It’s always interesting to hear people discuss the question “How do we manage change?” Organizational change presents a constant concern for leaders. In fact, the question of change brings up the idea that change is often something that suddenly is out of hand and uncontrollable.
Here’s the business and organization reality; change is a part of growth in organizations and in life. In fact, change is happening on a constant basis. You can find ways to measure this change so it doesn’t happen by surprise. Here are some important basic concepts that will help you recognize issues related to change and change management.
The first concept is that organizations are “open systems.” That means they are a part of the world around them and they are open to the influences of the world around them. Recognizing changes for organizations means staying aware of what’s happening outside as well as inside of the organization.
An open system is influenced by both internal and external forces. Internal forces can be controlled from within the organization while external forces effect the organization but these can’t be controlled by the organization.
Internal forces that affect any organization include its products or service lines, leadership and management structures, policies and procedures, human resources, marketing strategies, and operations. These are directly controlled by organization leadership and should be influenced by external changes.
Some external forces include the political, economic, financial educational, societal changes that directly affect the organization’s industry, location, product, people and stakeholders.
Both internal and external forces can be watched and monitored in order to predict to the best of the organization leaders ability, the impacts any changes in these forces will have on the organization. For instance, if politicians change a law that directly affects how your industry exchanges goods and services, this will change internal operations of the organization. If prices of gas and oil increase and the income levels of people who purchase cars remains relatively the same, the car industry would need to make adjustments to respond to the needs and economic situation of the buying market.
All parts of a system must work in harmony for greatest effectiveness. Change often goes array in organizations because the effects of that change on various departments is often overlooked. In other words, change in one area of the organization has a ripple effect on other areas. Say for instance, marketing decides that products need to be shipped faster in order to increase customer service. The marketing department creates marketing materials promising faster shipping. However, the shipping department is the ones that have to make the faster shipping happen. They need to inform the marketing department about whether or not faster shipping is possible. This means also looking at the production department to see if products are available faster on a regular basis. It also includes accounting and of course human resources. In other words, every part of the organization system must get involved in a change for it to be effective.
Society influences changes in the desires of your target market. It is important to watch how society is influencing the buying habits of people in your target market group. While your company provides a particular type of product or service you have to be sure you’re relating in a contemporary manner to the rapidly changing ideas of what’s in or out for your target market group. For instance, if you target young people, you’ll have to constantly change your inventory to keep up with their changing interests. Some companies fail to make change quickly enough at price points that fit the buying ability of their target group.
Keep your finger on the pulse point of the consumer market. In other words, keep looking outward in order to bring new ideas inward. Hold focus group meetings of people in your target market or let consumers ‘touch” your products. Companies that set up stations that allow people to try their products have a way to conduct real time research by watching reactions and seeing what keeps people coming back. Even in highly self service industries, company sales people can be trained to ask more questions about buying interests and what the consumer wants. Collect this data to recognize coming changes you need to meet.
Change is going to happen because the world will never stand still. Setting up systems to collect information is an important and basically simple way to stay informed of coming changes. Awareness for change takes place at all levels of the organization. You can move from simple data collection and awareness systems to more complex forms of forecasting to be sure you are controlling change instead of it controlling you.