[acb-hsp] Perspectives: Article
thedogmom63 at frontier.com
Mon Jan 23 13:30:42 EST 2012
by James W. Walker
This column addresses emerging trends and issues in the development and implementation
of human resource strategies
. Please respond with your views and experiences to bpinzon at hrps.org or walker at walkergroup.com.
Change: Bigger, Faster, Better?
It is difficult to achieve effective change while accelerating its pace. We must
reconcile the need for more rapid business change
with the need
for time-consuming employee engagement that builds commitment. We must achieve bigger
and faster change
while also improving its quality and sustainability.
The rapidly increasing velocity of business is driving the need for more, better,
and faster change
. Technology advances, rapid communications and information access, rising customer
expectations, and shortening cycle times are accelerating the pace of business improvement
and turning organizations into virtual networks. Global growth, product and service
innovation, merger integration, and e-business all require rapid decision making
and action to seize opportunities.
A deliberate, step-by-step process typically has the advantage of building understanding,
commitment, and quality execution necessary for
real and lasting change; however, managing change
in this way always seems to take a long time. In today's fast-paced competitive
environment, slow, gradual, incremental
change may be the same as none at all.
How can we execute changes both rapidly and effectively? The key, I believe, is more
leadership--marshalling the elements of
change to achieve major business impact more quickly.
The Elements of Effective Change
The aim of the change
process in any organization is to enhance the organization's capability in responding
to environmental forces. Desired near-term outcomes may include improved costs, restructuring,
or shorter cycle times. Longer-term outcomes may include cultural
, organizational learning, development of new capabilities, improved market positioning,
capacity to innovate, and flexibility
Hundreds of books describing the change process outline step-by-step methodologies
or focus on specific change
elements.  Overall, we see similar patterns among these views of
change. We also know from our own experiences in successful and not-so-successful
initiatives that certain elements are critical. Here's my summary of these elements:
1. A clear and compelling business case. Articulate the reasons for change
, in ways attuned to different stakeholder concerns. Clarify business
and the customer, market, technology, and other forces shaping them. Create dissatisfaction
with the current state based on an understanding of the strategy and these forces.
Build a sense of urgency to act--a readiness to engage in
based on a "burning platform" or a rationale. Provide meaningful information to
establish the case--showing the current baseline and gaps relative to the past, future
opportunities, customer expectations, or competitor performance.
2. A vision of the future. Define the desired future situation. Define the values
that will guide future behavior and decisions. Explain what will be attractive about
this future. Explain what will be different and what will remain the same. Define
how things fit together and align with strategy. Explain how individuals will fit
into the future picture. Communicate the vision and
openly and listen and respond to stakeholder concerns.
3. An implementation plan. Clarify what actions are required, including steps, timing,
and responsibilities. Identify appropriate measures and early improvement results.
Determine needed changes in supporting systems and processes. Involve stakeholders
in planning implementation and defining the roles they will play. Rely on strong
leaders as sponsors and champions
for implementing change
. Determine who will make decisions and match the right people with the right tasks.
Support new roles with training. Provide needed resources and remove obstacles.
4. Superb execution. Engage people in defining and adopting new ways of working.
Through feedback, ensure understanding and commitment to needed actions. Encourage
risk taking and innovative ideas and actions. Visibly recognize and reward new behaviors,
completed activities, and achievement of results. Use a few important measures and
progress openly. Recruit, promote, and develop people who can implement desired
The key question is whether these change elements can be adapted and applied in such
a way that will accelerate change. As change
leaders, we can give these elements an aggressive spin: creatively engage people
more rapidly and effectively, address elements of change
concurrently, use all the levers for change, focus on achieving results, and build
capacity for change
. We must lead more actively and aggressively to achieve bigger, faster, and better
Engage People Early and Often as Contributors to Change
requires the active involvement of people across the organization. The more rapidly
we build an understanding and commitment to
, the more rapidly and effectively new behaviors will be adopted. Also, wider participation
in defining the business case, the vision, and the implementation plan increases
the flow of ideas and information and enhances the quality of decisions and actions.
When we establish a wider network of people to champion change
and contribute personally to it, we greatly increase the level of attention, communication,
learning, and contribution across the organization. It may take time up front to
identify, inform, involve, and recognize informal
change leaders across the organization, but the leverage created is great.
