Chapter 7

Change Management

Change in the 21st Century

Change in the 21st Century


We manage change successfully in our lives almost everyday. Some of the change we have experienced have been very positive such as the birth of a child. Other change has left us with deep sorrow or pain such as the death of a loved one. In between such extremes are the daily or yearly changes in work, careers, family dynamics and relationships, seasons, problems with the car, success in our volunteer work and so on.

Our success at work relies, in part, on our ability to manage, accept and grow with the change happening there as well. Change will happen. Some people will resist change or even leave an organization because they disagree or cannot adapt to the change. Some people will accept the change while the change will actually excite others. None of these reactions to change is better than the other. Sometimes resistance to change is a positive reaction to help prevent an organization from making a mistake or creating change for change sake. Sometimes people need to leave an organization when change happens to improve their own careers and to allow the organization to bring in other people more comfortable with the change. Sometimes people get excited by change because they have been waiting a long time for it to happen or because they believe it is the right time and the right way to do something new.

This section will help you deal with change at work and with personal change. The material should help you whether you are a front-line staff, supervisor or a manager in an organization. It aims to build on your change management skills rather than give you a whole new way of doing things. This material is about large, long-term change in your life. This material is not about dealing with the everyday stresses of life.

A dictionary definition of change is "to be or cause to be different". Simply put, anything in your life that is different from before can be called change. The birth of a child, a promotion at work, a vacation, sleeping in, calling a friend long distance, a new boss, going back to school, or writing a letter to the editor of your newspaper may all be changes from your normal day. Managing, or even mastering, that change involves individuals directing, controlling or handling that change to the best of their abilities, skills and knowledge.

The new emphasis on change in the last 10-15 years has happened because it feels like we are going through more change more often than before. This feeling is true because technology and our increasing global economy have made change happen faster. When I wrote my first book 10 years ago I did it on a typewriter. My next book was done on a simple computer. My latest computer has 50 times better memory, and is faster, than my first computer (at half the price). Change is happening more quickly but how we manage that change doesn't have to be different one year to the next.

Most of us need a sense of control over our lives. We have developed ways of managing change from ignoring some of it to looking forward to a new change. How we manage the change often depends on how much control we feel we have over the change or how much pressure we feel to accept change. We need to acquire further skills to help us adapt to change more easily and manage change more effectively.

For some people managing change also implies that you always have control over that change. For other people they believe that they have no control over change and must only accept whatever happens to them. The truth, of course, is in between those extremes. We cannot always control change, especially large scale change at work, in our communities and in the world generally. However, we always have control over how we respond to those changes.

This material is designed to help you discover what your own strengths in managing change have been throughout your life and to offer you some suggestions on how you can improve on those strengths. We will also look at how supervisors, managers and other leaders can help others manage change most effectively in different situations.

Note: Originally we planned to concentrate on managing change at work. In writing the material, however, we discovered it was impossible to separate professional change from personal ones. The skills are mostly the same and require you to be consistent in dealing with any form of change. For this material to be most helpful to you, we suggest that you think of personal examples after we give professional ways of dealing with change. When we give personal examples, think of ways the material applies to your work place.

Exercise #1

Change You Have Already Managed

Everyone has experienced and managed change in the past. Knowing how you have managed change in the past will be an invaluable aid to managing change now and into the future. Your past change has been both positive and negative. For example a wedding is a wonderful change while the loss of a job can be very traumatic. Both are changes and both require you to manage that change in ways that strengthen you, rather than harm you.

The following is a list of different types of change you may have faced and dealt with before. We have divided them into seven categories of personal development. The purpose of looking at these seven categories is to help you find a sense of balance. When one part of your life is experiencing a great deal of change you need to consciously find a balance from some of the other six categories. For example, if you are experiencing a great deal of change at work your natural tendency may be to work extra late and spend less time with family and friends, avoid eating well and exercising. It is vitally important to your long-term health and relationships that you minimize this tendency. It is also important to the change happening at work that you maintain your health and relationships. It is your friends, family, and health that will benefit you in long term. This does not mean that you avoid the changes at work but you find a balance between those changes and the other important areas of your life.

In the "Change" column write down some specific changes you want to look at. Once you have reviewed how you managed those changes write your answers in columns two and three.

Write down specific things that you did to help yourself during this change. It could be anything from researching and preparing for the change (e.g., looking for work the first time), to talking with family and friends for support; from working as part of a workplace team implementing the change, to hanging in there during the rough spots until things improved; from putting the whole experience in a lifelong perspective of what truly is important to you, to accepting periods of uncertainty.

Also write out what things you did that did not help you manage the change as effectively as you could today. This could include such things as complaining about lack of control when in fact you were involved in the change, taking a vacation during a change event so you could avoid the change for as long as possible, or abusing food, alcohol or drugs to "help you get through".

Note: Exercise #1 and #2 in this material are lengthy. They take time to complete because you are dealing with major, long-term change in your life. Such change requires time to think, plan and act to help you manage. You need to write out your answers. If you read the material, think about your answers and write them down, you are more likely to follow through on managing the change in the ways you want to. If you just think about the answers without writing them down you will not see the patterns of your strengths -- you are likely to deal with any present or future change in the same ways that you have in the past. You will continue to do some things naturally that help you and other things that will harm yourself.

Change                                                                                                    What I Did That Helped    What I Did That Did Not Help

Relationships: began dating, established committed relationship

with partner, birth of children, end of relationship, moved to new

home, moved to new town/city, death of a loved one, significant

changes in those close to you.

Physical: improvement or lack of health, disabilities, large weight

gain or loss, athletic abilities (+ or -), growing older, change in

strength (+ or -), enjoyments, disappointments.

Emotional: changes to your self-confidence and self- esteem

(both + and -), improvements in the emotional supports you receive,

changes in mood, disappointments in your supports, how you have

changed in supporting others.

Educational: your learning experiences, continuing education, self-study,

changes that improved or harmed your ability to learn.

Economic: changes in your ability to earn the income you need/want,

periods when you earned less than you needed, periods when you earned

what you needed, lost dreams of winning the lottery, learning about financial

planning, achieving financial security.

Career: your first job, successes and failures at work, career changes, having

or not having the job you want, working beneath or above your abilities, the

challenges you want at work, experiences with mergers, acquisitions, lay offs,

changes in your bosses, multicultural aspects of your work, reorganization,

expanded demands by clients, technological changes.

