Organizational Development

Helpful Hints for Implementing Organizational Change

Managing organizational change is much more complex than traditionally taught in management courses. The unique environment and culture of each organization presents challenges to practicing organizational change theories outside of a classroom setting. Traditional change management courses present various challenges with generic solutions, however, the complexity in each organizational setting often presents unique challenges. Research on organizational change has identified some common issues that can help the change managers anticipate challenges and effectively overcome them in almost any situation.

Common issues surrounding implementing and managing organizational change:

Asking those involved with implementing organizational change about their experiences identifies a number of potential problems which affect the success of a change implementation program. The most common issues identified are:
  • Politics involved in coordinating different teams/departments in the organization.
Many times change initiated by one part of an organization will have effects in other parts. The politics between different parts of an organization can either help or hinder the change process. Understanding which areas are likely to be change proponents or opponents is essential.
  • Ingrained organizational cultures and norms that may be resistant to change.
Many times there are aspects of organizational culture that are openly resistant to change. Successfully navigating an organization’s culture involves identifying the norms and aspects that will be most resistant to change implementation initiatives.
  • Resistance and obstacles to change stemming from colleagues or subordinates.
Not only are different areas of an organization resistant to change efforts, but many times one’s own coworkers and direct subordinates will be resistant to change. A key to successful change implementation will be assisting those closest to implications to come to terms with accepting the changes.
  • Emphasis on the speed in which a change should be implemented.
One of the most difficult issues surrounding organizational change is the expectation that it be implemented quickly. Often times, the quicker a change is implemented, the more difficult it is for those affected to adjust. The conflict between management’s needs (quick implementation) and the needs of organization membership (more time to adjust) make it difficult to strike an appropriate balance.
  • Existing organizational values that conflict with those implied by the need for organizational change.
Often sweeping organizational changes will imply that the values currently held by organization members are somehow “incorrect”, or that the organization will no longer value the same things after the change is implemented. While this may be the case in some instances, many times it is not. Helping others reconcile these differences (real or perceived) will be essential for successful implementation.

How to overcome obstacles to change implementation:

Many organizations miss opportunities to learn from organizational change processes – by failing to monitor or evaluate the outcomes of changes that were implemented. Not taking the time to analyze the strengths/weaknesses of change implementation programs, increases the likelihood for repeated procedural mistakes. Learning how others experience organizational change and put theories into practice can be helpful, particularly for those new to positions responsible for implementing and managing organizational change. Two overarching themes are related to overcoming each of the potential issues identified earlier:
  • Adopt an advocacy role:
Act as a mentor/advocate for others by sharing your knowledge to help them understand why change is needed and what the implications are.
  • Involve stakeholders:
Those affected by change will be more likely to accept its implications if they are given a voice in the implementation process. Including both internal and external stakeholders at all steps of the process will ensure they feel a sense of ownership and support for efforts. Both of these themes will help others understand the context for why change is needed and help motivate them to move forward with the process despite the challenges associated with it.

Kathleen Melcher


This was a summary of the research and practice implications from: Andrews, J., Cameron, H., & Harris, M. (2008). All change? Managers’ experience of organizational change in theory and practice. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 21(3), 300-314.