Overcoming Resistance to Change

Organizational Structure

An organization’s structure defines how job tasks are formally divided, grouped, and coordinated. The structure, in turn, is defined by six key elements: work specialization, departmentalization, chain of command, span of control, centralization and decentralization, and formalization.

Models of Organizational Structure

There are two very different models of organizational structure. The first is mechanistic, which is generally synonymous with bureaucracy. That’s because it has extensive departmentalization, high formalization, a limited information network (mostly downward communication), and little participation by low-level members in decision making.

The second is organic. It is flat, uses cross-hierarchical and cross-functional teams. It has low formalization, possesses a comprehensive information network, and involves high participation in decision making.

Why Structure?

An organization’s structure is a means to help management achieve its objectives. Strategy and structure should be closely linked; structure should follow strategy. Strategy frameworks focus on three strategy dimensions: innovation, cost minimization, and imitation. The challenge is to decide which structural design works best with each strategy dimension.


Forces for Change

There are six forces for organizational change:

  1. Nature of the Workplace

  2. Technology

  3. Economic Shocks

  4. Competition

  5. Social Trends

  6. World Politics

Resistance to Change

Organizations and their members resist change. In one sense, this resistance is positive. It provides a degree of stability and predictability to behavior. Resistance to change can also be a source of functional conflict. The down side to resistance to change is that it hinders adaptation and progress.

Resistance can be overt, implicit, immediate, or deferred. A change may produce what appears to be only a minimal reaction at the time it is initiated but surfaces weeks, months, or even years later. Or a single change by itself has little impact. But it becomes the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

There are five reasons why individuals may resist change.

  1. Habit – We’re creatures of habit relying on habits or programmed responses.

  2. Security – People who have a high need for security are likely to resist change because it threatens their feeling of safety.

  3. Economic factors – The concern that changes will lower one’s income. They fear they won’t be able to perform the new tasks or routines to their previous standards, especially when pay is closely tied to productivity.

  4. Fear of the unknown – Changes substitute ambiguity and uncertainty for the known.

  5. Selective information processing – Individuals shape their world through their perceptions, and they resist changing it.

Organizations, by their very nature, are conservative and actively resist change. There are six major sources of organizational resistance.

Overcoming Resistance

There are five tactics that can be used to overcome Resistance to Change.

  1. Communication

  2. Participation

  3. Provide Support

  4. Reward Acceptance of Change

  5. Create a Learning Organization

Source: Robbins, S. P., & Judge, T. A. (2008). Essentials of Organizational Behavior (9th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

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