Solutions for a swifter organizational change process

Senior leaders in policing can utilize feedback for more effective change management
Azadeh (Azi) Sadeghi
October 11, 2018
By Azadeh (Azi) Sadeghi
It is often suggested that theories of change management are far reaching concepts or commonly poorly explained in organizations, particularly in respect of police organizations.

The concept of change is always accompanied by counter resistance system in organizations. In order to monitor counter resistance and help foresee potential future negative effects of change on personnel and the process of change itself, principals of “Change Management” concept are to be well-thought-out.

This article is suggesting a brief and easy to read set of principles for change management in police organisations. These principles are derived from both the author's research and over-all, contemporary management theory and practice.

As the policing organizations become more evolve and complex, the change management strategies must increase as the development proceeds. As stated by Paul Gibson, the “guru” on organizational culture change, “resistance to change should be a matter of the past if we could develop growth mindsets and create proper organizational change."

What is change management?
Change management focuses on the ‘people side’ of organizational change.

It involves both an individual and an organizational perspective. It requires action and involvement by leaders and managers throughout the organization.

Change management and project management are both tools that support project benefit realization — project management is the ‘technical’ side and change management is the ‘people’ side.  

Change management is most effective when it is launched at the beginning of a project and integrated into the project activities.

Why change management is important for senior leaders?
As senior leaders not addressing issues during change process encourages informal leaders to become demotivated as a result of failed change efforts (Coghlan, 2000). Also, miss handling change process causes operational inefficiency. In order for organizations to effectively deal with organizational problems, they must increase their capacity for feedback during the change process. Organizations can use feedback constructively to correct errors and identify which factors contribute to the issue (Nadler and Tushman, 1980).

Leaders should abstain from creating a formal system in evaluating personnel during change process and design their strategies in alignment with organizational needs(Nadler & Tushman, 1980). Senior leaders can enable informal leaders to apply a reasonable amount of force /support to drive the change. As suggested by Nadler and Tushman (1980), perhaps to modify employee’s behavior, one might need to apply pressure but also be aware of one’s own mindset during the change process. Organizations can use feedback constructively to correct errors and identify which factors will contribute to issues during change (Nadler and Tushman, 1980). To encourage greater feedback for the change process, those involved in the implementation of any change should schedule face-to-face meetings with managers and frontline supervisors to address the strengths and limitations of changes.

As leaders within your organization, you can receive feedback and reaction to the change and explain the change management efforts to take control of momentum of change.  If this is ignored, you will face less productivity and difficult people to work with due to lack of change management (Kotter, 1995).

When facing change expect the following resistances:
 
1. Parochial self-interest,
2. Low tolerance for differing views,
3. Different assessments of the situation.
 
Furthermore, there are consequences when you do not manage the people side of change:
 
1. Lower productivity,
2. Passive resistance,
3. Active resistance,
4. Turnover of valued employees,
5. Disinterest in the current or future state,
6. Arguing about the need for change —low morale,
7. More people taking sick days or not showing up,
8. Changes not fully implemented,
9. People finding ‘work-arounds,”
10. People reverting to the old way of doing things,
11. The change being totally scrapped,
12. Divides are created between ‘us’ and ‘them’ — upper management and frontline.
                                   
Solutions:
The primary reasons for applying change management is to increase the probability of project success, manage employee resistance to change and build change competency in the organization. Leaders need to master both: individual perspective, understanding how one person makes a change successfully, and organizational perspective: the tools teams and managers require supporting the ‘people side’ of change.

Some of the solutions suggested to improve your change process is as follow:

1. Educate and communicate (allow free flow of knowledge)
Communicate the business messages about the change effectively with all employees. Managers and supervisors are the preferred senders of messages about change. This group has a unique and well-developed relationship with the employees being impacted by the change.

Be mindful of their parochial self-interest to change but educate and communicate the business message. If changes are stagnated and have lost momentum, seek feedback and use the managers’ unique influence to encourage the movement. If you’re satisfied with the momentum, then divert their attention to other initiatives.

2. Participation and involvement
Effective change requires reinforcing new behavior, attitude and organizational practices. Create the motivation to change and encourage replacing old behavior and attitudes. Using bench marketing as a technique can be useful to achieve this goal.

3. Facilitation and support
Employees will ultimately make changes to how they do their day-to-day work. Their acceptance and use of the solution determines the success of the project and the ongoing benefit derived from the change. They will seek out information or support related to the business change from you constantly. The personal impact of the change on them determines the outcome or final evaluation of your change process. Create an environment to enable their success; not to disable the change process. Encourage managerial support to reduce fear and anxiety.

Some of the most commonly heard expressions of resistance and skepticism include:

“I have to drive further to the new central building...”
“Twenty years ago we did the same change and it didn’t work...”
“Another change of plan to get someone else promoted…”

Use your positive and effective managers- change agents- to transform the skeptical environment as a supporting network during the transition.

4. Negotiation and agreement
Give incentives to employees to gain compliance during the change process. Remember about differing views and correct their perception of change because if it is not corrected, it will be passed onto other employees and incoming ones, too.

5. Manipulation and co-option
Hand pick informal or formal leaders from the resistance group by offering them symbolic roles, which don’t impede the change. Be mindful that the role is only symbolic and temporary throughout the change process. Once the change is completed and if they have contributed throughout the process, promote and reward their behavior.

6. Explicit and implicit coercion
Explain to your middle management about the urgency of change, such as external and internal changes forcing the organization to change and touch on the consequences of not complying with incoming changes.
 
Finally, police associations and resistance to change as a natural human behavior are the most time-consuming part of the change process. The more you are aware of the dynamic of change the better you will be managing it as it happens. Be mindful of your transformational factors that are core elements to an organization’s performance, such as the overall mission of change, leadership, and organizational culture. Those items are hard to change but once you present drive and momentum, the contrast will bring followers to your leadership and change will unfold.  


Det. Azadeh (Azi) Sadeghi has been with the Toronto Police Service for 13 years. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Criminology and a Master’s Degree specializing in leadership and organizational behavior. Sadeghi is a provincially accredited criminal investigator with an extensive array of training in leadership development, change management, risk management and inter-agency collaborations.
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