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Compare and contrast change interventions that companies can use to bring about change

Received 2009 Mar 20; Accepted 2009 Oct 19. This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Abstract Background Change management experts have emphasized the importance of establishing organizational readiness for change and recommended various strategies for creating it.

Although the advice seems reasonable, the scientific basis for it is limited. Unlike individual readiness for change, organizational readiness for change has not been subject to extensive theoretical development or empirical study. In this article, I conceptually define organizational readiness for change and develop a theory of its determinants and outcomes.

I focus on the organizational level of analysis because many promising approaches to improving healthcare delivery entail collective behavior change in the form of systems redesign--that is, multiple, simultaneous changes in staffing, work flow, decision making, communication, and reward systems.

Discussion Organizational readiness for change is a multi-level, multi-faceted construct. As an organization-level construct, readiness for change refers to organizational members' shared resolve to implement a change change commitment and shared belief in their collective capability to do so change efficacy.

Organizational readiness for change varies as a function of how much organizational members value the change and how favorably they appraise three key determinants of implementation capability: When organizational readiness for change is high, organizational members are more likely to initiate change, exert greater effort, exhibit greater persistence, and display more cooperative behavior.

The result is more effective implementation. Summary The theory described in this article treats organizational readiness as a shared psychological state in which organizational members feel committed to implementing an organizational change and confident in their collective abilities to do so. This way of thinking about organizational readiness is best suited for examining organizational changes where collective behavior change is necessary in order to effectively implement the change and, in some instances, for the change to produce anticipated benefits.

Testing the theory would require further measurement development and careful sampling decisions.

The McKinsey 7-S model

The theory offers a means of reconciling the structural and psychological views of organizational readiness found in the literature. Further, the theory suggests the possibility that the strategies that change management experts recommend are equifinal.

That is, there is no 'one best way' to increase organizational readiness for change. Background Organizational readiness for change is considered a critical precursor to the successful implementation of complex changes in healthcare settings [ 1 - 9 ]. Indeed, some suggest that failure to establish sufficient readiness accounts for one-half of all unsuccessful, large-scale organizational change efforts [ 6 ]. Drawing on Lewin's [ 10 ] three-stage model of change, change management experts have prescribed various strategies to create readiness by 'unfreezing' existing mindsets and creating motivation for change.

These strategies include highlighting the discrepancy between current and desired performance levels, fomenting dissatisfaction with the status quo, creating an appealing vision of a future state of affairs, and fostering confidence that this future state can be achieved [ 2411 - 16 ].

While this advice seems reasonable and useful, the scientific basis for these recommendations is limited. Unlike individual readiness for change, organizational readiness for change has not been subject to extensive empirical study [ 17 ].

Unfortunately, simply calling for more research will not do. As two recently published reviews indicate, most publicly available instruments for measuring organizational readiness for change exhibit limited evidence of reliability or validity [ 1718 ]. At a more basic level, these reviews reveal conceptual ambiguity about the meaning of organizational readiness for change and little theoretically grounded discussion of the determinants or outcomes of organizational readiness.

In the absence of theoretical clarification and exploration of these issues, efforts to advance measurement, produce cumulative knowledge, and inform practice will likely remain stalled. Although readiness is a multi-level construct, I focus on the supra-individual levels of analysis because many promising approaches to improving healthcare delivery entail collective behavior change in the form of systems redesign--that is, multiple, simultaneous changes in staffing, work flow, decision making, communication, and reward systems.

In exploring the meaning of organizational readiness and offering a theory of its determinants and outcomes, my intent is to promote further scholarly discussion and stimulate empirical inquiry of an important, yet under-studied topic in implementation science. Discussion What is organizational readiness for change? Organizational readiness for change is a multi-level construct. Readiness can be more or less present at the individual, group, unit, department, or organizational level.

Readiness can be theorized, assessed, and studied at any of these levels of analysis. However, organizational readiness for change is not a homologous multi-level construct [ 19 ]. That is, the construct's meaning, measurement, and relationships with other variables differ across levels of analysis [ 1720 ]. Below, I focus on organizational readiness for change as a supra-individual state of affairs and theorize about its organizational determinants and organizational outcomes.

Organizational readiness for change is not only a multi-level construct, but a multi-faceted one. Specifically, organizational readiness refers to organizational members' change commitment and change efficacy to implement organizational change [ 1720 ]. This definition followed the ordinary language use of the term 'readiness,' which connotes a state of being both psychologically and behaviorally prepared to take action i.

