The Fundamentals of Change

Isn’t it amazing that one word can draw so many different responses? When some people hear that change is on the horizon, the response varies from, “Finally! I’ve been waiting for us to change that for years!” to, “We’re doing what? I can’t believe we’re going to waste all that time and money fixing what isn’t broken!”

In essence – change can be great, or it can be dreadful. It can bring excitement while simultaneously bringing fear. It can cause some to want to jump for joy and others to want to jump ship.

Change is rarely stress free, but it can be less stressful when leaders grasp these basic change management principles:

Change is inevitable – Think about it from your own experience. If you are over the age of 50, you probably marvel at how much has changed in your lifetime.  Even if you are in your 20’s you have witnessed amazing changes in numerous industries, most notably technology.

Do you anticipate a future where change ceases to be part of the equation?

The truth is – change is part of our DNA. If it were not, we would remain perpetual toddlers. The same thing is true for organizations. Without purposeful and healthy change, organizations may never realize their full potential.

Change is a process, not an event – There are times when change is event oriented, i.e., a retirement party signals a team member change or an accident creates a change in safety protocol, but the type of change that substantially challenges organizations is process oriented change. Process oriented change takes time to envision, own, and implement.

The process may involve one department and take only a few weeks to incorporate, i.e., police officers being issued a new firearm, or the process may take years and involve every employee, i.e., creating a “customer first” culture.

Change varies in type – Within the context of an organization, there are many different types of change. These include but are not limited to:

  • Personal change happens to an individual. It can be non-work related, i.e., Having a baby, getting married, losing a loved one, etc., or work related, i.e., gaining skills that change the way an employee carries out job functions.
  • Departmental change impacts the operating culture of a single department. This can happen when a department incorporates a new computer system, or changes policy, incorporates new personnel, moves to a new location, etc.
  • Organizational change involves restructuring the way an entire organization approaches one process or numerous processes or services.
  • Systemic change is more widespread and involves aspects such as communication processes, chain of command, reporting structures, low elected official input versus high input, etc.
  • Cultural change is different from organizational change. Organizational change can be mandated and made to occur whether there is buy-in or not. But cultural change must be owned internally if it is to be successful. Otherwise, the organization will ultimately slip back into that which is familiar – even if familiar isn’t working.

These basic principles are just the tip of the iceberg. How do you equip your organization for change?

Greg Anderson
Written by:
Greg Anderson
President of Online Learning, Strategic Government Resources
Follow Greg on Twitter!@SGRGreg

3 responses

  1. I heard an excellent presentation one time about the positive, constructive impact on organizational culture if we simply use the word “improvement” instead of “change”. I have consciously applied that practice for several years now and it is amazing how much simply modifying one word increases buy-in and an overall org. atmosphere of constant constructive progress.
    David Childs
    El Paso Consolidated Tax Office

    1. Wow. That’s great to hear, David! It’s all about the power of words.

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