Why Can't Corporations and Organizations Change?

Adult Learning Expert Gives Managers How-to's for Workplace Transitions

Why do most organizational change initiatives fail? After surveying over 10,000 managers about their attitudes toward workplace change, Chris Musselwhite, Ed.D. found that while most people are open to change, many managers don't know how to build group understanding and support for changes such as restructuring after a merger or business process improvement.

In his newly released book, Dangerous Opportunity, Making Change Work, available in hardback and paperback gives managers practical approaches to leading change successfully.

  • Do your homework. "Just because you think your company needs a certain kind of change doesn't make it so," says Musselwhite. Serious change requires input at all levels. For large-scale changes, he recommends culture surveys -- questionnaires distributed to at least a sample of employees at every level of the organization -- to identify problems and opportunities.
  • Understand that everybody in the organization, even those who seem likely to resist change, must participate in the success. "There's a persistent 'good guy' (for change), versus 'bad guy' (against change) perception in American business," Musselwhite says. But 78 percent of the more than 10,000 managers who took Musselwhite's Change Style Indicator, a 22-question self-assessment which was the basis for the book's research, ranked themselves as being "extremely open to change" or "open to change if it meets current needs." The other 22 percent don't always resist change, but are more likely to point out potential pitfalls associated with it.
  • Focus on the outcome. "When leaders try to control every detail, and they anger so many people that they never get the results they wanted in the first place," says Musselwhite. "Your job is to continually communicate the purpose of the change, not how it should happen."

Making Change Work defines three Change Styles - Originators, Pragmatists, and Conservers - and presents a Change Process Model with do's and don'ts for managers at each stage of a transition. A detailed work plan guides managers through their next change initiative. "The goal is to help managers achieve real business improvement through winning the broad support - and not just from the people who think like them," says Musselwhite. The approach has been successful in hundreds of companies in 40 countries.

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