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Posted on October 7th, 2012, by

Today, the change management plays increasingly more important role compared to the past, when the introduction of changes was not as urgent as it is today. In actuality, the introduction of changes in modern organization is a vital necessity determined by objective factors of the development of modern business, technologies and society at large. In such a situation, organizations that are able to introduce change efficiently are in an advantageous position compared to their competitors which are less successful in the change management. Therefore, the change management can be viewed as one of the key factors that determines the overall success of the marketing performance of modern companies.

At the same time, the efficacy of the introduction of changes within any organization is, to a significant extent, defined by the efficacy of the change management. In this respect, there exists a variety of views on the change management, various models and approaches to the change management. Nevertheless, it is hardly possible to find an idea, universal model which can be applied with equal efficacy in any organization. Instead, it is important to take consideration a variety of factors, which influence the performance and functioning of organizations, both internal, such as organizational culture, personnel and others, and external, such as policies of competitors, market situation, customers’ behavior and others.

On the other hand, it is possible to refer to the model developed by Kotter. This model comprises of eight stages and it is considered to be quite efficient model of the successful implementation of changes within modern organizations (Gitlow, 1997). However, it is important to remember about the fact that this model should be applied carefully and managers should into consideration specificities of their organization since the truly efficient change management is grounded on finding the unique way of the implementation of changes which meets the organizational culture, its traditions structure, internal and external influences and current marketing situation.

Change management in the contemporary business environment

The change management influences consistently the marketing performance of modern organizations. In this respect, it is necessary to take into consideration several that influence the change management and approaches to the implementation of changes in modern organizations. First of all, it should be said that the change management is determined by the consistent changes that take place in business and society. The modern society is the consumerist society that means that the consumption is the primary goal of contemporary people.

Moreover, consumption defines the existing set of values and the major trend that can be easily traced in the modern society is the trend to increase the consumption, while any decrease of consumption inevitably leads to the deterioration of the marketing performance of modern companies and the overall slow-down or recession of the economic development of countries and the world at large.

Furthermore, the consumerism naturally stimulates companies to introduce new products for customers to consume. In such a context, the introduction of changes is essential because it is closely intertwined with the process of the introduction of innovations. The latter, in their turn, define the competitive position of modern organizations in the market. What is meant here is the fact that the ability of an organization to introduce innovations influences its competitive position because the introduction of innovations put them into an advantageous position compared to their competitors. In actuality, the company offering a new product can gain a larger share of the market while its competitors work on the development of similar products or substitutes. As long as there are no competitive products the company can benefit from its monopolistic position in the market. In this respect, the implementation of changes and, therefore, change management is crucial because the efficacy of changes and change management defines the efficacy of innovations and their introduction within an organization.

In addition, it is important to remember about the organizational changes which include the restructuring of organizations, changes in the management style, organizational structure, organizational culture and other aspects of functioning of modern organizations. In other words, internal changes within the organization can affect consistently its marketing performance. For instance, today, the traditional material motivation of employees does not always work efficiently and managers of organizations need to introduce new approaches to motivation in order to stimulate employees work better and more productively. Naturally, in such a situation, the organization needs to introduce changes and managers should be able to implement changes efficiently.

In this respect, the process of change and the change management itself are very complicated. One of the major conditions of the efficient implementation of changes within the organization is the absence of resistance within the organization to the change that is being introduced. Potentially, the resistance to changes from the part of the personnel is one of the major causes of the failure of the efficient introduction of changes. Therefore, change management and models of the implementation of changes are focused on overcoming the potential resistant and opposition to the introduction of changes.  As a result, the introduction of changes and the change management should take into consideration the efficient communication between managers, who introduce the change, and employees in order to avoid possible opposition or resistance to the change. In such a context, communication and interaction between managers and employees becomes crucial for the efficient change management. In addition, the change management implies the ability of managers to maintain the change and enhance its positive effects through empowering employees and motivating them to accept the change and come prepared to further changes. The company-customer relationship is also very important in terms of the change management because changes can affect this relationship, while customers are of the utmost importance to modern companies. In this regard, managers, who introduce the change, should be able to forecast effects of changes on the company-customer relationship. Finally, today, managers should ensure the positive impact of changes on the overall organizational performance that naturally involves all people working within the organization in the process of change. The personnel should accept the change and change their own work respectively to the change.

In such a context, it is obvious that the introduction of changes within the organization need a solid theoretical background and practical recommendations concerning the implementation of changes. In this respect, Kotter’s eight stages model is very important because it provides practical recommendations concerning the implementation of changes within the organization. Remarkably, Kotter provides eight key steps from the preparation of the organization to change to the overall implementation of the change and the preparation of the organization to further changes. Basically, this model mirrors key stages of the change management and, what is more important, it reveals the complexity of relationship between managers and employees since the model pays a particular attention to the introduction of changes based on the minimization of the resistance of the personnel to changes through explanation, promotion and practical implementation of change, when managers are certain that employees will accept the change.

