Dr Joaquin Angles joined the University of Roehampton, London Online in 2012, and specialises in leadership and management at the Business School. Outside academia, he works for the US Department of Defense as a logistics management specialist. With more than 33 years of government service, he also executes lifecycle-management initiatives for US naval aviation. Writing on how and why organisations change, he explains ways in which we can manage change and sustain its effects so that change becomes “the new normality”.

Organisations continue to strive to stay ahead by attempting to change faster and more comprehensively than their competitors today. In fact, we can say that changing effectively is becoming more of an art – considered more like a flood of continuous, overlapping and accelerating transitions that can often turn an organisation upside-down.   

Why organisations change 
There are many factors that can contribute to or force change today in organisations. We could argue that an organisation can opt to change because of a new desire or new vision for the future, but ultimately there are two basic pressures that force an organisation to change: environmental and organisational. 

Environmental pressures can result from:

  • Changes that are forced or mandated on the organisation from outside agencies 
  • Broad changes in geopolitical relationships, necessitating changes in organisational operations 
  • Pressures associated with declining markets 
  • Hypercompetitive business pressures 

Organisational pressures can be attributed to changes as a result of internal or external mandates, such as: 

  • The need for a new internal structure to adapt to the development of new strategic business units, new product lines, or global expansion.
  • Outside forces for change, include macroeconomics, technological evolution, globalisation, new legislation and competitive dynamics. 

Types of change 
There are two major types of change most commonly found within organisations today: incremental and discontinuous change.  

Incremental change is attributed to an existing organisational system, processes or specific structure. This type of change does not necessarily have to involve a fundamental change in organisational strategy, its core values or corporate identity, but it is the type of change that will influence organisational culture.  

Discontinuous change is shaped by external forces, be they technological or competitive or as a result of the rise and fall of whole industries and regional economies.  

We can find discontinuous change in transformational initiatives that aim to take the organisation in a new strategic direction that can impact its core structure, processes and/or product line. Discontinuous change can at times be considered radical because it causes major innovation in business activities. It can also be seen as the type of change that can alter the organisation as its business core when it’s not developing or growing and the type of change that will influence its dynamic culture. So how can organisational leaders manage and sustain change successfully within fast-changing environments?  

How do we manage and sustain change?  
“For change to ‘stick’, it must cease being seen as something separate from normal practice; it must become the new normality.” (Palmer, Dunford & Akin (2009).)  

To lead and sustain change, we must involve everyone in the change process. Also, change can be led and sustained in the following ways:

  • By the cumulative effect of actions during the change process; not just with actions after change implementation
  • By us encouraging “voluntary acts of initiative” and getting people to bring forward new ideas to improve the process
  • By monitoring it and measuring its progress with tools like quantitative performance measures, KPIs, attitude surveys, focus groups or individual interviews
  • By employers overtly encouraging their staff members to celebrate “en route” when goals and achievements have been met
  • By regularly fine-tuning it as a result of key performance measures
  • By us recognising “productive failure”. Not all change will lead to a positive result, but we can take failure as a learning opportunity for others in the organisation to learn from.  

 Dr Joaquin Angles

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