Spiritual: changes in your views of religion, spiritualism, belief in a creator,

times when your beliefs strengthened or distressed you, the path you want to

see your beliefs and spiritual life take in the next 5-10 years.

Other: changes that did not come up in the above lists e.g., those you experience

with friends, on vacations, doing volunteer work, during periods of inactivity, war

experiences, etc. List them below and write about what helped you and did not help you.

This exercise has taken you some time to complete. Let us make it worth your while!

1.Write out any strategies for dealing with past change that you identified three or more times. These are the skills and strengths that you have already developed naturally to deal with change. Remember to use these for workplace changes and personal changes ahead.

2.Have you identified any successful strategies that you have only used 1 or 2 times? These are skills that you can perhaps use more often in the future to successfully deal with change. Do not forget to use them again.

3.What strategies have you identified to be unsuccessful that you want to avoid in the future? They probably waste your time and drain your energy. They may also be destructive to your physical and emotional health. Choose an alternate method of dealing with this change from the list of successful strategies you wrote in questions 1 and 2.

Helpful hint: If you are in the midst of a lot of change at work, home or with friends right now, post the answers to these questions by your desk, work area, or home refrigerator as constant reminders of what helps, and does not help, in dealing with change. Choose your successful strategies.

Personal Ways to Manage Change

You have already looked at what changes you have managed in the past and what things you did that helped, or did not, help you. This section is the first of three sections on personal, leadership and organizational responses to change. These sections may provide you with other ideas of how to deal with present or future change. Once you have reviewed this material, we suggest you go back to exercise #1 and add any change strategies that you want to try in the near future. Now for some specific suggestions on personal ways to manage change.

Five-Step Process

Change is generally a five-step process from beginning to end:

Expect1. You should expect change to happen because it will.

Recognize2. You need to recognize when a change happens so that you can begin to deal with it.

Feel3. You will experience the feelings of sadness or joy; grief or acceptance that change brings with it. Some change is so forceful and dramatic that you need months or years to accept it (e.g., the death of a loved one). Other changes are less forceful and you need less time to experience those feelings and accept the new situation.

Plan4. Plan ahead for change. In learning self-defense, for example, students imagine possible situations and plan how they will defend themselves. It is the same when planning for work change. What will you do if you are promoted, left in the same job for 10 years or laid off? In your personal life, what will you do if you find the partner of your dreams or if you become suddenly ill?

Planning is not about fearing the worst will happen to you every day. Planning is about expecting and preparing for change in your life. Planning does not prevent step 3 (feeling a whole range of emotions) but it may reduce some, or all, of the fear or panic that may accompany those feelings.

Act5. When necessary, act on your plans. Do what you have planned to help you manage positive and negative change as best you can under the circumstances.

Life-Long Learning

Recognize that all of your knowledge and skills need continual improvements, revisions and, sometimes, even not using them any more. For example, as much as you enjoy using a slide-rule or manual typewriter, for speed and efficiency sake you may need to use calculators and word processors instead.

Life-long learning also means that you need to develop your learning skills so that you can learn new knowledge and skills quickly and effectively. This may mean, depending on your job and interests, taking notes better, speed reading, better communication and writing skills, study skills, researching skills and presenting or teaching your new knowledge and skills to others.

I think if you want to stay competitive in today’s market, you must plan for several careers, make yourself diversely skilled while developing several areas of related expertise. I think we lack imagination in how to do this because we think we have to do it in concentrated timeframes and do it brilliantly while working and tending to family and friends. It is possible to do it all if you are careful with yourself and your expectations. I believe that slow and steady wins the race. Balance and pace is essential.

Michèle Chaban


Recognize the various elements of your life: family and friends, physical, emotional, educational, economic, career/work and spiritual/faith and see which elements at present are taking more energy and effort than the others. How can you re-balance the other elements in your life to deal with the stressful change you are feeling in one or several parts of your life. For example, if work is demanding a great deal of energy and you feel very stressed, how can your family and friends, other emotional supports and perhaps your spirituality and faith provide you with the balance, loving support and perspective you need to overcome this period of career stress?


Since change is a constant in your life, how is the present change relative in importance to others you have faced before (your past experience) and relative in importance to other changes you expect to face in the future (future experience)? Is the situation you presently face likely to remain a vivid memory for you in the years to come or is it more a disturbing, energy-draining nuisance or annoyance that is soon forgotten for more important things? Can the situation you now face, regardless of how important it feels today, be re-worded in your mind to give it a more realistic place in your life's history and, therefore, reduce its perceived power to make you feel physically and/or emotionally hurt? For example, can losing a job you do not particularly enjoy today be re-worded in your mind to an opportunity to find a job you truly enjoy? How long do you reasonably think it will take to turn such a difficult situation into a situation that demands your positive energies and sense of hope for the future? For a quick insight, answer the following questions.

In 5-10 years from now, how would you like to describe a difficult period in your life to other people? If you do not think you will discuss it in 5-10 years, how much energy should you put into it now?

How would you like to describe it to yourself?

What do you need to do now to make that future description possible?

Leave the Situation

Often people remain in work or social positions that cause immense stress because they fear the unknown of leaving, because of economic reasons and because of their belief that they cannot find work or friends elsewhere. As difficult as it is to leave a harmful or stagnant situation, it is sometimes necessary to do so.

Most of us will experience a time in our lives when it is better to leave a situation than to stay. It is always difficult to know when it is better to "stick out" a situation to see if it gets better or to leave. There are several things you can do to prepare yourself for just such a situation:

Personal Limits

Make sure you are clear about your values, beliefs and interests and how you will know if the situation has changed enough for you to leave. If you know where your line of no return is around your values, you will diminish the power of influence that others may have over you during times of intense and personally harmful change. For example, if you have strong views about how people should be treated at work by their bosses and you know that the change being proposed and implemented will dramatically change this and you are not able to influence the change for the better, you may have to leave. You may also have upper limits. These limits tell you the level of challenge and excitement you need. If you remain stagnant in a job for too long, it is also harmful.

