Various internal and external influences can encourage change in an organization. Some organizations initiate internal change in order to improve efficiency and effectiveness. Other organizations change in response to external forces, such as the economic climate, competition or industry forecasts. Managers are wise to understand theories of organizational change and the four basic steps to promote change.
With any organizational change, a manager must balance the need to improve internal operations with the need to respond to new events. According to Gareth R. Jones and Jennifer M. George's book "Contemporary Management," organizational change is defined as "the movement of an organization away from its present state and toward some desired state to increase its efficiency and effectiveness."
Force-Field Theory of Change
According to Jones and George, Lewin's "force-field theory of change" can be applied to a plan for organizational change when two opposing forces exist. The first set of forces may make an organization resistant to change, such as employees who prefer the current system. At the same time, the second set of forces may be pushing an organization toward change, such as the company's need to become more efficient in order to have a competitive edge within the industry. According to Jones and George, the answer to this dilemma is as follows: "To get an organization to change, managers must find a way to increase the forces for change, reduce the resistance to change, or do both in a simultaneous manner."
Evolutionary change is described as incremental, gradual and narrowly focused. This change is constant. Evolutionary change may be a carefully developed, long-term goal that an organization is moving toward. One tool that can promote and direct evolutionary change is strategic planning.
Revolutionary change is dramatic, rapid and broadly focused. This radical shift may mean new ways of doing things, new goals or a new organizational structure. The three important components of revolutionary change are "reengineering, restructuring, and innovation," as described by Jones and George. Revolutionary change is appropriate within the technology industry, where swift advancements often happen. Although an organization cannot plan for every situation, "scenario planning" may be most appropriate to predict potential revolutionary change. In scenario planning, a business envisions possible future outcomes and creates a plan to deal with each one.
Four Steps in Organizational Change
Managers of an organization first assess the need for change by recognizing that a problem exists and identifying the source of the problem. Next they decide the ideal future for the organization and identify the path to that ideal change. Then managers make the change. Finally, they evaluate the results of the change by comparing the organization before the change and after it.