Similar to Bandura's [ 21 ] notion of goal commitment, change commitment to change refers to organizational members' shared resolve to pursue the courses of action involved in change implementation. I emphasize shared resolve because implementing complex organizational changes involves collective action by many people, compare and contrast change interventions that companies can use to bring about change of whom contributes something to the implementation effort.

Three Types of Change Management Models

Because implementation is often a 'team sport,' problems arise when some feel committed to implementation but others do not. Herscovitch and Meyer [ 22 ] observe that organizational members can commit to implementing an organizational change because they want to they value the changebecause they have to they have little choiceor because they ought to they feel obliged. Commitment based on 'want to' motives reflects the highest level of commitment to implement organizational change.

Like Bandura's [ 21 ] notion of collective efficacy, change efficacy refers to organizational members' shared beliefs in their collective capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action involved in change implementation. Here again, I emphasize shared beliefs and collective capabilities because implementation entails collective or conjoint action among interdependent individuals and work units. Coordinating action across many individuals and groups and promoting organizational learning are good examples of collective or conjoint capabilities.

As Bandura and others note, efficacy judgments refer to action capabilities; efficacy judgments are neither outcome expectancies [ 23 - 25 ] nor assessments of knowledge, skills, or resources [ 23 ].

Background

Change efficacy is higher when people share a sense of confidence that collectively they can implement a complex organizational change. Several points about this conceptual definition of organizational readiness for change merit discussion.

Compare and contrast change interventions that companies can use to bring about change, organizational readiness for change is conceived here in psychological terms. Others describe organizational readiness for change in more structural terms, emphasizing the organization's financial, material, human, and informational resources [ 26 - 34 ].

In the theory presented here, organizational structures and resource endowments shape readiness perceptions. In other words, organizational members take into consideration the organization's structural assets and deficits in formulating their change efficacy judgments. Second, organizational readiness for change is situational; it is not a general state of affairs. Some organizational features do seem to create a more receptive context for innovation and change [ 35 - 37 ].

However, receptive context does not translate directly into readiness. The content of change matters as much as the context of change. A healthcare organization could, for example, exhibit a culture that values risk-taking and experimentation a positive working environment e. Yet, despite this receptive context, this organization could still exhibit a high readiness to implement electronic medical records, but a low readiness to implement an open-access scheduling system.

Commitment is, in part, change specific; so too are efficacy judgments. It is possible that receptive context is a necessary but not sufficient condition for readiness. For example, good managerial-clinical relationships might be necessary for promoting any change even if it does not guarantee that clinicians will commit to implementing a specific change. The theory proposed here embraces this possibility by regarding receptive organizational context features as possible determinants of readiness rather than readiness itself.

Third, the two facets of organizational readiness for change--change commitment and change efficacy--are conceptually interrelated and, I expect, empirically correlated. As Bandura [ 21 ] notes, low levels of confidence in one's capabilities to execute a course of action can impair one's motivation to engage in that course of action. Likewise, as Maddux [ 25 ] notes, fear and other negative motivational states can lead one to underestimate or downplay one's judgments of capability.

These cognitive and motivational aspects of readiness are expected to covary, but not to covary perfectly. At one extreme, organizational members could be very confident that they could implement an organizational change successfully, yet show little or no motivation to do so.

A theory of organizational readiness for change

The opposite extreme is also possible, as are all points in between. Organizational readiness is likely to be highest when organizational members not only want to implement an organizational change and but also feel confident that they can do so. What circumstances are likely to generate a shared sense of readiness? Consistent leadership messages and actions, information sharing through social interaction, and shared experience--including experience with past change efforts--could promote commonality in organizational members' readiness perceptions [ 19 ].

  • Be sure to specifically ask them for a commitment to these changes too, since you will need a strong core of promoters who can reach every employee in your business;
  • Gather your organization leaders and stakeholders and convince them of the need to change;
  • When employees are given specific directions and expected to follow exactly as told and without disagreement, the best use of valuable time for vital activities occurs, rather than spending time gathering the various ideas from the lower level of the organization and consolidating them into one functioning whole.

Broader organizational processes like attraction, selection, socialization, and attrition might also play a role [ 38 - 40 ]. Conversely, organizational members are unlikely to hold common perceptions of readiness when leaders communicate inconsistent messages or act in inconsistent ways, when intra-organizational groups or units have limited opportunity to interact and share information, or when organizational members do not have a common basis of experience.

Intra-organizational variability in readiness perceptions indicates lower organizational readiness for change and could signal problems in implementation efforts that demand coordinated action among interdependent actors. What conditions promote organizational readiness for change?

If generating a shared sense of readiness sounds difficult, that is because it probably is. This might explain why many organizations fail to generate sufficient organizational readiness and, consequently, experience problems or outright failure when implementing complex organizational change.