Financial Expertise

Begin as early as possible to do financial planning so that the hard-earned money you make is well used and invested. This way, you do not have to stay in a job that is harmful to you. You should have at least three to six months of expenses saved so that you will always have enough money to continue to live as you do now while you look at other options. Read some books at your public library about how you can save on insurance costs, extended warranties, credit cards, purchases, mortgages and more so that you can find more money to save without having to earn more income or give up all the things you enjoy doing.


Keep contacts with people in other organizations who can help you find the type of job or situations you want to move to. Relationships are more important than money so nourish them well and often.


Perhaps one of the most immediately practical methods of dealing with unwanted change is to find the humor in the situation. This is not always easy but people in the most difficult situations imaginable (e.g., war, prisons, after major emotional traumas such as a death in the family) have used humor to lighten the load if only for a few minutes. Humor provides perspective and an energy release. Good, loud belly laughing for 15 minutes is like meditating for 5-6 hours. After a good belly laugh your blood pressure, heart rate and breathing decrease and produce a calming effect.


Many people believe and social sciences research has shown that the most valuable thing you can have in your life is relationships with people who love, respect and support you. These people can be loved ones, friends, colleagues or people you know through volunteer work or socializing. These people can offer you support, guidance and a different perspective. Ask them for help and offer to give it back in return.

Areas of Control

In any change experience there are several areas of control. Discover which area you are in. This will help you choose which strategy for managing the change might be most helpful in this specific situation.

Area 1: You have total control over the change so you put the most energy into making it work.

Area 2: You have influence over how the change will happen but the decision is up to someone else.

Area 3: You are asked to give your input (i.e. ideas, opinions) but you do not have much real influence and someone else makes the decision.

Area 4: The decision to change is made without your involvement. You are expected to carry out the change. You have control over how you react to the change but not over the change itself.

Obviously, in Area 1, you have the most control over change while in Area 4 you have none. Your level of control and influence will help you decide how much energy and effort you want to use to affect how the change will be decided on and carried out. Also, the more involved you are in the change the more likely you are to accept the change and even get excited about it.

A hospital merger is beyond your control (Area 4), but the ways in which you work with your colleagues from the new hospital is something over which you can have some control (Area2, 3). Your own reactions to the merger are almost always under your control (Area 1).

Preparing and Helping Others Manage Change

In this section we will focus on managers and supervisors helping other people to deal with change. You can easily adapt the skills and examples to show you how to help loved ones, friends and colleagues deal with personal change as well.

For many years managers and supervisors were expected to lead their staff in the day-to-day operation of a department or organization. They were expected to schedule work time, delegate work fairly among the staff, hire and fire people, and maintain discipline.

In the 1970s and 1980s there were many new theories about effective management including such programs as management by walking around, managing by objectives, and strategic planning models, including total quality management or continuous quality improvement. At the same time, there was also the increased profile of managing change within organizations. The 1980s and the 1990s have seen revolutionary changes in how organizations do health care facility/team locally, nationally and internationally. The emphasis on heavy manufacturing (steel, cars and trucks) has been somewhat replaced by an increased emphasis on telecommunications and service industries (computers, telephone, television and satellite developments, health care).

These developments have fundamentally changed how we do health care facility/team and with whom. Politically, we have seen Europe unite, the old Soviet Union divide itself into many different countries (and markets) and the movement away from superpower diplomacy to United Nations negotiations.

For people at middle and upper management, these changes have forced dramatic changes in how they manage people. Organizations have changed the way they work because of technology and increased public demands for products and services. Front line staff are being expected to participate more actively in many of their organizations rather than just doing repetitive tasks. Managers and supervisors are expected to do all the things they used to do. They are also expected to prepare their staff for changes in why they do things (their mission or purpose), how they do them (often less staff and more technology), who they do it for (expanding or shrinking markets locally, nationally and internationally), and how they will be evaluated for their results (quality control, client service).

Many people hesitate to accept change because they have experienced change before that has either failed (change for change sake) or harmed them (lay off, friends fired). Managers and supervisors have to deal with such resistance with acknowledgement and support for the healthy expression of emotions, open, honest and concise communication and planning that will prepare their staff for change, help them implement that change and finally help them evaluate the results before moving on to further change.

The following suggestions are some ways you can help others deal with change in the workplace.


Effective change in any area of an organization or in a whole organization depends, almost completely, on the trust that staff and front-line managers have in each other. Since effective change involves so much support and communication before, during and after the change, if there is no trust then the communication will not be trusted either. If past history within a department includes mistrust between managers and staff, then it is vitally important that a new working relationship begin by the manager taking full responsibility to ensuring a new level of staff trust.

Note: Effective change as defined above does not prevent other types of change from happening. In fact, change is often begun without a lot of effective support and communication. The change happens and may even be a great success. What is different is that people could have been excited or more accepting of the change much earlier on in the process.


All change, no matter how well planned, involves an amount of uncertainty. No one will have all the facts and not everyone will receive all the information they need to begin making changes at work. Recognizing this fact will allow managers and supervisors to begin changes based on the information they have now. Staff will understand and accept that there will always be some uncertainty as long as they believe that their supervisor or manager is not holding back information purposefully.

Types of Change

People need their supervisors and managers to be clear about the amount of change they can expect. If the change is a switch over in technology the change can be fairly predictable. If the change is a reorganization of the whole organization the staff will need to know this and will need constant help in adapting to the day-to-day changes that will occur.


Change in the 1990s has often been presented to staff and managers as a wonderful opportunity. In the 1970s and 1980s change was often presented as a learning experience. Both of these terms (opportunity and learning experience) are short forms for "you are probably not going to like this". In fact, these terms have been so over used that they are best not used unless there is real opportunity for positive outcome What people often experience has been the opposite of an opportunity --change has meant more work for less reward or recognition. An honest acknowledgement and support of the losses that come with change is a step that is often missing from the current change process in large organizations Staff need time to grieve and express their feelings in helpful ways.

Change can, in fact, be a wonderful opportunity to do new things, add new knowledge and skills, and develop better products or services to clients and clients. It will be seen as an opportunity if upper and middle management can demonstrate in honest, concrete ways what the benefits of this change opportunity can be. If the change truly does not have many benefits for staff, then telling them so honestly will build trust for the next change in the organization where there may very well be real benefits. Never lose trust for short-term gain. Successful change management involves a long-term approach to satisfying the needs of staff, managers and clients.

