3 models to help manage organizational change: Part 1

Posted in Business Consulting | Business | Government | Leadership on October 11, 2012

Understanding and managing change occupies a great deal of a manager’s time. Managers, however, generally focus on the subject of the change, not the underlying behaviors. The collateral effects of change should be as concerning as the more obvious issue. If the basic characteristics of change are not considered, an array of complications will undermine long-term success. Fortunately, with some thought and planning, these characteristics can be managed. Here, we give you two models to help manage organizational change; check back next week for part two, when we'll reveal the final model.

Formula for Change
Organizational development experts Richard Beckhard and David Gleicher formulated a simple equation that illustrates the interaction of three forces to overcome resistance to change:

D x V x F > R

D = Dissatisfaction with how things are now
V = Vision of what is possible
F = First steps toward a vision
R = Resistance to change

If any one of the factors (D, V or F) is at or near zero, they suggest resistance (R) to change cannot be overcome. Of the three factors, dissatisfaction is the most challenging, because managers may see the need for change of which others are unaware. In this case, the manager may need to create dissatisfaction. One might consider altering the status quo by presenting factual information that highlights industry trends or case studies showcasing best practices.

Four Room Apartment
Understanding how others might be affected by change can help you develop strategies for dealing with the process. Claes Janssen, a Swedish social psychologist, developed a model he described as the “Four Room Apartment.”

Four Room Apartment model to manage organizational change

  1. Contentment Room: In the current state, people adapt to the status quo and develop routines. They are centered, focused and in control, and make the best of the current situation—they are not enthralled, but content.
  2. Denial Room: Change, in the early stages, is simply an annoyance, but common reactions are anger, avoidance and frustration. At some point, employees must acknowledge change or there will be an outcry for other types of changes. Imagine a library that is still using a card catalogue instead of an online catalogue. Managers should share information as necessary, but not force immediate adaptation.
  3. Confusion Room: There is now recognition that the old way does not work, but the new way is unclear—you’re confused! This is a common element of strategic planning, where a myriad of ideas are listed for improvement, but actions and priorities are very conceptual and people struggle to make sense of it all. The confusion room is where the most creative work occurs, but people tend to experience emotional highs and lows. Move forward by developing short-term goals that will orient people toward a specific desired outcome.
  4. Renewal Room: Finally, manager and staff arrive at a place where the possibilities of change are clear. A common future is identified; responsibilities and timelines are assigned. There is great energy, but you must make change the priority—otherwise you might recess to confusion. Eventually, new contentment will foster. Help facilitate renewal by getting people together to reach common ground around an agreed upon action plan.


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