Modern organizations must adapt to change or face the possibility of falling behind in the marketplace, and a good leader must stand at the helm, navigating the currents of change. Leaders and organizations experience complexity, change, and competition on a daily basis. According to Gary Yukl (2006), “Leading change is one of the most important and difficult leadership responsibilities” (p.284).
Change forces such as technology, economy, government, politics, natural disasters, and socio-cultural forces challenge leaders. These forces can trigger developmental, transitional, and transformational types of change (Weiss, 2012). As Mourier and Smith (2001) stated, “Organizational change refers to any activity that requires employees to work differently” (in Weiss, 2012, p.307). For example, organizations create attitude-centered change, role-centered change, changes in technology, changes in competitive strategies, process, economic and human factor change (Yukl, 2006). Change continuums (change cycles) can last for a short time or long time.
Be the (Change) Leader You Want to See
Effective change leaders use transformational leadership. They model the way, inspire a shared vision, provide encouragement, and enable others to act. They are flexible, adaptable, empathetic, and have a high EQ (emotional intelligence). Most importantly, they are effective communicators, and they explain and frame why the change is occurring. These leaders see the dynamics (process and characteristics) and understand situational variables. They understand how to launch a change initiative and see how it is progressing along the required change continuum. Perhaps most importantly, they know when the change is complete.
The Four Phenomena of the Change Continuum
The effective change leader sees and understands the four phenomena in the change continuum, which include: rupture, fragmentation, concurrence, and recurrence (Collerette, Schneider, & Legris, 2003). First, since the change state is fresh, ruptures can sometimes occur. This part of the process is normal as people are getting acclimated to the new change. Second, these ruptures create fragmentation. These fragments are the unfavorable outcomes that emerge from the ruptures as the change is developing. The third phenomena, concurrence, requires managers and employees to actively manage the fragmentation occurring and work it back into the system. Finally, recurrence may take place. Since the change is not fully complete, it is possible to see these four phenomena recur as the change moves along the continuum. (Collerette, Schneider, & Legris, 2003).
Successful change takes time, and leading change is not easy; it requires skill, and a practical and theoretical understanding of professional change models. Leaders must work to influence, direct, and guide employees and teams toward successful change.
Written by Bill Davis, MA, CM, Core Faculty and Faculty Senator in the Forbes School of Business and Technology™, and Martin McAuliffe, JD, Assistant Professor in the College of Liberal Arts at Ashford University.
Collerette, P., Schneider, R., & Legirs, P. (November – December, 2003). Managing organizational change – Part 6: Managing the transition. Management Systems, ISO Management Systems. Retrieved from www.iso.org/ims
Weiss, J.W. (2012). Organizational change. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
Yukl, G. (2006). Leadership in organizations. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey; Pearson Education, Inc.