When I was a kid my Dad and I would go to the park. We often played catch. Playing ball was fun and in retrospect I learned a lot about psychology from my Dad during those occasions. He was a tall man and no matter how poorly I threw the ball to him, he seemed to catch it by stretching his arms out widely or reaching high over his head. He usually said, “nice throw!” even if it was way off. He took those opportunities to build my confidence and as a result, I became a pretty good ball player or at least an enthusiastic one. Years later, I did the same sort of thing with my own children, praising them for activities that approximated success. Like my Dad, I frequently took the opportunity whenever it arose to reinforce behaviors associated with self-esteem.

Not too long ago, I participated in a performance appraisal where for the first time in many years it was my own performance being reviewed. It was a superb meeting in which discussion of contributions and strengths predominated and I felt more than validated. In two particular areas, it was noted that I could bolster my knowledge by taking the opportunity to attend an upcoming conference. I readily agreed with that observation and recommendation and left the appraisal session feeling great. A few days later, I received the report outlining highlights of the appraisal for my signature. I was taken aback to read that of nine key performance areas, seven were noted as strengths and two identified as opportunities for improvement. I had left that session believing those identified opportunities had referred to attending a conference as a “reward” or “taking time off to do something enriching for myself”. I now felt that I had dropped the ball. Ever since, I have occasionally puzzled over the use of the word opportunity and wondered when had its meaning been changed to include a deficit.

Larry Lewis


People need their supervisors and managers to be honest about how much the change will disrupt their work, how long before all the difficulties are worked out, what the costs are and what will happen to sort out the inevitable day-to-day problems of going through the change.


We have stressed the importance of communicating as much as possible about the change before, during and after the change. What is just as important from a middle management and staff perspective is what is not communicated about the change. People will begin with their own assumptions about the change and will gossip about what they believe has not been communicated. Change processes are full of gossip between the participants when they have insufficient information or trust about the change. Only honest, open communication can diminish the negative effects of rumors being spread. You can never stop people spreading rumors based on their fears, limited information or personal perspectives but you can help limit gossip and rumors through constant and consistent communication.

Communication must be two-way so that middle managers and staff can ask questions of those primarily responsible for the change.

Communication must also be sensitive to the cultural and literacy needs and concerns of managers and staff.

Presenting Change at a Meeting

Communication and trust are the primary sources of successful change. Often major change is discussed or presented at meetings. Many of the suggestions listed above and in the section on "Organizational Change" highlight what needs to be done. The most important steps are telling people: where their area, department and/or organization is now, what needs to change for continued success (in detail), and how that change will affect individuals in the organization as well as the clients it serves. Following this presentation of information, ask for comments, questions and concerns from the participants. If the details of the change have not been decided on, ask them for their help in deciding what practical changes must be done, by whom, by when and how. Listen to their feelings as well as to their ideas. If appropriate, tell them how you are feeling (both the enthusiasm for successful change as well as any resistance to change you might feel).

Start Small

If change in the organization has occurred with limited success in the past it is best to begin with small, quick changes that guarantee some success and publicize the success widely. Building on success makes future change that much easier to prepare for and achieve.

Long-Term View

The long-term view of change recognizes those elements of change that you have some control over. Most often, change is necessary because client/client needs have changed, the competition has changed the working environment or because an organization has decided to fundamentally restructure its work. In these cases, middle managers and staff need to examine the following:

1.What aspects of the change are controlled by others, e.g., the executive, our competitors, the global marketplace, our clients, or our suppliers?

2.What aspects of the change can we negotiate with other people. For example, are there aspects of the change such as deadlines, responsibilities or costs that are negotiable without affecting the final results?

3.What aspects of the change do I have control over? For example, do I, as a leader, have control over how we implement the change within the given time deadlines? This question is valid for middle managers, front-line supervisors and staff.

Common Errors

End Users

Failing to take into account the needs of the end users of change often leads to them rejecting or compromising that change to suit themselves. End users may be clients, patients or families other areas within your organization, suppliers, the community or specific people within your own area. For example, health care systems are constantly making radical change to the way care and services are delivered. Despite lip service to the contrary, there is little or no involvement of health care consumers in this change process.


Failing to identify all the people who should be involved in making the change happen isolates them and makes them more defensive than they might otherwise be. You cannot always include everyone in the decision making process for change but you can always keep them informed. This communication may help reduce resistance to change.


Delegating too much of the responsibility without sufficient authority or not delegating enough to keep the expected success for yourself is dangerous. For example, delegating a project that will cause significant change to a department, or to a supervisor, without giving them authority to deal with the inevitable extra costs in their budgets, or their staff overtime needs, will lead to failure and resentment.

Short vs. Long-Term View

Concentrating on only short-term achievements and costs without looking at long-term consequences can be a big mistake. For example, bringing in new technology without recognizing that industry standards are changing to another technology next year is a common, costly mistake.


Only including technology costs and avoiding human resource costs in overtime, lay offs or increased work force, and/or community public relations costs will lead to unrealistic financial statements.

Evaluating Results

Concentrating on preparation and implementing change without careful and detailed evaluation of the results (both positive and negative) creates a loop of errors that is rarely identified until it is too late or too costly to correct. Much of the change currently under way in health care has little system evaluation in place.

Ignoring Criticism

People who attempt to bring realistic and critical appraisal to the change process are often unfairly labeled as “having a problem”, being “negative” or “old fashioned”. These judgments are not only hurtful but they also close the door to effective input and make the process of change appear dishonest and closed in nature. It says, “one must speak the party line or not speak at all”.

Ignoring genuine criticism has led to enormous financial, human resource, and public relations costs. People at the front-line of any organization have realistic concerns about change that must be addressed. Managers and staff with a long history at an organization can be especially helpful in reminding others about change that happened in the past that failed. Their historical perspective may not be entirely accurate any more but that history needs to be included in the decision-making process to avoid repeat failures and certainly to bring about the commitment of long-service employees.

I think a major part of the difficulty in organizational downsizing is that what is “sold” to employees as change, is in reality, loss. The attendant grief, sadness and demoralization of staff is never dealt with. Rather they are labeled as people who cannot deal with change. Change itself can be exciting. Loss, stress and worry wrapped in the all-encompassing label of change can be a source of great concern. Mangers need to deal with the losses that people experience.

