Magazine article Training & Development

Managers Get a "C" in Managing Change

Magazine article Training & Development

Managers Get a "C" in Managing Change

Article excerpt

Global markets, deregulation, increasing competition, technical innovations, the move from manufacturing to services--it seems that the only constant in today's business world is change. One of the most important skills a manager can have in his or her repo\ertoire these days is the skill to manage change: an understanding of the personal and organizational dynamics involved in a change effort, accompanied by the ability to lead people through one successfully.

The Managing Change instrument (a product developed by W. Warner Burke Associates) uses true-or-false statements to measure knowledge of 25 key issues on how to manage organizational change. Analyses of managers' scores on the instrument reveal an alarming lack of knowledge of these issues. In fact, we've tested more than 700 executives in more than seven industries, and their average score on the Managing Change instrument is only 71 out of a possible 100.

In the 1990s, when all environments are likely to be characterized by constant change, such insufficient understanding of this pervasive phenomenon is cause for concern.

How these results were

obtained

The Managing Change instrument is based on theoretical and research knowledge of the content area combined with years of practical experience in helping managers guide their organizations through change efforts. The instrument is typically administered during a management development program as part of a session on managing change. Its foremost objective is not to test managers in the strict, evaluative, academic sense, but to stimulate thinking and discussion.

It is designed to confirm or challenge existing assumptions, to promote knowledge about fundamental aspects of managing change, and to enable managers to view the abstract concept of change in more concrete ways.

The instrument has been administered over a five-year period (1986 to 1990) to managers in the airline, insurance, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, chemical, and utility industries and the federal government. The resulting international data base allows managers who take the test to compare their knowledge against that of others in their industries. The analyses discussed in this article are based on this data base.

Dimensions of managing

change

The 25 items in the Managing Change instrument conform to the conceptual framework, or model, depicted on page 88 in Figure 1. The triangle, or delta symbol, is used to convey two ideas:

* Each of the components, or dimensions, is an integral part of one's overall knowledge regarding change.

* Each dimension builds on those below it. Therefore, knowledge of the fundamental aspects of change is critical to the process of planning, managing, and evaluating change.

Knowledge of fundamental

aspects of change

In order for a change effort to be successful, actions and events need to be based on a sound understanding of how people respond to change, as wells as how transitions affect and are affected by organizational processes. The manager who has this understanding is better prepared for managing the process of change than is the manager who doesn't understand the underlying dynamics of change.

Thus the framework of the change model, and of any successful change effort, is based on a foundation of knowledge regarding individual and organizational responses to change.

Individual Response to Change. This dimension addresses the distinction between change that is embraced and change that is resisted. One can easily think of change that many people would welcome--for example, a promotion to a new position or an opportunity to take on a different assignment.

Yet as we all know, resistance to change does ococur. The items in this dimension deal with resistance that stems from two conditions:

* loss of the known and tried--when people exchange certainty for uncertainty, they must spend much effort in getting to know the situation and coping with initial frustrations

* loss of personal choice--what people are resisting is not necessarily change but the imposition of change. …

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