The 3 Conditions to Change Management

Organizational Behavior

The concept of change is constant during my academic career.  As a student, we learn to adapt to these changes quite quickly every semester.  We adapt to teaching styles, work load and schedules, new group members and most importantly the course material.  So, why is this concept so challenging when we apply “changes” to an organizational setting?   Accepting change to one’s work life is a difficult task.  Sometimes employees feel content with status quo and refuse to accept changes.  Organizational change is inevitable in business, and in order for an organization to succeed especially in today’s environment, a firm must evolve and adapt to the changes they are facing.  The need for change is often driven by an imbalance between a company’s constituent stakeholders:  shareholders, employees, management, customers, and communities.  In order to create the balance, an organization must satisfy the needs of its stakeholders, a task which requires a great deal of time, patients, and most importantly the right change management strategies.  For leaders of organizations, managing change is an important strategic yet delicate task.

Changes in the business plan, potential mergers, pressures from stakeholders, and developing a competitive advantage are several reasons for an organization to implement change.  We live in an era of risk and instability.  Change is constant and it is a word we hear constantly.  Implementing change is a tedious process and managers must learn to strategically employ these changes.

According to several sources, there are 3 common conditions or the building blocks to successfully influence employee attitudes and manage behavior which will greatly influence the outcome of implementing organization change.  Mckinsey Quarterly’s author Emily Lawson and Colin Price provided a holistic perspective in “The Psychology of Change Management,”[1] which suggests that these 3 common conditions must be satisfied before employees will change their behavior to an alternative state.  These 3 conditions are as follows and require management to organize simultaneously.  I will define and state the challenges these 3 conditions will meet.

1)      The art of telling a compelling story:

Similar to developing an organization’s vision, the leader must “extols the virtues of creating a compelling change story.”[2]  The leader must communicate and motivate employees for change.  It’s important to understand what motivates you, does not necessarily motivate your employees.  The challenge is the type of compelling story you choose to tell.  Telling your employees about industry shifts, intense competition, and the need to meet industry standards may not be the most motivating stories to share with your employees who are terrified of change.

2)      Role Modeling:

Leaders must influence their employees to accept change by practicing and modeling his/her behavior towards this change.  Role modeling will help employees gain a better perception of what they should expect from the changes to the organization.  The leader should incorporate feedback techniques similar to 360-degree feedback.  Surveys, emails, conversations will help leaders gain a better perspective during this period of change.

3)      Capability Building:

In order to change the way employees behave, leaders often neglect their thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.  Leading by example and having good intentions may not be enough.  Certain changes may require new skills, therefore an organization should create proper programs to take into account that people learn better by doing than by listening.  Organizing multiple workshops and “forums” can help the organization measure and recognize if these new changes are attainable.

I believe if an organization is able to create a change environment and meet these 3 conditions then employees will be more enthusiastic to accept change.  There is not a perfect formula or practice an organization can follow.  The organization must understand the type of environment they had created and the behavior of its employees prior to making these changes.


[1] Colin Price and Emily Lawson, “The psychology of change management,” mckinscyquarterly.com, June 2003.

[2] “The Irrational Side to Change Management”

http://web.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.kwantlen.ca:2080/ehost/detail?vid=5&hid=123&sid=0c716c91-0d57-4cf9-af0d-21a587ea86ac%40sessionmgr113&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#db=buh&AN=37817229

[3] Keller.S & Price.P, “Organizational Health: The Ultimate Competitive Advantage. June (2011). http://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/Organization/Change_Management/Organizational_health_The_ultimate_competitive_advantage_2820

[4] Sirkin. H, Keenan. P, Jackson. A, ” The Hard Side of Change Management” Oct 2005. Retrieved from http://hbr.org/2005/10/the-hard-side-of-change-management/ar/1

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12 thoughts on “The 3 Conditions to Change Management

  1. You make a solid point that thinking about change is one thing, while actually implementing that proposed change is indeed an entirely different beast. Why is it so hard for employees and organization’s to implement new changes to the structure of the organization?
    At one firm that I worked at, when implementing new changes within the company, our manager would turn the changes into sort of a game where you had the chance to win your choice from a variety of gift cards when succeeding; from places like Starbucks, Subway, Chapters, Movie Tickets, Cactus Club etc. By giving out tokens of appreciation like these, I noticed that it really helped our employees, including myself become more motivated to participate and continue the changes.

    Great Post!