Elizabeth Latimer

Write out some clear, concrete examples of how you as a manager, supervisor or staff person, can put any three of the above suggestions into use. For the suggestion "Consequences", for example, how can you help others understand the real consequences of the change in their everyday work situations? (Some suggestions might be to brainstorm at a staff meeting, write clear, concise memos, discuss staff fears openly and honestly, and clarify your purpose.)

Resistance to Change

People have various reasons for resisting change. Resistance can be both a positive or negative reaction to change. To effectively manage change you must know whether your own resistance, or that of others, include legitimate concerns that need immediate attention. Some change needs to be resisted for legal, ethical, economic or personal reasons. You also need to constructively react to resistance when it is based on an unwillingness to change, a fear of change or lack of sufficient information. The following list is only a few examples of why people may resist change.

Some people naturally hesitate to change their behavior or work methods.

I naturally resist change because I am uncomfortable doing things differently. For example, if it were left up to me, I would never change the position of furniture in my home. I feel real comfort knowing that everything is where it should be! On the first day of school for 12 years in a row I got physically ill at the thought of changing from summer time to school again. By the 13th year I finally figured out how to avoid it. I adapt slowly but when I catch on it works for life. Recognize that change is naturally more difficult for some people than for others and that there is nothing wrong with this.

Harry van Bommel

Some people honestly believe that the present way of doing things is correct and they might be right. You need to listen to people who are convinced that the status quo is better. Find out if they have a good point or if they just dislike change. Listen, without judgment, to make sure you take the opportunity to avoid costly errors in changing something that should not be changed.

Some people believe that change is often done for change sake or because a new manager or boss wants to do things the way they are used to. The end product or service is often not affected. What is affected is the process for doing the work. People may see this kind of change as unnecessary and, therefore, an invalid reason for them to commit to yet another change. This resistance is a common experience for many people who have been in an organization for a long time and who have seen change for change sake. They resist this change in the belief that it will never work or because they believe their new boss will only be around for a few years and they can wait them out. Is their belief correct? If not, communicate more clearly and more often why they are wrong in this case.

Others resist because their cultural, gender or literacy concerns and needs are not addressed in the change. This can come from a lack of communication about change with these sensitivities in mind or because the lack of communication reflects an organizational bias towards a certain group. Other people may have grown up with so much, or so little, change in their lives that this is a new, unfamiliar experience for them. For example, someone brought up in a military family has moved homes and schools every few years. They may actually crave constant change or would prefer some stability in their lives right now. If you recognize this need you can help them manage the change more practically.

Some people fear a loss of identity within their department or organization as a result of change. This fear may be translated into a fear of losing their job, their prestige, their recognized expertise, their power ("turf") or their expectations of future job promotion.

So what can leaders and organizations do to manage change in ways that minimize resistance and effectively deal with any lingering resistance? To minimize resistance one needs to follow many of the suggestions in the previous sections of this material. You must also discover if the resistance to change is valid and, therefore, you need to adapt your own views and decisions rather than implement the change. Once you have done your best to identify the validity of the resistance and minimize the rest, you must deal with whatever resistance remains. Some suggestions:

Understand Why

First you must understand why people are still resisting change. Look at some of the examples above for help. Many forms of resistance come from fear, grief or loss and show up as visible anger, anxiety, depression, revenge, not doing their work or doing it badly, trying to hide away in their own areas of expertise, or trying to sabotage the work. If the fears can be accurately identified and discussed then you have an opportunity to change someone's resistance into active support for your plans. Have a genuine negotiation with them to identify, and reduce, the underlying reason for their resistance.

Saving Face

During periods of great change people may say and commit themselves to certain actions. It is important for people not to "lose face" with their colleagues, families and other employees. Downsizing and restructuring in health care is creating role loss in many experienced leaders and a sense that they have been “demoted” although they remain in the organization. Organizations need to articulate and channel the skill set of these people so that their pain and sense of loss is minimized. Diplomacy is the skill required here to allow people to change their views and actions without appearing foolish, defeated or petty. These people, in fact, can become your greatest champions of change if they are given responsibilities to show their strengths and abilities and if their contributions are recognized.

People Need to Leave

In any major change there will be people who will choose to leave, or must be asked to leave, so that the change can go ahead successfully. This most dramatic, and traumatic, method of dealing with resistance will create a storm of rumors and gossip unless prevented by clear communication about what is actually happening. People who must leave must not be seen necessarily as bad employees. An honest difference of strong opinions is not the same thing as people being labeled "trouble makers". It means that under these new circumstances, these employees are not able or willing to change their professional behaviors to make the changes necessary for success. In progressive organizations these people are identified, given an opportunity to change and if unsuccessful, provided the career counseling and support they may need to find employment elsewhere.

Informal Discussions

Another strategy to deal with resistance is to meet in an informal way (e.g., over coffee and a donut, in small groups) to:

1.Talk about old ways of doing things and how they will be missed.

2.Allow people to express their fears, sadness, grief, anger, worries, family concerns with change, etc. Listen actively to what they have to say before you comment or judge their responses and feelings. Allow people to respond to each other, rather than you taking sole responsibility for commenting.

3.Explain how many of the powerful feelings of uncertainty by individuals, their family and friends are natural during change. Give them tips on how to manage some of those feelings (described earlier in this unit) and how their efforts can help make the transition from the old ways to the new ways successful.

4.If possible, end with a positive comment about the coming change and, if appropriate, plan to meet again to review any difficulties and any successes. However, if the change is devastating, for example, downsizing and job loss, do not cloak it in pat phrases with a positive tone.

Exercise #2

Present and Future Change

In exercise #1 you looked at what change you have already managed and what things you did that helped, or did not help, you manage those changes. What present or future change do you think you must manage in your same seven categories of self-development: family, physical, emotional, educational, economic, career, spiritual? What things have you done in the past with success that will help you in the present and future? What things will you avoid doing to minimize any harm that these changes may have on you?

To help you answer some of these questions let's look at the five main steps to change: expect it, recognize it, feel your emotions, plan and act upon your plan. Concentrate on either work or personal changes. This will help you avoid confusion about which strategies will work where. You can also use the following exercise to help you help other people dealing with personal or professional changes.

