Nothing endures but change – Heraclitus
To alter, make radically different, give a different position, course, or direction and make a shift from one to another are different definitions of change (Merriam-Webster): amongst the shades of the meaning, change has noticeable effects on human life in psychological, social, and cultural terms. It is unavoidable; Heraclitus’ well known quote “you could not step twice into the same river” points out its dynamic structure which forces an individual or an organization to adapt or else vanish in the new environment.
The nature of change has been a philosophical debate throughout the human history, and it remains a subject matter of scholarly exploration in the contemporary developed world, as researchers try to understand the complexities of moving human groups from one state to another (Kiel 2010). The organizational theory literature is about continuity and stabilization in most cases, and organizations change all the time, each and every day (Burke 2002, xiii). No organization today, large or small, local or global is immune to change (Kotter 1998, 27), and many scholars recognize change as a must for survival of organizations. Organizational change refers a difference in form, quality, or state over time in an organizational entity.
Organizational change is not a self growing process that can be achieved without management. That is, organizational change needs well structured management strategies. Thus, change management has become extremely popular within organizations that would like to initiate significant change to processes that can include both work tasks and culture. Together with academic interest in the change management, the amount of significant, often traumatic change in organizations has grown remarkably over the past two decades because of the transformation in the external environment (Kotter 1996, 3; Burke 2002, xiii).
All change efforts in the organizations include people related issues. Most attention is usually given to the organization in terms of structure, processes, tools, measurements, policies and procedures. But for the transition to be successful, people need to internalize and be committed to the change process. Their individual interests, values and competencies must be effectively aligned with the organization’s new vision, strategies, climate and capabilities. Otherwise, employees may have misfit or value misalignment. Additionally, when situations are not well-defined or seem chaotic, which is typically the case for employees when organizations introduce a significant change, people tend to respond by turning inward and becoming preoccupied with their own needs. Also, some employees may not believe the need for a change, perceive the change as a threat to their personal interest or simply prefer not to take a part in the change process. For situational and individual reasons, these employees may or can not express themselves or state their concerns and complaints (Griffith 2002, 301). They rather pretend to embrace the new values, regulations and support the change while hiding their true feelings and thoughts from their peers and managers.
These efforts in understanding and managing organizational change impelled researchers to develop a number of models, each of them has various backdrops and philosophical groundings. Organizational change can be considered from the perspectives of levels: individual, group, and larger systems. However, these three levels of understanding are not discrete. Although taking the organization apart by level, one must remain highly cognizant of the fact that organizational change deals with totalities, wholes, and systems (Burke 2002, 119). Since covering all aspects of the change management within this paper is not possible, it attempts to handle change at individual level and its reflections in the larger systems. This article also seeks the answers of these questions: what are the main drives for individual and organizational level change? What types of theories do exist in explaining change management? How individual level of change can be managed and how it affects the organizational change process. Why change efforts often fail and what are the individual reasons of resistance?