Managing Change

The difficulty in managing the organization is not only a financial or technical issue. It can be cultural or emotional. Many projects that are viable from a technical or financial point of view fail. It may be failure of prioritization or of management. In other cases, it can be mostly cultural – it fails because of the non-support or even plain sabotage of members who may not want the project to succeed.

In most companies, many projects will be in the product or process development area. It may be to introduce changes that may impact some people, and requires people to change, which most may not welcome. We are creatures of habit, and set ways of doing things don’t change easily, irregardless of what a company claims. It is noteworthy that the only time ( and it is still difficult) that a company can realistically change its culture or the set way of doing things is when the company is on the verge of financial problems. New managers are called in from outside ( inside managers who grow up in such culture may be a victim of such set ways themselves, and occasionally, personal ties or other concerns inhibits them to introduce change radically) , who can introduce the change that there is some small chance of success. In his book, Who Says Elephants can’t Dance, Lou Gerstner aptly asks how supposedly smart managers never saw the complacency and ineptness that have started to beset IBM on the early nineties.

Some possible areas of concern by stakeholders may include the change in relationships, work hours, nature of work, the learning of new skills, the preservation of jobs, the disappearance of benefits, privileges or authority.

In these cases, it should be recognized that cultural changes are more difficult and time consuming to initiate and execute than technical changes. If there is any factor that should be considered carefully, it should be the people factor. People resist change, especially if imposed on them. Therefore the project manager should recognize such conflicts, and be able to initiate change effectively. This is through slowly overcoming the resistance by building motivation and commitment through their involvement.

If the project will really be of benefit, conflict or resistance can be mainly due that the person not understanding or not being consulted. Or as in the case of changes made previously that was not too successful, they may become fed up or cynical about the constant change which they feel have not exactly benefited their status. 

At any rate, the people factor can be every bit as important as the technical one.

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