5-Step Process                                                                        What I Can Do To Help        What I Should Not Do

1. Expecting change -- What kinds of changes do I

    expect and what resistance do I expect from myself?

2. Recognizing change -- How will I recognize change

    and any personal resistance?

3. Feel emotions -- How will I allow myself to feel positive

    or negative emotion around this change? Who can I talk

    to for support?

4. Plan -- How will I plan for these expected changes and

    for my expected resistance?

5. Act-- How will I act on my plan to benefit myself, those

    close to me, and others involved in the change?

6. Other -- Which of my strengths and weaknesses from

    exercise #1 should I pay special attention to during this

    specific change?

Organizational Change

Organizations have different ways of dealing with change. Change happens whether an organization does it well or not so well. This section highlights several ways of dealing with change with an obvious bias towards the second way. This section is not intended to criticize an organization's methods of changing but to suggest some of the benefits and consequences of doing it in different ways. Managers, supervisors and staff will use the following information best when they apply the most appropriate strategies in those areas where they have some control over the change, or at the very least, significant influence. (Remember the areas of control discussion earlier.)

If you have little or no influence or control, then you can use this information as a tool to understand the process you are going through. This may help you to expect change that is coming, recognize it when it happens, feel the emotions this brings out in you, plan your own response(s), and act accordingly.

Organizations have two basic ways of dealing with change: directed change or planned change. There is a third way when organizations say they are using planned change but actually design and carry out directed change. These organizations pay lip service to techniques of communicating change openly and honestly but are still stuck (often without realizing it) in the directed method of making decisions at the top of the organization without involving middle managers and staff. This third method usually leads to long-term resistance and feelings of mistrust.

Ethics in Organizations

Unfortunately, much of organizational change is not handled in an ethical way. This has created a climate of disillusionment in our society regarding corporate structures. This may be avoidable if organizations could seriously embrace the need to do health care facility/team with staff, clients, patients and families in an ethical way.

Therefore, it is of great value for organizations to examine how they do health care facility/team and if their policies and practices are ethical. For example,

The mission statement must match practice. The disgraceful (but all too common) practice of walking staff to the door when their positions are eliminated is not consistent with an organization that says it values people.

A spirit of openness relies upon mutual trust and respect. This must be the way of doing health care facility/team and must also be modeled by senior executive and managers. It is unethical to say one thing and do another.

A code of ethics is not something to develop and have in place. It is something to guide practice and something in which the organization should take pride.

Ethical practice depends on ethical people who hold certain beliefs and values and live by them.

The ethics meetings are extraordinary. It is an interdisciplinary group of managers and staff members chaired by a physician. An external participant from a university with a background in ethics/philosophy provides support. We meet on a monthly basis to review policies and research proposals that have already gone through the methodological committee (the scientific group) and to look at any possible ethical impact and required education. A lot of education is needed for the group itself and to raise the level of understanding of everyday ethical issues for the hospital staff.

Larry Lewis

Directed Change

The directed way to change usually divides change into the roles of upper management, middle management and front-line staff. This authoritarian style of managing organizational change often results in people disliking the process of change even if they like the end results. The directed way to change may be necessary when time limits are short or when visionary leaders believe a new way must be tried first before staff will support and understand the benefits.

Upper management (executive) make decisions based on their personal ideas, what they think public demand is asking for, what the competition is doing, on the advice of outside consultants, and the ideas of a selected group of middle managers who are trusted by the upper management. The risk here is that executives may be isolated from the ideas, needs and wants of their middle managers and staff who deal directly with the clients. The executive may also view their middle managers and staff with some contempt because they believe that the managers and staff are resistant to change, defensive about working differently and ungrateful for all the hard decisions and efforts made by the executive. Staff and middle managers may have a similar defensiveness when they talk about the executive.

Middle managers are caught in the middle between their staff (and perhaps front-line supervisors) and their own bosses in the executive. They are told to make changes without, perhaps, having enough information and authority to make it work. They feel cheated out of the decision making process as if their front-line experience is irrelevant. Their own staff may believe that the manager is withholding information and further changes from them and they resent this division.

The front-line staff ends up having to implement the change often without information, supports or a good rationale for why the change was necessary. The veteran staff members have seen change before and either adapt quickly or resist quietly and definitely because they believe that this change will only last a short while before the next one. These veteran staff members have lost faith in their leadership (especially if the leadership changes regularly) and do the minimum in their work to get by. The newer staff members may feel resentful that they were not consulted before the changes were announced. They have learned to expect, through their education and the media, that front-line staff are supposed to have more say in the operation of an organization. They have also been told that organizations are supposed to share in the responsibilities and profits of change with their staff. When they find out that all of their ideas about what changing organizations should be like are false in their own case, they become argumentative, defensive or anxious at their work.

Without visionary and practical leaders, change in such a directed way is often very painful, ineffective and destructive in the short term. In the long-term, though, many organizations end up with effective change because their pattern of change in this directed way is consistent. People dislike the process and some even leave the organization because of it. However, at the end of the process, change is in place and may be accepted as the best solution to the original problem or opportunity.

Planned Change

In planned change there is greater emphasis put on the planning of change rather than the directing of change within an organization. All the people involved with the change from staff, middle managers, the upper management, clients, and the local community is involved in deciding what change is necessary.

The upper management is still ultimately responsible for the overall change within the organization but it does not begin with a pre-conceived idea of what the change must look like before getting other people's ideas.

Successful change in a specific department or area or in the whole organization involves several well thought out steps. These steps follow the old method of who, what, where, when, why and how. In the Action Plan following this section you will use much of the following information to help you identify what is necessary to plan the change effectively. At each step along the way there is a need to allow managers and staff a chance to give their thoughts and even negotiate their strongly held views with others.


People need to know why the change is necessary and necessary now. People have experienced much change in their work lives that had little reason to it or long-term planning involved. They have experienced this change most often when a new manager or President comes to the organization and wants to do things differently.

Organizations must help people to understand where the department or organization is now before accepting that change is necessary. Once people know where they are and where the organization needs to be in future to meet changing needs, the managers and staff can provide useful information and ideas to help make the necessary changes effectively, timely and with minimum disturbance.

Before change is begun the organization must also examine the barriers to the change (demographics, number of people affected and their various backgrounds, communication methods in the organization, policies and procedures, programs and services).

