Kinds of Change and the Barriers to Change

There are different kinds of change that an organization might undertake or be forced to undertake because of internal and external factors.

The internal factors for change include reorganization and restructuring to meet the challenges of the future and also to act proactively to initiate change as a means of staying ahead of the competition.

The external factors include change that is forced upon the organization because of falling revenues, changing market conditions and the need to adapt to the ever changing business landscape.

Change can be organic which means that it evolves slowly and is like meandering up the gentle slope of a mountain. In this case, the organization and the management have enough time to prepare for change and reorient themselves accordingly. This is the kind of change that is adaptive meaning that firms have the opportunity to adapt themselves to the change.

Change can be radical which is rapid, sudden and uncertain. This is the kind of change that is disruptive and often forces organizations to reorient themselves without adequate notice and warning. It is better for organizations to anticipate change rather than be forced into accepting change that is rapid and sudden.

We have seen how managers at different levels resist change and how this resistance manifests itself. Apart from the ideological and personality issues, there is the very real possibility of change being resisted because the “visibility” of what comes next is not clear. For instance, many managers tend to resist change because the change initiators have not clearly spelt out the outcomes of the changes and the possible impacts that such changes have on the organization. This is the realm of the “known unknowns” and the “unknown unknowns” which arise because of ambiguity, complexity and uncertainty. Hence, the resistance to change can come about due to the lack of coherence in the vision and mission and because the change is not clearly communicated as well.

Finally, the rapidity with which change is introduced can upset the organization structures that are usually rigid and bureaucratic with bean counters at all levels resisting and actively thwarting change. Hence, it needs to be remembered that change initiators take into account all these factors when introducing changes. The possible approaches in dealing with these resistances would be discussed in the next section.


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Change Management