An Exercise in Managing Change

By De Meuse, Kenneth P.; McDaris, Kevin K. | Training & Development, February 1994 | Go to article overview
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An Exercise in Managing Change


De Meuse, Kenneth P., McDaris, Kevin K., Training & Development


SOME PEOPLE EMBRACE CHANGE; OTHERS SHUN IT. USE THIS SIMPLE TOOL TO HELP EMPLOYEES MANAGE THEIR INDIVIDUAL REACTIONS TO ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE.

Today, no company can afford the status quo. The companies that thrive are those that thoughtfully embrace change so that they can manage it to their competitive advantage.

The new focus on change management vests trainers with new responsibilities. Change sparks powerful emotions, and people who are distracted by fear, anger, uncertainty, or sadness cannot learn. Along with teaching employees how to use various tools for change, such as problem-solving strategies, trainers must help employees make sense of and master their emotional responses to change. By doing so, trainers help engage all parties as supportive stakeholders in the process of change.

To help trainers foster organizational change, we developed the Reaction-to-Change (R-T-C) Inventory--an easy-to-use, broadly applicable tool. The R-T-C Inventory can stand alone as an exercise and also fits well into seminars on organizational change. You can use this inventory to help employees at all levels discover how they perceive and react to change.

The R-T-C Inventory provides a nonthreatening structure in which to explore and discuss those perceptions and reactions. This type of discussion helps people understand and modify their own reactions to change and understand and adapt to the reactions of their supervisors, subordinates, and co-workers. And, by prompting participants to reflect on what it takes to bring about positive change, it helps them develop ownership in the change process.

The inventory also serves as a diagnostic instrument. By exploring how individual employees react to changes in the workplace, the R-T-C Inventory casts light on how the organization as a whole responds to change. Managers and trainers can use these insights in their efforts to prepare employees for change, keep them informed, and get them involved in fostering change.

Describing reactions to change

In general, a person reacts to change in one of three ways: accepting and supporting change; complying with change in action but not in spirit; or resisting change, either passively or actively.

TABLE 1
The Reaction-to-Change Inventory

Directions: Circle the words below that you most frequently associate with
change. (This table shows the value of each word in parentheses for scoring
purposes. When administering the R-T-C Inventory, do not reveal the values
until participant have finished the inventory.)

Adjust (0)              Different (0)       Opportunity (+10)
Alter (0)               Disruption (-10)    Rebirth (+10)
Ambiguity (-10)         Exciting (+10)      Replace (0)
Anxiety (-10)           Fear (-10)          Revise (0)
Better (+10)            Fun (+10)           Stress (-10)
Challenging (+10)       Grow (+10)          Transfer (0)
Chance (0)              Improve (+10)       Transition (0)
Concern (-10)           Learn (+10)         Uncertainty (-10)
Death (-10)             Modify (0)          Upheaval (-10)
Deteriorate (-10)       New (+10)           Vary (0)

The R-T-C Inventory consists of 30 words that illustrate the ways that people react to change. The 30 words, culled by experts from an original list of 45, were derived from the professional literature about organizational change. The words are listed randomly, but each falls into one of three categories: words that conjure positive images of change (such as "fun" and "opportunity"), words that depict change negatively (such as "anxiety" and "upheaval"), and words that cast change in a neutral light (such as "different" and "transfer"). Participants are asked to circle the words that they most strongly associate with change.

All positive words have a value of +10. All negative words have a value of -10. Neutral words have a value of zero. Individual scores can range from a low of -100 (if a person circled only all 10 negative words) to +100 (if a person circled only all 10 positive words).

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