Who is Involved

The People

Get people at all levels within the organization or department involved in deciding what change is necessary. You can get their ideas through meetings, questionnaires and surveys, open forums and one-to-one conversations. Give them enough time to think about alternatives and recommendations rather than giving them all the information in a one-hour meeting and asking for their ideas before they leave the room. Change led by the executive, without help from others in the organization, may result in long-term change but at a cost of a short-term decrease in staff and management morale and effectiveness.

The Leader

Whoever leads this change must have the trust and respect of the people involved. If the department or organizational leader lacks that kind of trust, encourage a specially appointed or elected leader to take control over this particular change process. This person may come from within the department or from an earlier task force or team where they showed an ability to get people actively involved in a change project. Note: As I wrote earlier, change can happen (and often does happen) without a trusted leader. For the best short and long-term results, however, a trusted leader is necessary.

Managers and Supervisors

The people who actually achieve the change will be the managers and supervisors working with their staff. Some of them will need support from their own supervisors to help manage this change effectively. They may manage the change by forming teams of managers and supervisors from the different areas or departments involved or act alone within their own area of responsibility. These managers, supervisors and staff will have to implement the change, handle the day-to-day problems that come up, and make sure that the end result is what is wanted.


Once you have decided on the change, its purpose and given people an opportunity to get involved in making the overall decisions, you need to give them specific information about what is required before, during and after the change to ensure its success. The "what" can be specific new guidelines, policies, technology change, corporate restructuring, etc.

The "what" is often divided into short and long-term goals (general results expected) and objectives (specific methods for achieving and evaluating goals).


People need realistic and achievable deadlines to go through a change process. They need to know who will be responsible for what part of the change and when they have to be ready.

The "when" also represents the time of transition. This is the movement from the understood past (a personal ending for people), to an uncertain future. People, especially in the North American culture, are uncomfortable with periods of transition when things move from one point to another without clear points of reference. While other cultures sometimes embrace uncertainty as times of great creativity, the North American culture often feels the need to get through these transitions as quickly as possible. Recognize which view of transitions your organization, your colleagues and others hold and help them identify their comfort or discomfort.


Knowing where the change must take place encourages managers and staff to go beyond the obvious. A change in one area may affect other areas and departments, other clients and even the local community.


The "how" is the coordinated plan. This action plan for change looks at the who, what, where, when and why and puts it together in a step-by-step plan identifying who will do what, where and by when.


When change is successful it is important to thank the people who have made it successful. Too often this last step is forgotten or only the executive and/or a hand-full of token leaders are thanked. Since change is never ending it is important for people to feel appreciated for their efforts so that the next time a major change is presented they understand that their efforts and ideas matter to the organization.

Success needs to be celebrated publicly, often and genuinely. People who have learned new skills, helped solve problems arising from change, and those who unofficially led within their peer groups must be acknowledged for their efforts. This recognition can include letters of praise from the executive to be included in their personnel records, certificates of accomplishment which are prized within an organization, one-time bonuses or special events to which these people's families can be invited to share in their loved ones' successes.

It is important to have an accurate assessment of the overall morale of the staff within the organization before determining how to celebrate the success. Ill-timed celebration will further add to the belief that senior management are out of touch with the needs of the organization.

The Unspoken Third Method

As we mentioned before, there is actually a third method of dealing with organizational change. In this method an organization says it is using the planned method of change but, in fact, is using directed change. In this type of organization, the leadership actually says the rights things and goes through some of the motions of asking for ideas from staff, middle managers, clients and the community but in fact has already decided what to do, how to do it, when it will be done, and how it will be evaluated (if at all). This type of organizational change is the most demoralizing because high expectations are set and not carried through. People may be resistant to change in an organization that traditionally uses directed change but it is predictable and expected and does not pretend to be anything else. When staff and managers expect planned change, participate in meetings and forums to help design that change, and later find out that the upper management never expected to actually use their ideas, they feel like they have wasted their time and misplaced their trust in the organization.

Unfortunately, this third method of change is more common that any of us would like to see. People going through such a process must concentrate on their areas of control described earlier in this material.

Area 1: You have total control over the change so you put the most energy into making it work.

Area 2: You have influence over how the change will happen but the decision is up to someone else.

Area 3: You are asked to give your input (i.e. ideas, opinions) but you do not have much real influence and someone else makes the decision.

Area 4: The decision to make a change is made without your involvement. You are expected to carry out the change. You always have control over how you will react to the change but not over the change itself.

Even when this third method of change management is used, there will be aspects of the change that you may have total control over. Others may decide what change will take place but you may have control over how it is implemented.

Other aspects of the change may allow you an opportunity to influence how the change will be implemented although you will not have control over that process. Your influence or suggestions may, and may not, significantly impact how the change is carried out in your area.

Much of the change in such an organization, however, falls in Area 4 where you have no control. In such a situation you need to examine some of the strategies described earlier in this material. You need to decide how much effort and energy you are going to put into this change process. You might find that you strongly agree with the suggested changes and actively work to make it successful. Again, the third method may result in long-term successful change but certainly at a short-term cost of mistrust and decreased productivity. The long-term effects of the third method have yet to be assessed. It would seem that many employees in large organizations are experiencing dramatic change in their attitudes towards work based largely on what they see as a loss of faith in the way their organization does health care facility/team.

You might decide that the change is wrong for your own reasons and decide that you will leave that area or job. There are no easy answers in such a situation. You must decide for yourself how these changes that you have no control over fit in with your balanced view of family life, and the physical, emotional, spiritual, career, educational, and economic aspects of your life.

Exercise #3

Action Plan

In the five-step process of change (expect, recognize, feel the emotions, plan and act), steps 4 and 5 are about planning and acting on those plans. Following a plan of action to design, implement and evaluate change is critical to its success. It cannot be done easily on a few sheets of paper, so rather than provide a form to fill in for this exercise, please use separate sheets of paper or a word processor to prepare a sketch of a change event you are presently working on. You will need a lot of time and space to write out your answers to the following list of questions and ideas.

Note: The Action Plan format suggested at the end of this exercise is just one way of writing out an action plan. However, using an action plan format is the how stage of planning. You need to, first of all, answer the why, who, what, when and where before you even begin to think of an action plan. The action plan is used after you have identified the specific "what" items that need to be done by different people within a certain deadline. When you get that far into your planning you can use whatever variation of the standard action planning form presented in this Exercise you like.

