A Guide to Successful Change for Organizations and Individuals

An Introduction - Why Change

The interest of and by the public focuses on the success of individuals or organizations, and invariably emphasize how some type of change, hard work, and focus, has made them successful. This reflects a desire by individuals to attain some insight into what creates success. The examples of other's success providing demonstrable situations where success was achieved and could be adopted by others, if only the situation represented can be duplicated.

At the same time:

These are examples of some of the common events which occur representing some effort on or potential for change that does not lead to desired outcomes. These change efforts reflect two basic forces at work.

The key reason that intended objectives are not realized is not due to a lack of intent or effort, but more often an inability to change or misunderstanding of what change is. The identification of an opportunity for an extension of control, access to additional resources, or access to a different environment does not constitute change. Change requires a proactive action which adjusts relationships, activities, or information.

Change - A Definition

Change, alter = make or become different. Change is the general word, but emphasizes the idea of a fundamental difference in the make-up of the person or thing, of making or becoming completely different.

The emphasis that is focused on is on change which creates some different action or activity. It is measured by a difference in activity, not just a difference in state or position. Most specifically, for purposes of making change, concern is in change which requires one to undertake different activities or responsibilities. Change which is reflected by a change in resources such as increased resources, reduced resources, type of resources, etc., while reflecting some difference, does not constitute operational change until it creates some difference in activity by those impacted. Therefore, having a different level of funding does not create operational change until such time as the enterprise takes note of the funding change and undertakes some adjustments in its activities to reflect such a change. This is different than downsizing which reduces the level of activity, but doesn't change the type or nature of activity that the organization is engaged in. Of course the actions of individuals may be impacted, but this is change as it relates to the individual, not the enterprise.

Change as used here is therefore concerned with some level of activity that is different. This may be reflected by the actions of an individual, or the actions of the organization. If change in activity has not occurred, then, from an operational perspective change has not occurred.

How Change Occurs

Changes are initiated by either imposed events or by proactive initiatives. The reason the change happens is a desire to take more control over a situation which will advance an individual's scope of influence. This expansion of a scope of influence will allow an individual to pursue their own goals, objectives, and desires, given any limitations imposed by their capabilities or access to resources. Subsequently an individual will undertake change when their scope of influence is threatened, or they perceive some gains to be made in their capability to influence things around them. This scope of influence is not the end in itself, but rather the capability to do what one wants within that scope of influence.

The Impact of Change

Change will impact a number of factors which must be dealt with. They are:

The relationships between these factors can be either straight forward or complex. A change in any one of the factors can have extensive ramifications in any other of the factors. Thus change can be extremely difficult to predict in relation to its final outcome. The risks high.

Due to the uncertainty of results, change is most often left to the adventurous or entrepreneurial spirit. These individuals are predisposed to lead or are eager to take on risk and danger. They thrive on the challenge of the unknown. Having established an example of the what and how, others follow. However, following another's lead, does not always produce the same or even similar results.

The Future for Change

With the increasing levels of education in the population and ready access to technology, change is becoming a daily event in today's society. Predictions indicate that not only will change continue, but the speed of change will accelerate. This is a direct result of the increasing levels of interactions between individuals and groups, especially as the global economies grow through new and more effective and efficient technologies. Individuals can increasingly take direct advantage of these technologies rather than be dependent on others to provide them. Their capability to extend their personal level of influence by taking advantage of diverse and new opportunities is drastically increased. As each individual takes advantage of an opportunity, the relationships among individuals changes, thus providing further opportunities for others to further their goals and objectives. This grows exponentially, and subsequently increasing the rate of change which occurs.

In-spite of the growing extent and importance of change, individuals or groups are not taught how to change, nor are enterprises structured in order to embody change. In most instances, focus is on how to change others, rarely is it focused on changing oneself. Opportunities are often forgone in achieving goals and objectives, because personal change is not undertaken. As a rule personal change is given little support, unless it is to support the change initiative of someone else. In such cases change is not only expected but demanded. Change on behalf of others tends to serve the initiator, and not always the individuals involved. The individuals involved must therefore be put into a position where they will, in some form or another embody the change desired by someone else. The mechanism for this can range from coercion, to positive support. It can take advantage of others or be mutually supportive. The tools for enforcing change as subtle or direct as the initiator is capable of and predisposed to. The general attitude to change, especially where imposed by others, tends to be negative, primarily because of the potential loss of personal influence.

There is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success nor more dangerous to manage than the creation of a new system. For the initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old system and merely lukewarm defenders in those who would gain by the new one.
Niccolo Machiavelli

This leads to the overall predisposition that individuals or groups will have a tendency to maintain the status-quo. That is, ensuring that an established level of control or influence over ones personal scope of influence is maintained, and that others' capability in achieving their own goals and objectives, does not limit one's personal status.

Change however continues to be a predominant force, as individuals and groups vie for an increase in their scope of influence. In other words, mankind, in their continuing focus of attempting to improve on what they already have, strive to change, either themselves or their environments, directly or through others. The challenge is to develop a framework within which change can occur, can be predictable, and result in an outcome supportive of and supported by all concerned.

