In a volatile business environment, change is inevitable. Often strategic change involves large scale projects such as acquisition, or entry into another market, or the development of a new technology or project or information system. Strategic change is essential for improving the competitive advantage of the organisation and driving up business growth.
However, the process of managing change is always accompanied with resistance to change. Some of the reasons why this is so include:
• Employees and other managers being content with the old ways of doing things. Some employees dislike change and are always comfortable with the same tried and tested ways of performing tasks.
• Uncertainty about the nature or impact of the changes. Sometimes it is the fear of the unknown that increases this resistance to change.
• Anxiety on the part of employees and other managers over the ability to cope with changes. If the change process is deemed to be demanding more effort from the staff than they are used to, they are more likely to resist.
• Failure of top management to communicate change initiatives to lower levels resulting in no commitment.
• Managers not being able to modify the structure and the culture of the organisation to reflect the change in strategy.
• Lack of resources in terms of time, financial and managerial to support the change programme.
• Lack of co-ordination between managers, employees and various stakeholders of the organisation.
• Belief in better options. Sometimes, if employees believe there are better alternative ways of doing things, they will disregard what’s being offered to them by their superiors.
For strategic change initiatives to be successful, managers should take into account external and internal factors as these have an influence on the outcome. External factors are normally outside the control of the organisation, for example, legal,competitive, technical, social, political and economic factors.
With internal factors such as structure, culture, internal power, time, skills, history, scope, readiness and resource availability, the organisation has overall control of them. For example, the organisation is in a position to decide on how quickly the change is needed (time), what degree of change is required (scope), what resources to be made available to manage the change and who to employ capable of managing the change (skills).
Once the managers have identified and acted on the external and internal factors influencing the change process, they can then implement either one of the following strategies or more for a successful change programme:
• Educate those at the lower levels the reasons and benefits of implementing the change process.
• Facilitate the change process, for example, through investing in training and rewards. This has the benefits of reducing resistance to change, motivating the staff and allowing total co-ordination and commitment.
• Involve those affected in the change process. Getting their views and opinions is key to achieving total participation from them as they feel empowered to support the vision of the organisation.
• Where necessary, negotiate and make a compromise with those affected. However, care should be taken that a compromise will not result in the organisation abandoning and modifying its vision of strategic change. A bargain should only allow minimal changes to the original strategy.