1.8 Facilitating Change
We make people aware of why the existing situation is unsatisfactory, and we have end users to help us formulate the change process. Depending on the size of the organization, it took a long time for people to fully adapt to all of the changes in that SAP implementation where they had to abandon their Excel spreadsheets. Well, as the experts say, executives, senior management decide that we have won the battle with the first few minor victories, and they move on to new agendas, new priorities.
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So welcome back to this last part of this lesson on change and organizational behavior. I would like to introduce you to a change process. A very simplified approach, a make-sense approach, to get a change implemented throughout your organization in a way that you are going to have a great deal of user satisfaction. I want to introduce you to a three-step model that goes back to social psychologist Kurt Lewin, who developed this in 1947. Wow, that’s a pretty old program. It still is in every new edition of nearly all management and change books. It is a very simple process. Clients and users find it simple to use, all the way down to at a operational floor, production floor level. Employees understand this process. Kurt Lewin said change can be implemented and affected in really just three steps. First, unfreeze the existing situation. You have to make employees aware of why we need to change. Why is the current situation not working? Then you introduce all of the change, everything, and have it ready to go. And then lastly, make it stick, refreeze. Again going back to the change experts, the gurus, and authors and educators, the last step is the stumbling block. Refreeze, refreezing does not happen consistently and constantly enough before the organization moves to new initiatives. Let’s look at each of these steps and see how simple it is. So first, the unfreezing. In the unfreezing, the role and goal is to prepare employees for the change. Why do we have to change? Answering the question, why and how important is it and the urgency of it. And we introduce the reasons for the impending change. We make people aware of why the existing situation is unsatisfactory, and we have end users to help us formulate the change process. What do we need to do when we introduce the change? So in this unfreezing, it is absolutely critical that we answer the question why. Why do we need to start using Excel spreadsheets and start using this SAP corporate application module for me to do my work in? Well, in my real world, a client that I was consulting with, we faced this situation. Employees did not want to change. They were absolutely happy with their Excel spreadsheets. However, the president and the general manager came down and explained the situation. We’re part of a 26 plant multi-national company. Our current system is isolated to us here. It was a home grown system. We communicate very well with everyone within our organization. But we can’t share that information with the other plants. And that is the division directive, to share the information so that the ERP, the enterprise requirement planning system is visible throughout the organization. If we choose not to move forward with this SAP implementation, we will continue to be out here on our own and really become a dinosaur. And dinosaurs die a slow death. We’re not going to be needed. You job will go away. This company may go away. So you have a choice and I hope you elect the choice of adopting the change when we have to implement it here within just a few months. That’s a real example of preparing the organization for the impending change. Step two, Lewin says, is introduce the change. Introduce all of the parts of the change. After unfreezing, the people are prepared, so now, introduce the training, introduce all of the forms, introduce all of the new software, introduce all of the new behaviors and expectations and habits. That the employees, that the people, the members, your associates, your friends, will have to do in order to accommodate this change process. After the change is introduced, here comes the tough part, to refreeze, to refreeze. To solidify the process so firmly that no one wants to go back to the old way of doing things. How long does that take, a week, a month, a year? Depending on the size of the organization, it took a long time for people to fully adapt to all of the changes in that SAP implementation where they had to abandon their Excel spreadsheets. Everyone knew why they had to change, but there was still a lot of uncertainty and misunderstanding, and how do I do this, and what field do I go to, and what page is that on when I have to do my job. It took a full year for the company to fully embrace that SAP application as part of the fundamental way that they were going to do business. Refreezing, making it stick, constantly reinforcing, communicating, here comes the importance of that people champion. Who is going to be the person that helps people get over these hurdles, to help people understand this is the way we have to do it? It’s normal for your feelings, normal for your confusion, we are going to retrain you, what do you need? What else do you need? So that we can help you get over this phase and make it work. And then make it work so that people don’t want to go back to the old way. Problem? Well, as the experts say, executives, senior management decide that we have won the battle with the first few minor victories, and they move on to new agendas, new priorities. And they abandon the constant communication. Sometimes they even remove the people champion. And eventually, people start to float away from it. If no one is looking at my work, if no one is validating that I have to use this new software, why don’t I just start using the old Excel spreadsheet again? And people start to move away from and then six months later, and there’s an executive meeting and an executive says, so have we fully transitioned to the new SAP system? And people look at each other and say, I thought we weren’t going to use that anymore. Well, and executives are shocked. I thought it was fully in place and now we have to restart. And that is not uncommon in the change process. So, how do we make sure that we have consistent and constant communication and reinforcement and support? One way to do that is through a group of employees, a group of members who are part of the change agent group. These are people who are in favor of the change, they like the change, they are there to help other people get over that gap. So what are some of the roles and actions that change agents generally take? They ask a lot of questions. In my experience, when a company launches an initiative, it’s not fully developed. And in fact, I’ve had one client to say, we are going to launch it and fix it on the fly. Well, that means there’s a lot of holes in it and a lot of things yet to be answered. So change agents ask a lot of questions and help companies understand how do we fill in the blanks? How do we even fit the pieces together? How do we make it more efficient and make it work? Change agents also make sure their actions are moving in the right direction, they are supportive of the initiative. And they are not getting off into the battlefield where they need to choose their battles and may cause themselves irreparable harm. Change agents also have a positive attitude. Remember, the magnitude of that barrier, the magnitude of that wall, is totally dependent upon your attitude at the time of the change. Your attitude is totally controllable by you. Flexible, change is going to happen with or without you. So why not help make it work and get on the bus and take ownership? Be part of the solution and don’t try to recreate the past. The past may not survive so why not take ownership and get on board? Patience, patience with people, patience with the process, patience with the initiative. Patience is required as a change agent to help people across that fear gap, to help fill in all the blanks so that the process, the initiative, can be fully implemented. And supportive, supported with executives who know they have to do this, and yet they aren’t, they know that there’s lot of holes. Supportive from the standpoint, I wish we had all of the time in the world to answer all these questions before we launch it, but we don’t. Supportive with peers who are still stuck in the current state, helping them get over that fear zone. Supportive with your own team members who are there with you in the current state, to be problem solvers, to be supportive, to be part of the solution.
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