Change: The Importance
of the Process
by Susan Jurow
Volume 34, Number 5, Sept/Oct 1999
How one undertakes
a project, how one plans for it, and how the people affected are engaged
by that project are as important as its outcome. The process is critical
to the long-term success of a project and the long-term health of an
organization. The measure of a successful change initiative is the organizational
legacy that it leaves in its wake: does the project support and promote
a healthy organizational culture and climate, or does it leave behind
bruised feelings, mistrust, and animosity?
In my experience,
completing a project takes the same amount of time whether you involve
people or not. If you don't, questions and concerns extend the process
well beyond the time frame envisioned by the planners. After the dust
settles, you're left with anger and mistrust, making it as difficult,
if not more difficult, to undertake the next major change effort.
If you do engage
a broad range of stakeholders, the project will be planned to take longer
than usual. The planning anticipates the requisite consensus-building
and ongoing learning that must take place for the process to be successful.
When such a project is completed, however, individuals are excited about
the positive potential of change because they have experienced it firsthand.
New process skills have been developed, permitting the next project
to take place more swiftly and efficiently.
A key element that
is often overlooked in the success of a change process is the role of
the assessment leading to the change. Disagreement over an approach
or strategy is often rooted in disagreement over the assessment that
change is needed or over the type of change that is needed. The assessment
is likely to vary among individuals, depending on their type and depth
of knowledge about the situation and their position in the organization.
For this reason, information needs to be shared broadly and often before,
during, and after a change initiative.
Just as a medical
prescription hinges on the diagnosis, the type of change proposed will
be driven by the assessment. Developmental change means doing something
the same way but better, using techniques like process reengineering.
Transitional change means finding a new way to do the same thing, such
as the automation of a process. Transformational change means doing
something different by creating new structures and new processes to
fit new objectives.
A change process
must start from where the organization is. Each organization has a unique
history, culture, and staff. The change strategy that is developed must
take into account the organization's current capacity and capability
for change. An assessment of these variables should be undertaken before
a change process is engaged.
need to be considered for a successful change strategy: the people,
the process, and the structure. Thought should be given to the skills
and attitudes of the people involved. The process should be planned
and should take into account the stakeholders, time frame, context,
and outcome. The structure, the formalized relationships and organizational
imperatives through which work gets done, should be flexible enough
to be reconfigured and reshaped as needed with changing circumstances.
change is undoubtedly the most difficult type of change to undertake.
It requires not just a change in the status quo but the development
of a new framework that may bear no resemblance to anything the stakeholders
have seen or experienced in the past. They must be convinced not only
that the new construct will be an improvement over the existing one
but also that it will work.
Process needs to
be considered in the overall management of an organization. Today's
workplace requires individuals to have the emotional and intellectual
capacity to be flexible enough for continuous change no matter what
their job or position. They need to have the skills to be successful
within this context. At a minimum, a bias toward continuous improvementshould
be the norm. For an organization to thrive, a bias toward innovation