HR And Organizational Change By: Muhammad Faisal


Change is a messy, iterative process. Just when you think you’ve arrived you find you’ve hardly begun

(Tony Turrill: Change & Innovation – A Challenge for the NHS)

Ever since those two planes hit the twin towers of World Trade Center we talk about 9/11 as if this was the only year that September 11 took place. As a matter of fact the world has seen the eleventh day of the ninth month throughout the Gregorian calendar for over 2000 years. Come 2001 and people started blaming this day for their personal and professional failures. One person got fired by his employer in the month of June but people said it was his 9/11. Even some organizations found a worthy scapegoat in the form of 9/11.

It is also often mentioned that everything has changed since 9/11. We should however not forget that the world has seen more tragic changes taking place, in the past, having survived two world wars and many recessions. In the corporate world, those who found the going too tough also found a place in the history books. However, the ability to deal with change effectively remained the key to attaining success for high performing organizations.

As HR assumes the role of a business partner their participation in organizational change activities is becoming more and more critical. This article provides a basic guideline for organizational change to all managers in general and HR practitioners in particular.

Understanding Change

In a corporate world where ‘change ‘ & ‘change management’ are the buzz words very few people would be able to answer one basic question – ‘why change?’.

Having been personally involved in organizational change and having closely monitored some change management activities, I have concluded that if managers ask themselves the following key questions before administering any change, they will be able to handle change much more effectively:

  1. Why change
  2. What to change &
  3. How to change

Let’s take these questions one at a time.

Why change

Organizations mainly change for the following 3 reasons:

  1. to adapt
  2. to achieve goals
  3. to sustain success
  4. To adapt

When the factors influencing your business/organization are outside your span of control you can do nothing but to adapt to it. A good example here is that of security measures that were taken by all major airliners after what happened on 9/11, 2001.

  1. To achieve goals

There can be a number of and several types of goals. The goal of profit earning organizations as well as non-profit organizations. The goal of Edhi Welfare Service is to serve the humanity. Their change management has mostly been expansion of their services eg. from car ambulance to air ambulance, from local to international relief work.

The goal of loss making unit may be to turn the unit into a profit making one.

  1. Sustaining success

Success doesn’t guarantee more success unless you work for more success. In many cases success laid the foundation for future failures, as people & organizations became complacent due to their success. In a fast paced and competitive economy the word ‘change’ deserves more respect then it ever did. Organizations which sustained success for longer periods were able to do so only because they managed changed effectively. In fact some of these organizations were responsible for bringing about change in the lives and lifestyles of people. Siemens, 3M, Toyota, Sony are examples of some such organizations.

What to change

Once you have determined why you need to change you then determine what are the things you need to change to achieve the desired out comes. These, in a nutshell, can be categorized into the following:

  1. People
  2. Processes
  3. Systems/Environment

1 . People

People, they say, are the real competitive advantage of any organization. They can make or break the entire company. One main reason cited for the space shuttle disaster was the culture that prevailed at NASA. Incompetent people do not find a place in good organizations. Great companies hire great people and then focus on developing them, enabling them to take on the challenging future.

People must live up to the values of the organization. If they don’t they must be replaced by those who do.

  1. Processes

Higher Productivity, customer satisfaction & innovation among other things are forcing us to refine and redefine our processes.

We need to have a mechanism in place to identify which of our processes need to be improved; some processes may even have to be removed altogether from the system. These are non value adding processes.

Someone rightly said its not just important to have new ideas, its also important to continually scrap the old ones.

  1. Systems/Environment

Changing environment is forcing us to change our own systems/environment. E-business, e-recruiting, fibre optics, information security, lethal viruses are all signs of the times and we have to change the way we do things in order to survive/succeed.

How to change

It all depends on what you want. However, following basic steps should help developing a road map for a successful change management program:

  1. Define what you want
  2. Plan and prepare all those involved
  3. Implement
  4. Monitor/Review

Critical Success factors

Whether you are entering a new business or cutting down your workforce, it has to be remembered that any change management program falls flat on its face, if the following factors are missing:

  1. Effective communication
  2. People Buy-in
  3. Leadership by example


  1. Effective Communication

Poor communication of a change activity may result in non-commitment, low employee morale, lack of trust and so on. The more sensitive a change is, the more carefully its communication has to be planned. If possible, the benefits that the people will get out of the desired change should also be communicated.

  1. People buy-in

It is next to impossible to get results without people accepting the change. Their commitment is essential for bringing about the desired organizational change.

  1. Leadership by Example

This is the most important factor. If the leadership wants employees to be honest, they must be honest themselves. In a nutshell, if the leadership wants employees to exhibit certain behaviors, they must practice what they preach. This will create an environment of trust and commitment and as a result a successful organizational change.