Management Issues: 'Organizational Change Management'
Keith R. Dutton, M.S.
Editor's Note: We are pleased to bring you this NEW
monthly feature, "Management Issues" at EMSvillage.com written by
Keith Dutton. We think you will find the information grounded in management
theory but explained to be useful in your day-to-day professional activities.
We would love to hear your feedback,
comments and suggestions.
"When one door closes another opens. But we often look so long and
so regretfully upon the closed door that we fail to see the one that has opened
—Alexander Graham Bell
The old adage, “the only thing constant in the world is change,” has never
been more prevalent than in today’s society. As an EMS leader, manager, or supervisor,
are you prepared for change within your organization? Can you get the necessary
support you need to make things happen? How are your coaching and facilitating
Most management textbooks define organizational change as any substantive modification
to some part of the organization. But how does that change occur? And what factors
affect the degree of change within the organization?
There are usually two forces that cause change in an organization: external
forces and internal forces. Understanding where they come from is one of the
keys to properly preparing for change. External forces are usually those outside
of the organization that you have no direct control over. These might include
local, state and federal regulations, the economy, court decisions, unemployment
levels, inflation and the cost of living. Changes in these areas could have
a direct bearing on your EMS operations. Internal forces may also cause change
to occur, and would include top management’s change in company strategy, increased
productivity standards, and quality control standards. Internal forces for change
may also reflect external forces upon the organization.
Can you prepare yourself for change? The simple answers are “sometimes, yes,”
and “sometimes, no.” Planned change is by far the best method – its designed
and implemented in an orderly and timely manner through anticipation of future
events. Reactive change is harder on the organization. Usually put together
in a hurry, changes of this nature have a multitude of problems; thus, the potential
for further reactive change within your plan increases tremendously.
Resistance to Change
Perhaps the biggest challenge to the EMS manager/supervisor/leader who acts
as the change agent within the organization is employee resistance to the change.
Change usually brings about the “10/80/10” rule: 10% of employees will actively
embrace the change, 80% will be fence-sitters, and 10% will actively fight it.
Your job is to recognize this and understand it. The 10% against the change
will have the influence and ability to negatively infect the 80%. As such, you
need to focus your efforts on influencing the negative 10% -- they are the threat
to the change. Their resistance to change usually falls into one of these areas:
- Uncertainty: employees usually become nervous and anxious about the
change and are primarily concerned about their job security and ability to
meet new job demands. You may present them with the facts and answer all of
their concerns, but their own internal emotional controls may not allow them
to fully comprehend how the change will affect them.
- Threatened Self-Interests: concerns in these areas usually relate
to personal power and position power within the organization. No one wants
to see their influence diminish within the organization, so they fight the
- Different Perceptions: everyone will have their own idea about the
change. Thus, they may not see the change as benefiting them, their workgroup,
or the customers that are served.
- Feelings of loss: over the course of time, social networks develop
within organizations and change disrupts these networks. By way of example,
a schedule change might adversely affect a relationship through a change in
partners, or status, security, power and the employee’s self-confidence.
Overcoming resistance to change is not easy, but it is manageable by keeping
these goals in mind:
- Participation: keep employee involvement in the planning process
at a very high level. When employees can express their ideas and listen to
others in the planning process, their own personal buy-in increases and makes
the change easier for the organization. It also has the potential to reduce
the negative 10%.
- Education and Communication: keeping communications as wide open
as possible reduces the anxiety and uncertainty about the change. When rumors
are spread about the change (this always happens!), quickly put the facts
back out through the information process. Consider having different methods
of getting the same message out to staff. For example, a change could be communicated
four different ways: at a general staff meeting, through email from the supervisor
or senior administrators, work group discussions and press releases.
- Facilitation: several different facilitation tools can be utilized,
including a) making small changes, b) making only necessary changes, c) planning
changes well in advance, and d) training employees before the change occurs.
- Force-Field Analysis: the title may imply that this idea is from
outer space, but FFA is simply a tool that measures forces that act for and
against the change. Change agents list these positive and negative criteria
(assets/deficits) and then attempt to tip the balance so that the forces for
the change outweigh those against the change.
Steps in the Change Process
EMS leaders can use a variety of methods and models in a change process. The
most comprehensive approach utilizes these principles and goals:
Recognition of the need for change: Many changes come as a result of problems
within the organization or reaction to planned or unplanned external forces.
One of the first steps is to identify those problems and pick the most important
problem that is adversely affecting the organization. Within this area of planning,
it is important to define the problem precisely – don’t assume you know what
the problem is.
- Establish goals for the change: What is it that you want to accomplish
from the change? Increased productivity? Increased efficiency? Decreased expenses?
Once you form general goal areas, then you need to define the parties that
will be affected by the change and enlist them in the change planning efforts.
- Diagnose relevant variables: What are all of the issues? What will
be negatively affected by the change? What external and internal forces will
modify your goals?
- Select the appropriate change technique: Will you employ a change
agent from outside the organization? What specific techniques will you employ?
How long will the change take place?
- Plan for the implementation of the change: In other words, communicate,
communicate, and communicate. Accurate planning is essential for this change
to be successful. And make sure everyone is aware of the timeline – and make
sure your timeline is fair and accurate! Adopt the slogan “Go Slow to Go Fast!”
In other words, put your best efforts up front during the planning process
– this will allow the actual implementation to move rapidly and successfully.
- Implement the change: This can be the hardest step – taking action.
With proper planning, by now you have 90% of your employees supporting the
change so you can continue to focus on the positive benefits of the change.
- Evaluate and follow-up: This is perhaps one of the most important
areas that we overlook. How successful was the change? Did things take place
as they were supposed to? What do you need to go back and fix? What did you
learn from the experience?
Feedback, comments or suggestions? Send us an e-mail,
or talk to us in the message
Next month we’ll look at more change issues that deal specifically with technology,
operations, structure, design and organizational development.
Keith R. Dutton, M.S., teaches management and business courses at Tallahassee
(Fl.) Community College. He also serves as the organizational development manager
for a hi-tech firm that supports Florida’s 65 community college libraries. Keith
spent 21 years in EMS, serving as an EMT, paramedic, firefighter, educator,
department chief and state EMS director. He possesses a Master of Science degree
in human resources management.