Kotter’s change stages

a. Establishing a greater sense of urgency

According to Kotter, the introduction of the change should start with the establishment of a greater sense of urgency. In this respect, it should be said that Kotter basically meets the general view on the change management which is grounded on the idea of the preparation of the organization to the change before its introduction. In fact, Kotter stresses that the first stage of the change management focuses on the justification of the change or, to put it more precisely, formation the positive view of employees to the change. At this stage, it does not really matter whether employees understand possible effects of the change or its essence. The main point of the first stage is to persuade employees that the introduction of the change is essential for the organization. Managers should form a strong belief that the organization cannot perform efficiently without changes. The main message the manger or leader introducing the change should convey to employees is the idea that the time of the change has come and it is impossible to delay the introduction of the change or preserve status quo.

Furthermore, Kotter stands on the ground that the first stage of the introduction of the change should focus on making employees confident in the necessity of the change. It is not enough to get the acceptance of the change. At this point, Kotter goes beyond a traditional view on the change management. Instead, he insists that the change should be a conscious choice of employees and the manager should use all his or her leadership qualities to persuade employees to take the change seriously. Often, employees underestimate the significance of changes that naturally decreases the efficiency of changes and, what is more, it can put under a threat the overall success of the introduction of the change.

In such a situation, the manager introducing the change should perform the role of  a leader who is able to educate the personnel and to persuade employees that the organization needs the change urgently. At this point, it is worth mentioning the fact that Kotter stresses the importance of the persuasion of employees in the importance of preservation of the positive relationships within the organization and the possible dangerous effects of the preservation of status quo. In such a way, Kotter attempts to steadily lead in the change as a truly urgent act because, on the one hand, Kotter’s first stage implies that the change is needed, while, on the other hand, the delay of the change and preservation of the status quo is likely to have disastrous effects on the overall organizational performance and position of employees within the organization.

b. Creating the guiding coalition

It proves beyond a doubt that a manager, even the most gifted and charismatic one, cannot implement the change successfully, regardless of his or her managerial or leadership qualities. Naturally, a charismatic leader can introduce the change easier compared to a manager who has poor leadership qualities. Nevertheless, it is obvious that, in order to implement the change efficiently a manager needs the support of the personnel. At the same time, a manager cannot embrace absolutely employees at the first stages of the introduction of the change.

Kotter insists that a manager needs to create a guiding coalition, which will not simply help the manager to introduce the change, but which will work on the change and contribute to its practical implementation, while the manager will rather perform the role of a team leader and manager than the main generator of all ideas and practical steps toward the implementation of the change.

Ideally, the introduction of the change should be based on the efficient work of the coalition, which should work as a team of people who are working on the common problem and who work together to find the best solution to this problem. Naturally, the manager or leader can be the initiator of the change, but he or she needs the support of people who share his or her position and support the initiative concerning the introduction of the change. In fact, the main point is to find people who can consolidate the entire organization in order to unite efforts of all employees to implement the change. At the beginning the coalition should elaborate the plan of the change and persuade employees to accept the change. Kotter justifies the creation of the guiding coalition by the high efficiency of the team work in the process of the implementation of the change. What is meant here is the fact that Kotter stands on the ground that the coalition works as a team, where roles are strictly divided and where team members can cooperate efficiently performing their specific functions to carry out the change successfully. In such a situation, it is obvious that such an approach to the change management is highly efficient because the team work is definitely more efficient than the work of an individual manager or leader.

Anyway, the leader does need the team which can implement his or her ideas successfully and, what is more, the team can improve the original idea or plan developed by the leader, while the practical implementation of the change is practically impossible without the creation of such a guiding coalition as suggested by Kotter. At this point, it should be said that Kotter basically meets the traditional view on the change management as a process which involves the interaction between managers and employees and which implies an efficient team work as an essential condition of the successful implementation of the change.

c. Developing a vision and strategy

The development of a vision and strategy of the change is a particularly important stage in Kotter’s model. In fact, Kotter argues that the introduction of the change should be based on certain ideological ground. To put it more precisely, he stresses that a vision of the change should provide employees with the vision of the organization after the implementation of the changes. In this respect, employees need to understand that the overall change that will take place within the organization will have a positive outcome for the organization and for employees as well. The formation of a positive vision is truly crucial because, without it, a manager and a guiding coalition will be unable to persuade employees that the organization does need the change, while the expectation of positive outcomes will motivate employees to introduce the change.

