NUMBER 167 • 5 DECEMBER 2002 • ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE
INDEX OF QUOTES
Erroneous Assumptions about change
One assumption often made by youth care managers is that staff resist change. Mogeson, an industrial psychologist, clarified the limitations of this notion by noting that people do not necessarily resist change, but resist being changed (Myers, 1978). Low and middle echelon staff often have useful ideas about what needs changing in their work place, but they rarely are given the opportunity to suggest or make changes themselves (Patti & Resnick, 1972). Instead, changes often are "done" to them. When this occurs there is a tendency to resist these changes — to resist being changed. If staff were asked more often about what changes they wish, this assumption about staff resistance might wither away in the face of their innovative and practical ideas for change (Kantor, 1983).
A second assumption is that the planning of a change in one’s department or organization can be kept separate from the implementation of that change (Weatherley & Lipsky, 1977). Managers often assume that the planning of an organizational change is best done by management and implementation of a change is best performed by staff. Unfortunately, many have learned the painful lesson that the staff who implement a change have sufficient resistive power to block the best of management’s planned changes. This is especially true when it upsets the established work equilibrium. Managers of youth care organizations must learn how to make the staff partners in the change process. Staff needs to be brought in prior to the implementation of a change. It is preferable to get the staff involved as early as possible in the planning phase (Patti & Resnick, 1984).
A third common assumption is that any change can be managed effectively regardless of its context within the organization (Weissman, Epstein, & Savage, 1983; Snyder, 1982). For example, if a youth service agency’s recent history includes many changes, then staff, management, or both may be experiencing overload. No matter how sound or important the new change might be, those affected will find it difficult to support the change. If there is a climate of fear or distress in the organization, ideas for change may be met with resistance, indifference, or both. Such problems in an agency must be dealt with directly and openly before a change project can be launched. Change projects that are perfectly sound may be resisted because of these contextual problems.
Preconditions for Change
Five preconditions for change are cast here in ideal terms. It is unrealistic to expect that all of these preconditions will be fully met.
1. A widespread agreement exists that a particular problem needs to be solved. For a change to be accepted and implemented, many levels of the organization need to agree that the change is necessary. Otherwise, managers may be pushing for a change that the stall will resist.
2. A top administrator supports the change in the belief that it will be of both personal and organizational benefit.
3. Administration and staff trust one another. Trust may be difficult to maintain in youth service organizations, but it is essential to do so. Probably no other factor so powerfully and so adversely affects the management of change as a lack of trust between youth care staff and management (Kennedy, 1981). Most workers want to help the young people they work with get the best out of life. If these youth care workers see that their supervisors and executives also are trying to achieve this goal, an open and trusting climate can be established in the organization. Unfortunately, trust tends to be unstable whereas distrust is more unstable. This means staff and management have to put more energy in trusting each other than into distrusting each other.
4. Funds and the necessary expertise are available to implement changes. At a minimum, three kinds of expertise are needed: (a) skills on the part of management to persuade, motivate, and lead staff groups involved in a change process; (b) knowledge of the dynamics of organizations and how they work during periods of change; and (c) a special knowledge of informal groups and networks in order to assess their potential as positive or negative forces in change. Money also needs to be available to pay for everything from staff retraining courses to new equipment.
5. A positive history of change exists in the organization. Frequent and excessive change can lead to exhaustion, even if the change is perceived positively by the staff. If there have been too many inflated promises about what change can bring, cynicism about change should result. Both exhaustion and cynicism in an organization are forces that often prevent staff from supporting further change efforts.
Resnick, H. (1988) Managing organizational change in youth care agencies. The Child and Youth Care Administrator, Vol.1 Fall 1988, pp.22-27
Kantor, R.M. (1983). The change masters New York: Simon & Schuster.
Kennedy, A (1983), Ruminations on change: The incredible value of human beings in getting thing done. In The Planning of change (4th ed., p. 327). New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston.
Klein, E. (1985). Some notes on the dynamics of resistance to change. in W. Bennis, F. Benne, & R. Chin (Eds.), The planning of change (4th ed.) New York: Holt, Rinehart~ & Winston.
Myers, MS. (1978). Managing with unions. Reading: Addison-Wesley.
Oppenheimer, R (1955). Prospects with arts and sciences. Perspectives USA, pp. 10.11.
Patti, R. & Resnick, H. (1972). Changing the agency from within. Social Work, 7(4), 48-57.