizational change is people. Resistance to change must be managed. As leaders, how can we manage change and resistance? Leaders must be change agents. Wise leaders will consider the needs of their followers because people are key factors when implementing change.
It is essential that several factors be addressed when assessing follower need. Follower trust, communication, and relationship are all issues to consider when planning for and implementing organizational change. Leaders who force change upon followers increase the tendency and depth of resistance that occurs among employees. Change is costly and therefore every means possible should be taken to alleviate stress and nurture organizational climate throughout the process.
Leaders who encourage followers, “become part of the overall organizational environment and its work culture, and are therefore able to empower them through persuasion and empathy to accept controversial ideas without fear of chastisement or ridicule” (Kelly 2003, Stone, Russell & Patterson 2003) (as cited by Shanker, 2012). The driving force for a skilled change agent is to ensure successful change.
Employees are the cornerstones of change. It is therefore important to understand why resistance occurs in the process of organizational change. Individuals experience uncertainty and fear of the outcome when faced with change. Employee perception of fairness and lack of organizational trust affect their willingness to accept change. Resistance factors posed by Christensen (2014) include, “economic fear, inconvenience, and job insecurity.” “Overall, staff members resent changes they view as disruptive and intrusive and prefer predictability.”
Successful leaders will recognize the fear of change and take measures to reduce them through communication. Followers want to know why the changes are occurring, what their personal gains will be, as well as the gains for the organization. Showing caring support for the employees affected, exhibiting commitment to work through follower issues, and reaffirming leader/follower connections will help alleviate follower uncertainty during the change process.
Leaders as Change Agents
Leaders must be committed to the changes as well. A connection to employees is important and only comes through communication. Vulnerability and authentic communication is received through trust and built on relationship.
Leaders who create a vision and sense of urgency are more successful in sending messages to the receivers. “Without vision the people perish” (The Bible, Prov. 29:18). Given vision and a sense of mission instills a sense of pride, respect, inspiration, and motivation. Modeling the desired behaviors creates confidence and gives feedback to subordinate followers. The change process is a knowledge sharing opportunity in which both the leader and follower learn.
As leaders today, whether of large organizations or leaders of small groups, it is inevitable that there will be resistance. Effective leaders are the change agents that can facilitate smooth transitions. Shared moments, knowledge sharing, and a collective paradigm of inclusion are the ingredients of successful change.
This process requires communication, vulnerability, collective thinking, authenticity and more. Meet me here next week to explore more strategies for successful change.
 (Cohen, M., 19990
 (Christensen, M., 2014; Mennella, H., 2016)
 (Daft, R., 2010)
 (Shanker, M., 2012; Christensen, M., 2014)
 (Saruhan, N., 2014)
 (Folger et al., 1995)
 (Christensen, M., 2014)
 (Mennella, H., 2016)
 (Trybus, M.A., 2011)
 (Shanker, M., 2012)