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There are three fundamental types of organizational change. The most frequent and least disruptive is a developmental change (Marshak, 1993, p. 8). This process occurs in organizations all the time and may go unnoticed by the majority of people. It is experienced as business optimization, changes to improve efficiency, responding to varying customer preferences, and corrections to problems uncovered by regular business operations. Developmental change can be thought of in terms of people doing their daily job functions while seeking opportunities for incremental improvement. Additionally, it arises from organized efforts that seek improvements in existing processes or products as a response to changing market dynamics, customer preferences, or business conditions.
Transitional change is significant and disruptive to the organization (Allen, et al., 2007, p. 192). For example, mergers, acquisitions, and the introduction of entirely different business processes will impact teams in very meaningful ways that disrupt current methods being used. This may be the goal of the transitional change as the company seeks new opportunities or addresses fundamental challenges in the market. In response, productivity and effectiveness will improve or fall because of these types of changes. Transitional change does not occur as often as developmental changes, but it happens frequently enough that leadership must be competent and capable of leading the organization through the process. This is not the level of change that most managers will have success in bringing through their organization. These are significant shifts in the firm, and a dangerous degree of resistance and obstacles should be expected.
The last form of change is transformational and does not occur frequently. A company is fundamentally reborn and pursues a new path through transformational change. New or different markets, products, and services are combined with a different mission, vision, values, and probably leadership to produce the transformational event. Companies do not resemble the former organization after this change is complete. Expert leadership is needed to plan and guide the organization and corporate culture through this level of change.
Resistance to Change
Each of these levels of changes brings about challenges for the leadership team. Employee resistance to developmental changes is usually minor, and a consensus is not difficult to achieve. Employees are often willing to accept this level of change as it may make their lives easier. Transitional change is met with greater levels of employee resistance. This level of change can bring about significant shifts in job responsibilities, processes, and organizational structure. These changes can make some employees feel that their expertise, resources, and status are threatened (Allen, et al., 2007, p. 192). Additionally, there are trust issues, resentment, and fear that will surface and need to be addressed throughout the process. Transformational changes bring the most significant internal resistance, and leadership must be prepared to deal with these challenges or their initiative will fail. Obviously, extensive expertise is needed to navigate the tactical elements of this type of change, in addition to, the psychological issues that the team will experience.
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