Too often, the number of people involved is few--forcing us to "roll out" change
through successive waves of employee interaction. The time required
for these waves slows down the process and the plans we roll out may not always be
the best designed. 
Greater involvement early gets more good ideas on the table and gets people on the
same page more quickly. Various techniques are used, including conferences and planning
retreats, task forces and project teams, focus groups and advisory panels, pilot
test groups, and benchmarking or other data gathering. A diversity of people may
be charged with working on a variety of specific elements of
(e.g., customer service process, performance management system, recruiting process).
We are, of course, interested in more than passive support. We are promoting new
behaviors and actions that will improve the organization's performance. By engaging
people in a more meaningful way in the design phases of
, we accelerate their readiness to make a commitment and to execute desired changes.
Change leaders win over skeptics, and even resisters
, by sharing their knowledge and experience and inciting others to embrace
Sometimes executives fear loss of control over the outcomes of change
--which reflects deeper issues of empowerment and trust (and perhaps affection
for hierarchy). They may also fear heightened stakeholder anxiety about change, increasing
the need for
frequent and effective communication and greater investment of time and effort,
which may distract employees from their normal performance. Addressing these concerns
is vital in increasing the engagement of people in the
Address All Change Elements Concurrently
Rapid change requires a radical, rather than a linear, incremental approach. A multiple-step
process of change
appears tidy and sequential, but may slow down
change and limit the opportunity for
feedback, learning, and process improvement. Overreliance on phases, each with a
beginning and end (usually with management approval to proceed), leads us to cautious
and slow thought and action.
We know that we typically think ahead as we move through the phases of change
. We consider implementation ideas and plans as we shape the business case and future
vision. Sometimes we even take direct action on specific opportunities that yield
early results (quick wins) while still in early
The advantage of concurrent change
activities is that we anticipate the requirements of later stages. By overlapping
stages we accelerate the process. Just as in decision making, we're evaluating alternatives
even as we identify them and frame (and reframe) the problem. A holistic approach
enables participants to look at issues from different perspectives and develop solutions
Just as we consider business strategy to be evolving, so too we should consider the
process. Under rapidly changing conditions, it is impractical to take one step at
a time, over months or years. We need to come to conclusions, act to achieve results,
and then refine or redirect our efforts as we gain experience and sense new demands.
It is important to address concerns that we may get ahead of ourselves and others.
Resistance to change
typically stems from some people being clearly sold, imposing their view on others
who are not. The discomfort of dissonance is believed to slow
even more than having sequential stages. Some organizations find that it is helpful
to rest at "plateaus" of
, where people can "get oxygen" and enjoy a temporary state of stability. People
want to sense closure and concurrence at key points in the
process to provide assurance that the
change is real.
Use All of the Levers for Change
We know our processes and practices need to be aligned with strategy, with values,
and with each other to gain optimal impact on organizational performance; therefore,
, it is vital that we address all of the levers that are important, whether structure,
processes, systems, staffing, performance, development, or rewards. 
We tend, however, to concentrate our attention on certain levers without considering
connections with others. Sometimes we focus on redesigning business processes (without
adequately considering effects on people). Sometimes we focus on training (without
adequately considering needed work changes). Sometimes we focus on communications,
on rewards systems, or on recruiting and replacing talent as levers
. Employees sense what is required and what is real; hence, they are skeptical of
programs that appear to be narrowly defined fads. 
When multiple initiatives are underway, we must look for
ways to enhance them through linkages. Accordingly, the number of initiatives should
be few enough to be manageable and yet enough to cover the range of opportunities
to leverage substantial
. Teams should address their respective efforts as part of a coherent whole. The
result will be accelerated, higher-quality, and larger scale
We must avoid the confusion that can develop when we work on multiple levers or initiatives.
Too many people working on different endeavors often fail to add up their separate
outcomes into results. Often different teams become competitive, or worse, place
difficulties. Of further concern are the scope of work required and the risk that
the outcomes will not meet the need--yet the big burst of effort and investment is
Focus on Achieving Results
Effective change focuses on achieving results, and not merely on the process. Only
a passion for results can drive accelerated change
. The more clearly we focus on specific desired outcomes, the more swiftly we can
move the process forward.
