What I’ve Learned about Organizational Change

I initially thought that the change process was complicated and complex because of the many theories and intervention strategies out there in the literature. However, I’ve learned that the backbone to any theory, strategy, or process is commitment and buy-in from everyone in the group. I am not trying to over-simplify the many frameworks and lenses one can implement change; however, I have learned that there are some common, basic principles all change agents must understand in order to implement successful change initiatives.

The Mindwalk video shown in class confirmed my personal change credo in regards to society’s interconnectedness. The most successful change in any organization or system understands the importance of relationships.  People make up businesses; therefore, I believe that business is people. To change a business, whether small or large, means respecting the employees in the business enough to let them in on the decision-making process. I agree with Kanov and others that compassion should occupy a predominant role in business (Kanov et al, 2006, pg. 793). Even though, companies are hesitant to address “feelings,” I don’t believe you can separate feelings from a change effort because another underlying principle to any change effort is motivation. Part of Kotter’s first stage is to generate a sense of urgency because employees need to feel empowered, energized, and committed to change, which are all individual emotions connected to a larger purpose (Kotter, 1996, pg 21). Thus, change is people-centered and involves basic human emotions.

Like Lewin, I view an organization as a social system (Burke, 2006, pg. 27). I’ve learned that there are a variety of strategies that can fit a particular context, especially when it comes to large-scale interventions. The opportunity to facilitate a large-scale intervention supported the literature in class and other classes I’ve take in this program. The exercise pulled it all together, so I could see the research in action. The course has given me the tools and resources necessary to apply certain strategies in my own work environment. For instance, I think Appreciative Inquiry or Action Learning could be a useful tool for a staff meeting in which my boss addresses change within our unit. In previous staff meetings that address changes to orientation, registration, course curriculum – you name it – our meetings can be unstructured with one or two people dominating the discussion. At the end of each meeting, I feel as though my input isn’t heard or doesn’t matter because the “power of a few” gains consensus. I have thought about approaching my supervisor about some of the change strategies used in our class as a useful tool within our own department.

Overall, the course has confirmed my previous thoughts and feelings about change, but broadened my knowledge about implementation techniques. A core change principle is involving the “whole system in the room” (Weisbord & Janoff, 2010, pg. 48). However, how a change agent goes about doing that can vary depending upon the organization and situation.

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