At this point, strategies of the change come into play. In fact, strategies are the ways by means of which the organization is supposed to implement the change and succeed. Kotter lays emphasis on the fact that strategies should make the organization move to the ideal outcome of the change, but it is necessary to point out that many specialists pay a particular attention to the elaboration of the strategy of the change (Schein, 1999). In fact, the strategy of the change is really important because it ensures the practical implementation of the change in accordance to the strategic plan developed by the manager or the team working on the change.

d. Communicating the change vision

According to Kotter, it is the guiding coalition that should shape the vision and strategy of the change. However, the elaboration of the vision of the change is only a half-way to the beginning of its practical implementation because, before implementing the plan and vision of the change using the strategy defined by the coalition, it is necessary to communicate the change vision. To put it more precisely, the guiding coalition should communicate the vision to employees since they will be affected by the change and to gain their support and acceptance of the change, the guiding coalition needs not simply to inform employees about the change but to present the vision of the change in a positive light. In such a way, employees will readily accept the change and they will support it if they expect positive outcomes of the change and its positive effects on their own position within the organization.

At this point, Kotter pays a particular attention to the leader, who, according to the researchers, should coordinate the work of the guiding coalition and employees. In fact, the leader should coordinate the communication between the guiding coalition and employees and, if necessary, prevent conflicts or provide detailed explanations to gain the support of employees. Remarkably, according to Kotter, the guiding coalition should model the behavior expected of employees (Kotter, 1996).

e. Empowering others to act

In fact, the first four stages are rather preparatory stages, before the practical implementation of the change begins, while the fifth stage, empowering others to act, is the practical implementation of the vision of the change developed by the guiding coalition and communicated to employees. In such a way, it is the first step toward the practical implementation of the change. At this stage, managers should eliminate all possible barriers and obstacles that rise on the way to the implementation of the change, while employees should start the practical implementation of the change vision. Kotter stresses that managers should ensure that actions of employees in accordance with the change vision should be rewarded. At the same time, he argues that risk-taking should be encouraged. At this point, many specialists disagree with Kotter because they stand on the ground that the change management should be carefully planned and, what is more, they recommend using risk-avoidance strategies (Wilkins, 1999). However, ideally, it is important to balance risk-taking and the implementation of the change. The risk should be rationally justified because it can bring maximum positive effects to the organization after the implementation of the change.

f. Creating short-term wins

In the course of the implementation of the change, it is extremely important to keep employees motivated to carry on the implementation of the change. At this point, it is worth mentioning the fact that often employees are discouraged to carry on implementing the change when they confront first serious obstacles or problems related to the process of the change implementation. In such a context, Kotter recommends focusing on the creation of short-term wins, which can help managers to keep their employees motivated throughout all the stages of the implementation of the change. The author argues that the implementation of the change should consist of several stages and managers or the guiding coalition should define the short-term goals for employees to achieve. Employees will be motivated to achieve short-terms goals, while the successful accomplishment of either short-term goal will stimulate them to work on the accomplishment of the next one until the change is complete and, thus, the organization meets its overall goal the introduction of the change defined by the leader and the guiding coalition.

g. Consolidating gains and producing even more change

Obviously, managers may face a problem of the necessity of changing the original vision of the change. In this respect, Kotter recommends consolidating gains and producing even more change. What is meant here is the fact that managers, the guiding coalition, should stress the achievements of employees in the course of the implementation of the change. In such a way, they will motivate and encourage employees to work better and harder. At the same time, Kotter recommends rewarding those employees who are particularly successful in the implementation of the change and who are able to modify their actions in accordance with actual needs of the organization and in response to possible changes of the change vision. Thus, it is possible to increase the efficiency of the implementation of the change through employees’ motivation.

 

 

h. Institutionalizing of new approaches in the future

Finally, the implementation of the change is accomplished by the institutionalization of new approaches in the future. This final stage of the change management takes time because it implies that employees do not simply accept the change, but the change has already been accomplished successfully and employees accept new practices, which replace the old culture. In other words, at the final stage, the change becomes an integral part of the organizational culture and employees take it for granted. At this point, Kotter’s view on the change management meets traditional ones since the extent of the integration of the change in the organizational culture is the major criterion of its successful implementation.

Conclusion

Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that the change management is a complicated process which involves a lot of efforts from the part of managers and employees. In fact, the model of the change implementation developed by Kotter may be considered to be quite efficient since it basically meets traditional views on the change management. In this regard, it is important to stress the involvement of the employees in the process of the implementation of the change and the preparatory stage which, to a significant extent, determines the overall success of the implementation of the change.

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