It is popular today to address issues relating to values, culture, and attitudes
before addressing change "content." As a result, many change
efforts devote significant effort to opinion surveys, communications, and educational
activities as prerequisites to shaping new performance and behavior expectations.
If excessive, these efforts simply slow everything down. If we focus on results,
culture and attitude changes will follow.
When companies set clear objectives such as successful product launches, cost-reduction
targets, cycle time reductions, or merger benefits, they are able to rally people
to action. It is the compelling business case and vision clearly articulated that
move people to action. Aggressive objectives
for improved business performance often provide a challenge that encourages people
to embrace and accelerate change
. Such business objectives are best communicated in terms of unit, team, and individual
measures. Accountability prompts changes in work behavior.
We also know that recognition and rewards for accomplishments are important. Behaviors
in support of change
must be reinforced and performance results recognized. People perceive what we reward
as what we value. And the people we recognize as successful are examples
for others. Too often we think only of compensation as the primary reward. To accelerate
and achievement of results, we need to celebrate successes through a wide and creative
array of recognition and rewards. Conversely, we must be careful to establish consequences
for poor performance and behaviors that contravene desired change.
Focusing on results is important even though executives find it difficult to establish
clear expectations and measures in times of rapid change
; however, the emphasis is a fundamental feature of business planning and performance
management, requiring managers to define expectations, evaluate accomplishments and
behaviors, and allocate rewards that match outcomes.
Build Capacity for Ongoing Change
Finally, we recognize that people who are experienced with change are better able
to accelerate change
. We need to help people view organizational
change in the context of the rapid changes occurring externally. We need to enable
people to be ongoing change
leaders by providing them with supporting systems and resources and opportunities
to learn and to share knowledge. We need to listen to personal needs and concerns
and provide encouragement.
We have many case examples of effective change
from which we can learn. We have access to more new approaches and innovative ideas
than we can ever seem to absorb and apply. We often have a diversity of talent and
experience in our organizations that we may tap more effectively. To accelerate
, it is vital that we acknowledge and value what we know works and build upon our
experience. We need to learn from others and to stimulate innovation to re-energize
and refocus our
If we want ongoing change, we need to select, develop, and encourage people who embrace
and help lead change
. There are no agile organizations, only agile people. The capacity
for change requires that we work with each individual to build enthusiasm for change
and to build their
change capabilities. We must invest in people who can lead change and deal effectively
with individuals who cannot.
Concerns about ongoing change center on the willingness and the ability of people
to embrace and lead change
. Many people are reluctant to accept
change, let alone lead change. They find it easier to rely on a small cadre of change
leaders or external "change agents" to guide
change interventions when they are needed.
In summary, our organizations are sometimes caught in a bind. Competitive forces
and opportunities impel us to move quickly--to seize the moment. Yet we know that
typically requires a careful, considerate, time-consuming, evolutionary process
that impedes rapid responses. Through more aggressive leadership we can accelerate
What is your experience? What are your views?
(1.) Kotter, J.P. 1996. Leading Change (Harvard Business School Press); Senge, P.,
et al. 1999. The Dance of Change
(New York: Doubleday); See also bibliographies on
change published by HRPS.
(2.) Axelrod, R.H. 2000. Terms of Engagement: Changing the Way We Change
Organizations (Barrett-Koehler); Katzenbach, J.R., et al. 1995. Real
Change Leaders (Random House); Hamel, G. 2000. Leading the Revolution (Harvard Business
(3.) O'Reilly III, C.A. & Pfeffer, J. 2000. Hidden Value (Boston: Harvard Business
School Press); Nadler, D., et al. 1995. Discontinuous Change
(San Francisco: Jossey-Bass).
(4.) Hamermesh, R.G. 1996. Fad-Free Management (Santa Monica, CA: Knowledge Exchange).
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Article Title: Perspectives. Contributors: James W. Walker - author. Journal Title:
Human Resource Planning. Volume: 23. Issue: 4. Publication Year: 2000. Page Number:
5. COPYRIGHT 2000 Human Resource Planning Society; COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group
thedogmom63 at frontier.com
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