Change management

Published on January 12, 2011 Reviewed on June 30, 2016   39 min

A selection of talks on Management, Leadership & Organisation

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Hello, this is David Lewin. My talk today is on Change Management.
An appropriate starting point for this topic is to ask why change management is so pervasive. In other words, why so many organizations, large and small, public and private, located in North America, Europe, Asia, Central America are so heavily involved in trying to cope with change and the management of change. And I think the basic answer to this question has to do with three factors that have evolved over the last 30 years, which have impacted virtually all organizations around the world. Those three factors are global economic competition, de-regulation, and rapid technological change. And these factors together combined have spurred in all nations and regions of the world greater market capitalism, which in turn reduces concentrated market power such as in the form of monopoly or oligopoly and it reduces organizational stability. It therefore increases decision making uncertainty and this is fundamentally why change management is such a pervasive issue and topic on the contemporary scene.
If the management of organizational change is as pervasive a phenomenon as I have previously described so too is a related one, which is resistance to change. The basics about resistance go as follows. Organizations come into being to produce goods and/or services on a large scale and more efficiently than could be done otherwise. And in the process, these organizations provide order, control, coordination, routines, and norms, which support these stabilizing characteristics. An organization is all about stability, being able to repeat processes and practices over time to generate goods and services. And everything about these organizations emphasizes this particular set of stabilizing characteristics. Therefore, when an organization is threatened by changes in the external environment, by such things as increasing global competition and/or de-regulation and/or rapid technological change, these forces will be disruptive to the existing order, the existing control, the existing coordination, the existing routines, and the existing norms of that organization. This is why the common situation is for people in organizations to resist change. They fear the unknown and don't like to see or have to cope with the disruption that is caused by moving away from the stable or known situation. A very good analysis of resistance to change was provided long ago, specifically in 1948 by Lester Coch and John R.P. French in an article titled Overcoming Resistance to Change that appeared in volume I of the British Journal Human Relations. It's well-worth a read on resistance to change.