Typically, the concept of organizational change is in regard to organization-wide change, as opposed to smaller changes such as adding a new person, modifying a program, etc. Examples of organization-wide change might include a change in mission, restructuring operations (e.g., restructuring to self-managed teams, layoffs, etc.), new technologies, mergers, major collaborations, “rightsizing”, new programs such as Total Quality Management, re-engineering, etc. Some experts refer to organizational transformation. Often this term designates a fundamental and radical reorientation in the way the organization operates.
Change should not be done for the sake of change — it’s a strategy to accomplish some overall
goal. Usually organizational change is provoked by some major outside driving force, e.g.,
substantial cuts in funding, address major new markets/clients, need for dramatic increases in
productivity/services, etc. Typically, organizations must undertake organization-wide change to
evolve to a different level in their life cycle, e.g., going from a highly reactive, entrepreneurial
organization to more stable and planned development. Transition to a new chief executive can
provoke organization-wide change when his or her new and unique personality pervades the
Typically there are strong resistances to change. People are afraid of the unknown. Many people
think things are already just fine and don’t understand the need for change. Many are inherently
cynical about change, particularly from reading about the notion of “change” as if it’s a mantra.
Many doubt there are effective means to accomplish major organizational change. Often there
are conflicting goals in the organization, e.g., to increase resources to accomplish the change
yet concurrently cut costs to remain viable. Organization-wide change often goes against the
very values held dear by members in the organization, that is, the change may go against how
members believe things should be done. That’s why much of organizational-change literature
discusses needed changes in the culture of the organization, including changes in members’
values and beliefs and in the way they enact these values and beliefs.
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