Managing Change � The
Transition From Chaos To Order
The process of
organizational change is complex. A number of associated factors
have the ability to impact an organization�s overall ability to
successfully evolve. Improper development, management, and
monitoring can result in the change-process spinning out of control
and creating chaos. In the center of this storm, it is the leader
who must then wrestle control of events and restore order.
As individuals are
making the shift from a management to leadership style, the entire
workplace is being buffeted by change. The leader is no longer
controlling the employee�s actions, but guiding and directing them
through involvement and empowerment. Properly executed, this should
be a smooth transition. However, ill-conceived plans implemented by
poorly prepared leaders and employees can turn the entire process
changes do not transpire quickly. Typically, organizations and
leaders both evolve together as they transition from one style of
management to the other. Leaders grow through the persistent
application of leadership ideas and concepts, as well as development
of their skills. The process is without an ending point, and
continually moves forward over time.
Leaders who find
themselves in the midst of a process that has swirled out of
control, must not be swept away by the tide of events and
circumstances. If they are, they will give up the ability to remain
detached and view what is happening objectively.
This can be challenging,
as they must regain control while dealing with the daily demands and
pressures of the job. Because of this they must understand that they
are staring down a complex and often daunting task. For the leader
in these circumstances, the first step is to retain or regain
emotional control and then proceed dispassionately.
It is simplistic to
think a single cause of a complex problem can be identified. Most
problems are caused by ever-widening and overlapping circles of
circumstances and events. What appears to be an obvious and
clear-cut cause is often only symptomatic of a much deeper problem.
When events appear chaotic, the problem can stem from more than one
area and each has to be addressed in turn.
While real introspection
is often painful, a leader has to identify any possible personal
contributions to the problem. Chaotic events often occur for reasons
directly stemming from the leader.
In certain instances the
leadership role was thrust upon an individual lacking the aptitude
and confidence to fulfill it. Once in the position, they fail to
lead and are unable to manage due to the organizational change.
Consequently, they leave a vacuum that is filled by disorder.
In other instances, the
leader may be new and inexperienced and thus attempting to
accomplish overly ambitious goals and objectives. Rather than
evolve, they are pushing change too fast, or expecting too much of
When the process seems
to be collapsing, the employee�s role must also be examined. In
certain instances employees did not receive adequate training to
fulfill the roles expected of them. In other cases, too much is
expected of employees too quickly. They are immediately overwhelmed
and unable to deal with the circumstances.
A lack of employee
involvement and empowerment in the process can cause major setbacks.
Their lack of input and feedback does not foster the ownership of
ideas and participation. Consequently, they may have perceived too
high a personal risk, which created resistance. Since their
involvement is essential, this created a void that was quickly
filled with chaos.
Consideration must be
given to whether the plan, underlying the process itself, may be
flawed. This can happen for a variety of reasons brought about by
both the leader and employees� participation (or lack thereof) in
resistance and lack of skills and/or experience, can give rise to a
poorly conceived plan. Typically, such problems associated with
either leadership�s or employees� role in the process will impact
the overall plan.
Ill-conceived timing and
timetables can wreak havoc. Inexperienced leaders might not be aware
of the impact of certain implementation-dates on the organization.
Additionally, attempts to accomplish too much too fast can overwhelm
the entire organization.
In certain instances,
management can undermine their own efforts by micromanaging the
process and issuing counterproductive dictates and mandates. In
other circumstances employees might not trust the motives of the
company, due to past experiences and existing policies.
Lack of management and
financial support of the process undermines employees� ability to
accomplish their goals and objectives. Without proper support,
leaders� efforts will be severely hampered.
Leaders must question
the rationale and premise for the process of change. Based on their
current experience, they must revisit the assumptions, facts, data
and other key factors identified at the beginning of the process.
They must determine if the logic and thinking behind the process is
still valid in light of their experiences.
Once the causes have
been isolated, leaders are often forced to begin the entire change
process again. However, now they have identified the sources of the
problem and have learned from the experiences of past failures.
With this base of
knowledge and expertise, they should be able to streamline the
process and eliminate many of the bottlenecks. However, if they have
not addressed the causes honestly and objectively, many of the same
problems will recur.
Once control has been
regained, implementation of the process should proceed more
cautiously, assuring that a solid foundation for change is
established and that each step is successfully and competently
achieved before moving ahead with the next.
Astute leaders should
enlist the assistance of key influencers within their employee pool.
These are the natural leaders who have the ability to persuade
others and enlist their support. If these individuals are sold on
the idea of change, and understand that the benefits more than
offset the risks associated with change, they will be able to
convince others within their ranks of the same � thus making the
leader�s job much easier.
The leader should also
ensure his or her employees have been properly trained in the
necessary skills to do the job. Once they have achieved this level,
they should be involved and empowered to participate and control the
process from within their organizational unit.