Change management

Strategic HR Review

ISSN: 1475-4398

Article publication date: 9 August 2011



Nolan, S. (2011), "Change management", Strategic HR Review, Vol. 10 No. 5.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Change management

Article Type: Editorial From: Strategic HR Review, Volume 10, Issue 5

The topic of this issue of Strategic HR Review, change management, continues to be a pertinent one for HR practitioners around the world. As HR moves closer to the board room and its strategic importance is increasingly recognized, it is expected to play a key role in helping to manage change and keep organizations agile and flexible in order to meet the demands of changing marketplaces. This issue puts forward some innovative approaches to achieving this – from embodied learning for leadership development to the application of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) – and examines case studies where major change has been successfully achieved.

Peter Hamill challenges existing approaches to changing leadership behavior in his paper, “Embodied leadership – towards a new way of developing leaders”. He calls on neuroscience to demonstrate that learning through practice is a better way of changing behavior than learning through theories and models. He contends that the former results in embodied learning, where the practice of a particular skill results in it becoming an acquired behavior, while the latter raises awareness and possibly a desire to change. Self-awareness alone is not enough to change behavior – it is necessary to build on this and go a step further to self-cultivation. This can be achieved through a whole brain approach of using learning that will engage all parts of the brain, and not solely the part that is specific to humans. Leadership is not a capacity exclusive to humans and development should reflect that by combining rational models and theories with motor skills and engagement of the body. He gives an example of a case where mindfulness of all aspects of a particular behavior – including the physical aspect – successfully moved from awareness to change.

In “Changing the rules of the game”, Lindsey Agness proposes that successful change can be achieved by identifying and changing the unconscious rules within an organization’s culture. The unconscious rules are “the way things are done here” – engrained behaviors that are built in to the culture and often enforced by leadership behavior, rather than the conscious rules that are taught and encouraged through initiatives such as inductions, mission statements and goal setting. The unconscious rules are hard to manage yet have a profound impact on the way employees operate. She draws on NLP to identify ways of breaking down those rules so that they become identifiable and therefore manageable and pliable, helping culture shifts to be achieved in a short space of time. For example, the NLP concept of pattern breaks – abrupt interruptions that break a habit or state – can be applied in business as a way of shaking up the status quo and letting people know you are serious about implementing change. Based on this and other NLP concepts, she puts forward a practical model for achieving sustainable change in a business organization.

In “AZ Essentials emerges from a collective vision”, Sarah West and John Sugden show the value of leadership involvement in change programs. Through this case study, the authors demonstrate how helping people understand the reasons behind change and making it relevant and meaningful, can result in a smoother transition that employees buy in to and support. In this case, external facilitators brought an external, objective view and were able to investigate leadership opinions of the proposed change – the consolidation of nine separate units into one – and identify the perceived barriers, misconceptions and misaligned vision. One-to-one interviews provided a confidential way for leaders to share their views and any concerns. This was an important starting point that was built on through participative workshops that allowed members of the new leadership team to explore how they could work together and reach an understanding of the benefits of the consolidation. This understanding was used to create a vision and an operating model, with the collective effort further cementing the leadership team’s buy-in, and was then cascaded through the organization.

In “A force for change: a case study in leading and implementing change within a regional police authority”, Dr Anton Franckeiss discusses the Leading and Implementing change program that was designed for and delivered to this UK regional police authority to prepare its leaders for major change. The program used interactive and lively workshops where delegates were able to discuss universal change frameworks and theories and apply them to their own “live” case study. Key learning points were that there was a universal response and behavior pattern to change, which could be applied to assist with individual situations; that leaders needed to go beyond the cognitive to understand those behaviors and the emotions involved; and that the emotional responses would change the change plan itself. Plan A would lead to Plan B in a dynamic process where reactions to change are taken into consideration and the change plan is modified accordingly. These require flexibility and an open mind, while at the same time remaining on the change path required by the organization. Leaders were able to challenge each other during the workshops and to develop the intuitive approach required while drawing on frameworks and models to assist.

“Transformational change in a time of crisis”, by Panayiotis Stylianou, Alexander Pepper and John Mahoney-Phillips, is a comprehensive case study of a major change program at UBS. Against the backdrop of the financial crisis, there was a need to radically transform HR in a short space of time in order to make significant cost savings. This was successfully achieved but to some extent at the cost of employee commitment to the organization. The authors chart the approach taken to integrating several HR functions into one centralized organization to manage a global workforce. They share the best practices that led to the successful creation of this new model, including strong leadership, clear vision and ownership of change, which resulted in the organization regaining customer confidence and returning to profitability. However, they also highlight the pitfalls surrounding employee loyalty and engagement when implementing such a major change in a short space of time and put forward guidelines for helping HR professionals manage people during change projects in a time of crisis. The authors caution that the urgency of radical change should not overshadow the need for a highly committed workforce.

Sara NolanE-mail:

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