Scholars and practitioners argue amongst each other on what a change is. Their arguments, however, focus on the size of a change that misdiagnosis how they define it. Change is simply a deviation from the norm.
These changes can consist of large massive shifts. Think of two companies merging. New people will join the team, some familiar faces will leave the team. New processes, systems, and products will be acquired. More importantly, the two cultures will resist creating one new culture. This large, massive change can take up to a few years to fully play out.
Counter to the large change is the small alteration. A move that is so minuscule that many do not even consider it a change at all. Think of a process alteration that impacts more than one person. While a small alteration, it will create a downstream impact on another. Between these wide variations of change reside millions upon millions of potential deviations from the norm.
While change management has been present since the beginning of organizations, its importance has only been recognized over the last 50-years. It creates disruption, affecting the employee base, and decreasing productivity. Early management models treated employees similarly to cattle and did not overly concern themselves with enhancing employee engagement. Additionally, the rate of change during the early industrial revolution was significantly lower than it is today. As organizations have refined their management practices of recognizing the importance of employee engagement and disruption, more effort has been placed on understanding disruption in the workplace.
Every employee takes a similar journey. Going to work on their first day of employment and as a new employee, they strive to fit in. They are attempting to join a new tribe. Subconsciously, the new employees study patterns and norms to be accepted. They build habits and establish a flow to how work operates. Eventually, they achieve normalization where they form expectations.
When an employee strives for acceptance and normalization, change represents a threat to that goal. It is a deviation and interruption to that workflow. It carries the potential threat to exclude them from their tribe in the future. Even if the move is a positive alteration it still carries the foreboding threat and subsequently creates disruption
In essence, a change is breaking a habit or a routine. It requires time to process, reflect, and create meaning of what the move means. Compounding the issue is that people do not like being forced to deviate. People are more receptive to change when they can dictate how it will affect their lives. This requires the manager to gain the input and buy-in of the affected stakeholder to have a chance at leading a successful transition.
The only reason to transform is for the organization to grow and improve. Improvement will always be the goal of the change. The risk is that each move has a high propensity of doing more harm than good. However, by expertly running an effective change management process, an organization can turn its moves into a competitive advantage instead of continued disruption.
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