    1. Sydney,

      That is a very interesting process employed at your firm; implementing change by promoting competition through a game. Do you think that employees who didn’t get rewards feel as motivated to change, as the employees who got the rewards? From what I know about extrinsic motivation is that if individuals are not receiving the rewards then their motivation for doing the task decreases. I actually did one of my blogs on motivation. Check it out at: http://bit.ly/nU9uSn

      Or do you think that the process of giving rewards for change elevated individuals who succeeded into role-model positions? I think that Individuals who succeeded in using the change can be viewed as leaders; if these individuals are empowered then they can ensure that other employees are adhering to the change as well. This process will in turn help reduce the chance that employees will” fall back on old habits”, prior to the change. I found a great article that talks about leadership and change, and how leaders are more effective in implementing change than managers alone. Here is the link to it: http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/leader/leadchg.html

    2. Thanks for the comment Sydney.

      The difficulty lies in the employee’s perception of the type of change they are facing and also the way it is implemented by management. They way your firm implemented change by giving employees rewards and creating some sort of game results in a high level of employee involvement, which is a great alternative to the 3 conditions I have outlined above. But, as Larisa commented, does this technique undermine those who do not receive the reward. Also, I am interested to see how effective this technique will be if future changes are implemented.

      If you don’t mind sharing, I am wondering what type of organizational changes your firm was implementing?

  2. I definitively think you’re spot on in saying a big issue with change is the conflict between a company’s stakeholders. Everyone in which a decision could potentially affect, which can be a great amount of people, will have an opinion on the change to be made. Most people will be resistant because of a fear for the unknown. The three conditions for implementing change that you outlined are very interesting, as they preclude mainly to behaviours of the people within the organization. I certainly think that implementing a successful change management strategy begins with understand the people within the organization. My blog post entitled ‘Ch-ch-ch-changes” (http://lisamarierobinson.wordpress.com/) touches on this as well. Check it out of you have the time. Awesome Post!

    1. Thanks Lisa

      I just finished reading your post and I found myself wondering if my emotions were like that during the transition curve. Well “depression” seems a little excessive but fortunately I have not been impacted by any major change in the workplace. As you have mentioned implementation requires a considerable amount of time, and an organization must allow employees the time to adapt and transition in to the new era. I remember at my old workplace, a new manager was hired, and many employees including myself, feared the unknown. The problem I had noticed was how negativity from individuals who would oppose change could affect or indirectly influence the perception of other employees.

      Anyways, Great read Lisa.

  3. I agree with your conditions which can influence employee attitudes toward organization change. Personally, I think organizations should emphasize their focus on employee themselves. Therefore, build a project team that’s sole objective is to educate, assist, and reinforce new changes is necessary for organizations. In addition, organizations should maintain an open channel of communication with lower level employees. I believe, not only build model, but also create environment could help employees adapt changes. The link is about how to change organizations, hope it can give you some ideas. http://bit.ly/9JNXRr

    1. Thanks for the comment Tony!

      I do agree with your comment about maintaining open communication as a form of helping accommodate employees to change. If the lower level employees are consistently updated to about certain changes to the organization, they won’t feel as if they were in the dark, and could better prepare themselves and cope with these changes.

  4. I believe being able to keep up with change is not only good for organizations but good for people too. Being able to adapt and be flexible and ‘evolve’ in a way helps one to be ready for anything life brings and create a mentally stronger person. Being a dynamic person requires skills to overcome comfort barriers and to explore and evaluate new opportunities in the face of risk and uncertainty. Just as much as a person would benefit from gaining and improving these qualities, an organization would benefit in the same way, creating a healthy and multi-dimensional unit, able to ‘roll with the punches.’

    1. Thanks Justin for the comment.

      I believe as we enter the workforce, our generation is better at coping with change. Traditional organizations will have the tendency to implement change abruptly and most tradition members will most likely oppose. This creates a level of discontent within the organization and nothing will ever be accomplished.

  5. I find the first point very interesting!! Often in our workforce we hear our managers say “we have to change because somebody from the top decides to change so we have to change”. It is so unconvincing and employees often feel like they are changing because they are being forced to.
    I agree it is very important that employees are given well explained reasons as to why changes are necessary. And one thing that i’veh learned in the last year is that everyone looks our for his/her interests before anything else. So, the important thing is, explain how an employee will benefit from such changes!! For example, a sales person may be asked to be more proactive and attend to every customer that walks in, so the benefits would be higher sales leading to higher bonus that came with the change!

  6. Great blog Ray! I like how you realize that employees might not really feel that the reasons being given to them are worthy enough for change. The best way and we have discussed this in class with the changes in Kodak is to get the employees excited about the upcoming change. Show them how they can be involved and active participants and try to get them to generate ideas if possible. In the sense of role modelling I think it might even be a good idea for management and employees to undergo training and learning seminars together to make them feel like they are all in this together. Kotter’s 8 step Change Model is a good model to check out also.http://bit.ly/18YxO8

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