If you are front-line staff and not directly involved in the decision-making process you can still use parts of this exercise to find out the why for this change (as best you can). You can ask questions to find out how the decisions will be implemented and how it will affect your work. You can ask your peers, your boss, union leaders, etc. You can also go back to Exercise 2 and use that format to prepare yourself for the coming change.

If you are middle managers and not involved in the decision-making process you can also find out the why, what, how and by when. How the change will be implemented will have the most impact on your area so this may be an opportunity to get your staff to feel involved in how to carry out the change even if they (and you) were not involved in making the decisions about change. Again, exercise 2 may help you prepare yourself better for the change ahead.

To repeat, before you can begin to write out a specific action plan you must spend time writing out the answers to the following questions and ideas.

1.Begin by getting the answers to why this change is necessary now and what other alternatives can be looked at.

The organization must then identify the barriers to the change (demographics, number of people affected and their various backgrounds, communication methods in the organization, policies and procedures, programs and services).

People also need to understand where the department or organization is now, before accepting that change is necessary. Outline where the department or organization is now and where the organization needs to be in future to meet changing needs. Managers and staff can provide useful information and ideas to help make the necessary changes effectively, timely and with the minimum disturbance.

2.Once the "why" is answered you can begin the rest of the research. You need to address the following points to make sure your ideas and plan are possible in the present organizational climate and circumstances. Remember to get input from all stakeholders (managers, staff, clients, community, service providers, etc.), as much as possible, for each point. Go back over the more detailed information in the previous section to make sure you do not miss anything. Once that is complete, answer the following:

Who are the people involved? Which managers, supervisors and staff will be directly involved? Who will be the leader chosen to help make this process as smooth and professional as possible.

What is required before, during and after the change to ensure its success? The "what" can be specific new guidelines, policies, technology change over, corporate restructuring, etc. The "what" is often divided into short and long-term goals (general results expected) and objectives (specific methods for achieving and evaluating goals).

When are the realistic and achievable deadlines for this change process? People need to know who will be responsible for what part of the change and when they have to be ready. How much time have you scheduled for transition?

Where will the change take place? Remember a change in one area may affect other areas and departments, other clients and even the local community.

3.After all of this work, you have finally reached the action planning phase, or the how. How you will coordinate the change process is what the actual action plan is designed for. This action plan for change looks at the who, what, where, when and why and puts it all together in a step-by-step plan identifying:

Who will do what, where and by when.

The "how" also includes the communication element of change. Decide if you will use newsletters, meetings, memos, special logos, perhaps even a mascot to lighten the solemnness of the change and slogans, T-shirts, etc., to give the change some internal and external public relations that are realistic and meaningful.

The "how" may be divided into changes in: policies, programs and services, products, personnel practices, communication, education, decision making, community involvement, and changes in performance expectations.

The following chart is one action plan format that may help you write out some of the details. You may have one general action plan for the whole change process and other action plans within specific areas of the organizations outlining their responsibilities and deadlines. For the purpose of this exercise, just sketch out some specific methods you might use to implement a change you are experiencing at work or at home.

Item                Who                What & Where                By When                How                Success?

4.After the action plan has been implemented you must evaluate the results and acknowledge your success. How will you do that? As we said before, this step is too often forgotten or only the executive and/or a hand-full of token leaders are thanked. Since change is never ending it is important for people to feel appreciated for their efforts so that the next time a major change is presented they understand that their efforts and ideas matter to the organization.


Change is simply moving from a known way of doing things through a transition of uncertainty to a different way of doing things. How people respond to any change depends on their previous experience, their trust of their leaders and organization, how much they believe the change is necessary, if they are involved in designing and making the change, and if they are part of evaluating the success of the change.

Some overall themes in managing change include:

1.You need to keep a sense of balance in your life in the following areas: family and friends, physical and emotional needs, education, economic, career, and spiritual needs.

2.You need to understand the five-step process of: expecting change, recognizing when it happens, feeling the positive and negative emotions that come from the change, planning and acting on that plan.

3.You need to use lifelong learning, perspective, and humor in dealing with change.

4.You need to find out how much control you have in this situation and, therefore, how much energy to put into making it work. The four areas of control are: total control (lots of energy), influence, input and no control except in how you respond (least amount of energy).

5.Leaders within a workplace need to decide if they are going to implement directed change or planned change. They need to know the difference and how to get the most benefits out of either, while minimizing the negative consequences.

Burton Blatt offered the following definition of "optimism" for dealing with change:

Optimism is not in believing that things will turn out well, objectively; but in believing that we can face things, subjectively, however they turn out.

Optimism is not in feeling good, but in feeling that good has a chance to survive.

Optimism flows not from defeats and bitterness or victories and joys of the past, but in being here now, knowing the past has strengthened you.


The following resources are only a few of the many useful resources that you can find in your local libraries, within your own organization, and in your local bookstores. Look for other books but also for journal articles, magazine reports, films, videos and audiocassettes. Also keep in mind how much you can learn from experts in the field, including people within your own organization!

Bardwich, J.M. (1991). Danger in the comfort zone. New York: .Amacom.

Barger, N.J., & Kirby, L.K. (1995). The challenge of change in organizations: Helping employees thrive in a new frontier. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.

Bridges, W. (1991). Managing transitions: Making the most of change. New York: Addison-Wesley.

Campbell, S. (1995). From chaos to confidence: Survival strategies for the new workplace. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Emshoff, J.R. with Denlinger, T.E. (1991). The new rules of the game: The four key experiences managers must have to thrive in the non-hierarchical 90s and beyond. New York: Harper Health care facility/team.

Haas, E.B. (1990). When knowledge is power: Three models of change in international organizations. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Larkin, S., & Larkin, T. J. (1994). Communicating change: How to win employee support for new health care facility/team directions. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Peters, T. (1994). The pursuit of WOW!: Every person’s guide to topsy-turvy times. New York: Vintage Books.

Tushman, M.L., & O’Reilly, C.A. III. (1997). Winning through innovation: A practical guide to leading organizational change and renewal. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Health care facility/team School Press.

Practical Leadership

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