Three Questions That Relate to the Issue of Change Management Within Organisations, Based on the Story Who Moved My Cheese?
An inevitable challenge for any organisation, which exists in a competitive and changing environment, is organisational change (Huang & Huang, 2009). Such organisations often face resistance to change for many reasons. Without addressing the forces of change, an organisation risks its very existence in an increasingly competitive environment. This work will address three questions that relate to issue of change management within organisations, based on the story Who moved my Cheese?
Q.2 When analysing Kurt Lewin’s change model, what differences do we see between Hem & Haw, and Sniff & Scurry.
Kurt Lewin’s Change Management model provides a useful tool to explain how organisation change works (MindTools, 2015). This model defines three phases in the process of changing an organisation. These phases are: unfreezing – the process of convincing people who are affected by change that such change is necessary; change intervention – the process where people within the organisation change their work practices or behaviour; and refreezing – supporting and reinforcing the change which has been made to ensure they endure. This is shown in Figure 1.
In the story of “Who moved my cheese?”, different attitudes towards change are displayed by each of the four characters which can be interpreted in terms of Lewin’s model. In the Unfreezing phase, Sniff and Scurry readily embrace the need for change. Sniff in particular is acutely aware of the signs that change is happening and is the first to become aware of the fact. Sniff is the real leader of the group and works with Scurry – the ready offsider – to spring into action. Prior to unfreezing, they have prepared for change by monitoring their environment in an effort to anticipate any change that might happen. This preparedness allows the mice to adapt to change quickly when it does eventually occur. This can be compared to that of Hem and Haw. Prior to the change, their attitude was that their environment would never change and are totally unprepared for what did eventually occur. However, the process of unfreezing for each of these two human characters is much different. In the case of Haw, although initially in denial with Hem, he does eventually see the inevitability of what has happened and the futility of continuing with the old ways of thinking. Haw does lower his resistance for change and eventually accepts the need for it, and is liberated by his choice. For Hem, though, he is bounded with his dependence on the old ways. He is frightened of the unknown and cannot let go of his belief that change is only temporary and the environment will return to what it was. Even when Hem shows Haw the evidence of success by returning with new cheese, he remains unconvinced of the need for change. By the end of the story, Hem has not completed the unfreeze phase and seems inevitably destined for dissolution.
The next phase in Lewin’s model is that of change intervention. Again, Sniff and Scurry, through their preparedness for change and readiness to adapt, are able to act quickly to the change. They have had their running shoes on hand to adapt to the new challenge and are able to respond immediately. They both set off into the unknown environment together in an effort find a workable resolution to their predicament. With their positive attitude, they are not deterred by dead ends and disappointments in eventually finding a successful resolution. For Haw, the process of change intervention is more a solitary one, due to the lateness of his start in this second phase, but does find that the process of action, even in the unknown, is a more motivating experience that inaction. Haw’s persistence through this phase displays how effective the unfreezing phase was for him. For Haw, the change process was more than finding the new cheese. It was also a change in his attitudes to change itself. In the case of Hem, the change intervention is not encountered as he remains in the unfreezing stage throughout the story.
The last phase of Lewin’s change model is that of refreezing. For Sniff and Scurry, they embed the change by ensuring they do not take the new solution for granted. They continue to monitor their new environment to ensure there will not be a repeat. They still keep their running shoes on hand ready for any unexpected event. For Haw, the refreezing process becomes a similar experience to that of the mice. He does see the need for accepting that change is something that will always happen. He is able to sustain his modified behaviour of his attitudes to change by monitoring his environment looking for signals of change that will inevitably occur.
Q3 Initially, Hem and Haw both resisted change. What impact does resistance to change have on any organisation and what can organisations do to create successful change programs.
Resistance to change is caused by resistant forces within an organisation that choose to support the existing system and conditions (Williams & McWilliams, p. 121). It can be caused by various factors, such as distrust, self-interest, misunderstanding, as well as an intolerance for change (Williams & McWilliams, p. 121). Such resistance can be a natural and understandable reaction to change events, but can have a serious impact on the success of an organisation’s change program. The effects can range from slowing the rate of change to complete failure in the change process. Resistance can be evident in any of the three phases of change using the Lewin model (Zenska-Mreza, 2015). The eventual impact of resistance is linked to who in an organisation is involved in the resistance. If, for instance, it resistance comes from employees who are integral to the implementation of the change, the results can be catastrophic. At a leadership level for an organisation, it is especially serious. For instance, in 2007 when Apple released the first iPhone, Steve Ballmer, the CEO of rival Microsoft, said “there is no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share” (Eichenwald, 2012). Microsoft at that time chose to ignore the threat of this new product much to its detriment. The iPhone has subsequently dominated the smartphone market and Microsoft’s subsequent attempts to compete in this space have been a complete failure (Epstein, 2014).