A Framework for Change

It is important to note that change does not mean change in the basic intent or driving forces of individuals or groups. These driving forces are predicated on a hierarchy of needs, such as Maslov's hierarchy of needs, and undertaken on the basis of personal predispositions, such as those identified by the Myers-Briggs Personality type. The variety and extent of these needs and dispositions provide a broad framework which allows individuals to not only help each other but use diverse skills and capabilities to mutually achieve desires. The mechanisms for change must therefore recognize how all participants, who are impacted by change, can take advantage of the change. This is different than gaining advantage through controlling others or obtaining exclusive control over some set of resources.

What controls the attainment of these goals and objectives, in an interactive environment (that is to say, where one has to live with others and other things), are the conventions by which individuals interact. These may be formal or informal. Subsequently, while some things may change quickly, some things will not. For example, the acquisition of wealth can happen instantly (such as a win of the lottery), but being able to take advantage of such a change, as in how to utilize the new funds to enhance ones scope of influence takes a re-establishment of what one does, a re-establishment of relationships, and new or different information than what one had previously to work with. The point is that while some of the components individuals or groups have access to can change very quickly and dynamically, the level of success one has in taking advantage of opportunities is directly related to how they can re-structure what they do, their relationships with others, and what new or different information they need to manage the new opportunity.

The focus here is on the process of change. Not what a change should be but rather how to go about the process of change in order to ensure that the results are positive and beneficial for all concerned.

It is a pragmatic approach, not for the sake of establishing a bureaucratic process, but rather to provide an understanding of what change is about, how it happens, and how to address it.

It is not intended to be and should not be an onerous process, but should add a framework around which the process of change can be fostered, directed, and the results predicted.

It is not biased to any one perspective or existing structure, and has as much applicability to the individual as to the largest of organizations.

It is based on an economic and social model which establishes a framework by which change can be evaluated, predicted, managed, and fostered, without pre-disposing what the economy should do or how it should behave. Nor does it pre-dispose that only certain beliefs and thoughts are the only right ones, and thereby only one social model should apply.

The Seven Step Checklist to Change

There is no magic about change. It is most often exemplified by hard work, diligence, and most important, understanding where one is coming from and going to. Change should not be relegated to any specific expertise or predisposition. Change is something everyone should be able to identify with, undergo, and grow with.

There are however, ways to approach change, and ways not to approach change. That is, one needs to have some frame of reference by which change can be undertaken. If only to ensure that the results anticipated will actually present themselves, or if not, why not.

The following provides a summary overview of what a change process should encompass. There are two key parts to the process, Structure and Process. Structure deals with establishing where one is starting from and where one is going to, and why. Process deals with how one gets from point A to point B. The process is cyclical, that is as one change is completed, another can be initiated. Also that each step in the cycle is a prerequisite for the next. This however does not mean that one cannot can only start the change process at step one. For example, Identifying Opportunities/Forces Fostering Change can be the starting point if there is in place a Frame of Reference to work from. This is to say that with a clear understanding of what one is doing and why, determining what changes are influencing the enterprise or the individual is possible. As well, with a well defined frame of reference it then becomes possible to identify opportunities as things change in the environment.

The obvious ramifications of the change process is that if one always has a clear understanding of what one is doing and why, and has a pre-established mechanism in place to initiate and undertake change, change can happen quickly and predictably. Where such infrastructure is not in place, it has to be put in place for each initiative. This slows down the reaction time of individuals and organizations, and may limit the success of any one change as there is no pattern to follow for change and the process has to be re-invented each time, thereby the results are not always predictable.

While the change methodology is structured to progress from step one through to step seven, the process can start anywhere along the seven step continuum. If the process is initiated at the wrong step, there will be issues which will be unresolved, forcing a retracing of steps, until the right starting point is found, or alternatively, the step will be very straight forward and progress to the next step occurs very quickly. The steps defined are based on an economic business model, which establishes a framework or reference point for the change process.

  1. Establish a Frame of Reference
    1. Define The Components which define the Enterprise
      1. Know the purpose
      2. Identify the assets
      3. Evaluate the environment
    2. Establish The Structure
      1. Determine the processes
      2. Define the organization
      3. Identify the information needs
    3. Refine
      1. Evaluate each of the components above in context of the interactions with the other components and refine understanding of the enterprise
  2. Identify Opportunities/Forces Fostering Change
    1. Monitor the enterprise in context of its established framework
    2. Identify changes in areas outside of the existing sphere of influence which will impact the enterprise or the enterprise can take advantage of
    3. Determine which components within the sphere of influence are being impacted
    4. Determine the type and extent of impact
    5. Identify opportunity for internal change(s)
    6. Evaluate proposed change against the mandate/objectives/goals
  3. Establish The Change Mechanism/Methodology
    1. Prioritize components being changed based on relative impact on the enterprise
    2. Find a methodology that focuses on changes to the key components of highest priority changes
    3. Review methodology and revise to suit specific needs and emphasis
  4. Develop the Change Infrastructure
    1. Establish a budget
    2. Develop time frames
    3. Prescribe expectations
    4. Assign resources
    5. Teach involved individuals how to make change
    6. Assign responsibilities
    7. Develop work structure/reporting lines
  5. Manage the Change
    1. Establish checkpoints
    2. Establish reporting mechanism
    3. Communicate progress
    4. Train
    5. Get involved
    6. Hold individuals responsible
  6. Finalize the Change
    1. Validate results against mandate
    2. Identify extent of change
    3. Validate extent of change against expectations
    4. Evaluate process against expectations
    5. Make corrections/adjustments
    6. Disband change structure
  7. Stabilize the Change
    1. Monitor the new environment
    2. Support the new environment

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