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There are Dilbert cartoons that present organizational change in very unflattering ways. This is probably because organization change is often done poorly. Excessive change can provide the appearance to the staff of instability in company focus or objectives. Organizations are a collection of sub-systems and systems, various departments, various organization hierarchy and structure as well. Changes left uncoordinated can result in changes that cut cross purpose, that is, ineffective at best and damaging at worst. Changes ad hoc in the various systems can result in a system that worked but could be improved into a system that no longer works. Unless there is some competent coordination and configuration management, the result can be a destruction of what marginally worked and inability to easily go back to the incarnation of the system that sort of worked.
Not all changes have to be earth shattering, in fact, a continuous stream of small increments are often better ways to change, as this allows for learning and adapting. As a matter of fact, any change comes with a degree of uncertainty and risk. Knowing this if we approach change as a group of small increments or only as truly needed we can reduce the resistance to the change and possible negative outcome. However, this approach also comes with a downside. The downside being that in an attempt to minimize the organizational effect of a dynamic change an opportunity for substantial growth and development could be missed. Determining when the minimalistic approach should be employed is a difficult task at best, as with any type of change. To provide more information of the minimalistic movement let us look at an article by Ross Smith on the Management Innovation Exchange. In this article Mr. Smith discusses the dynamics of minimalist management. He discusses the natural tendency of a manager to just jump in and offer advice and assistance thinking it is adding value and justifying their existence when in all actuality it could be undermining the motivation of their subordinates and stifling their innovation This same principle could be applied to the minimalistic change model in which management and leadership step back and reduce the restraints of their personnel in the form of less processes, metrics, status reports, and unnecessary feedback.  We are not stating that these items should be eliminated, but their effect on the production personnel should be reduced to its bare essential level.
What would be the criteria for an effective change? This seems like an easy question to answer, but as we delve into it you may not think that way. On the surface an effective change would seem to be one that produces the desired results: an increase in production, a decrease in errors, and even an increased profit margin. It would probably also have to be a lasting change, as if resorting back to the previous state could negate any gain received by the change and possibly produce a false indication for a change to the change that was first implemented. If we take just a few seconds to look up “Effective Change” and “Effective Change Management” on the internet we would find countless articles on 8, 6, or 4 critical and/or essential steps to effective change and change management. While they all have validity and each model could apply to a different situation the sheer number of options can cause confusion. Therefore, rather than promote one over another we will look into the basic ways to determine the headway made by a change effort as discussed in Burke’s book Organizational Development, A Process of Learning and Change.
Quantity of Problems
While the number of problems may increase or remain constant the nature of the problems changing is a prime indicator that the change has had some effect on the issue it was designed to resolve.1 However the new issues could be related to the change, but to determine this some form of evaluation of the new issue and the change must be conducted. Understanding of the various parameters that can impact the area of interest is part the learning process.
Level of Frustration
While this would seem to be the opposite of how it should be, when people express frustration about the progress regarding change that is a clear sign of progress itself. This position is supported by both Maslow’s and Herzberg’s work in the areas of grumbles (hygiene) and meta-grumbles (Motivation). When we look at these works collectively, we can see that these “Meta-grumbles (Motivation) are an indication the people doing them are doing so because they have a desire for a change and this is an opportunity that can be used to help facilitate a change.
When an issue becomes more important people tend to bring it up in as many venues as possible to attempt to ensure that the item or issue gets the attention they feel it deserves. Using this line of reasoning when change efforts and the status of those efforts becomes an active part of the regular reporting or reports it is a positive sign that the change is taking hold
Progress assessment falls along the line of reporting in that when assessments, reevaluations, and key events associated with change progress are acknowledged in or on their own shows the importance of the change. This is also a prime motivator in that these type events or reviews can be used to praise the accomplishments of individuals and the team.
Assessing progress may be a little bit like evaluation of the organization’s talent. Using a single point of reference only provides a single point of view, a single point of view that would be subjected to those biases discussed earlier. The approach to evaluation should include more perspectives to ensure that the progress being reviewed is assessed from as many angles as possible to come to a conclusion that is consistent with the facts.
Changing the Change
When most people or an organization think about change they do not necessarily think about changing the change in the actual process of the change. Thoughts are like we should finish the change to determine how it works when fully employed, or if we are going to change the change we should revert back to our previous starting point so we know where we are starting from to analyze the new change. While these are options and might actually be the answer they should not just be jumped to, as with anything in a change. If there was or is a good plan associated with the initial change then the current status (position), of the organization or team should be known. Having said that, the team should determine if sufficient information is available to enact a new change from the current position. It is a rare occurrence that the first attempt at any change does not evolve into a different change by maturity or even several different changes. This would be the “Developmental” portion or organizational development.
Summation of Change
Through this chapter and other chapters, we have alluded to change needing a measure of effectiveness. And that these measures should be measures should be embedded into the change itself as benchmarks to determine if a course correction is required or desired. However, in the one subsection we give an example of things that cannot actually be measured or analyzed as an indication of the progress of a change. It is important to acknowledge that one will not always have some numerical data, quantitative or qualitative, that will help. It is also possible that the best data we have is minimal or vague at best. We should seek to understand the meaning of the indicators, whatever those are. What measurement or visible symptom would we see that infroms we are on the correct path? I liken it to having a book with all the answers to our questions, but, not being able to read, what purpose would it serve?