There are many strategies that organisations can adopt to create successful change programs. In the unfreezing phase, management should educate their employees on the need for the change (Williams & McWilliams, p. 121). In this, they should communicate as much change-related information to them to sell the case for change. Failing to do this effectively has shown to be common cause of failure of implementing change programs (Williams & McWilliams, p. 122). Empathy with impacted staff can be effective to show they are aware of the effects of the change on managers and employees. It is often important to build powerful coalitions within an organisation to lobby and implement change (Williams & McWilliams, p. 123). Without such support, change programs often fail.
In the Change Intervention phase, explaining the benefits of the change is an effective strategy to address resistance (Williams & McWilliams, p. 121). This sells the case of self-interest for those involved. Involving affected staff in the change intervention is effective by inviting input where possible in the solution. A change champion who is well regarded and highly placed in the company has often found to be effective during this phase. It is also important for management to consider such factors as choosing a good time to implement the change to minimise impact as much as possible, and to try to address job security for those involved. Of those staff who are effected by a change, training in the new processes and technology is essential for an effective outcome (Williams & McWilliams, p. 121) as is keeping the pace of change manageable. Organisations can also create a reward system when implementing change to build motivation to support the change over the long term (Tanner, 2015). It is often important to plan for quick wins in the change process to show participants the effectiveness of the change. Failing to take this approach has led to failures. It is important for top management to provide a clear vision for the change. Failing to do this, and failing to remove obstacles to that vision, can lead to failure of the entire program (Williams & McWilliams, p. 122). Again, lack of communication about the vision of the change can lead to failure.
In the refreezing phase, it is important to not declare victory in implementing the phase prior to anchoring in the change into the organisation (Williams & McWilliams, p. 123). This can often mean that necessary work still yet to do is stopped and not completed thus failing to complete the change process. Another important factor in this phase is to ensure that the change is properly embedded into the corporate culture. If this is not done, it can mean that people revert back to their old behaviour and not achieve the change goals. Embedding change into culture can be done by demonstrating to people the direct linking of the change to improved performance, and ensuring that people who are promoted fit the new culture (Williams & McWilliams, p. 123).
Tools that have found to be useful in the change process include the use of a results-driven change model. This is the planning of the change which focusses on the measuring and obtaining quick results improvement (Williams & McWilliams, p. 124). Another technique is the General Electric Workout which is an intensive 3 day workshop program involving staff from different levels across the organisation gathered to plan solutions to solve particular business problems. A more longer-term technique is the use of organisational development which is a philosophy to make change an embedded part of the culture of the organisation. This approach involves a change agent who guides any change effort.
Q4 Can you identify if there has been a time in your life where someone has moved your cheese.
At the start of this year, I would be dropped off at the university by my father at 8.30 am every morning I had a lecture or tutorial. This worked out well for me as the weather was especially hot. However, at the middle of the semester there was a change event. He told me he had to revert back to regular transport pattern and from then on I had to ride my bike to university. This was both good and bad for me. On the positive side, this change meant that I could leave home whenever I wanted to so it gave me greater flexibility. However, on the other hand, instead of relaxing in the car during the car ride, I now had to put some effort to riding myself to university in the hot sun.
Applying Lewin’s change management model to this situation involved an unfreezing process, which involved my father explaining the reasons he believed it had to occur (Williams & McWilliams, p. 121). Namely that he required to have more flexibility around his working times and that drive me in every day meant that was not always possible. Secondly, that I riding my bike meant that I had more flexibility around when I could leave home and return home. He also said that it would allow me to become more independent.
The change intervention was straight forward as it involved me preparing my bicycle for riding conditions after 4 months of disuse. I have to keep track of when I need to leave home on each day.
The refreezing of the change has occurred effectively as the benefits for me have outweighed the downsides (Williams & McWilliams, p. 121). I can now have sleep-ins on the days I have late morning tutorials or lectures, and I can return home at whatever time I feel like. So after the initial shock of the change, the change has been successfully implemented and embedded (Williams & McWilliams, p. 123).
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