Radical change for a radical world

When it’s a case of change or die, HR needs to implement quickly and forcefully
By Ken Keis
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 09/28/2004

Change is seldom a pleasant word in business circles, but it is often vital for corporate survival. Eaton’s didn’t change and the market didn’t wait for them. Change is often implemented too cautiously and too slowly. HR departments can push for change faster than they realize; looking back to reflect on the process, HR professionals often say the change should have happened sooner, gone even faster and been implemented more forcefully.

Recently an automotive dealership wanted to implement a PC-based showroom-control process but hesitated because the sales team was not computer literate. Hey, wait a minute. Who’s in charge here? Making business decisions based on the lowest common denominator or the poorest skill level does not make good business sense. The dealership needed to defy tradition and disregard managerial norms that safeguarded its established (but outdated) ways of doing business.

Change has three phases: the ending, the neutral zone and the beginning. The ending is the end of the old way. The beginning of the new requires the end of the old. The neutral zone is the place where employees cling to their old ways, or where the old ways are reshaped and new ways are tried. In this trial-and-error period, an unavoidable sense of confusion or even chaos may reign and that might cause a temporary backslide to the old ways. HR must hold the course; people who want to avoid the new culture or change may be sabotaging the process. Last comes the beginning, the point at which the organization really starts functioning in the new ways.