Change and barries to change

A manager wrote to me: “I work for a large company, our company need to change to meet market demand and stay competitive in this global market but every time we tried to change or improve something, we failed. How can we make change happens? Please help.”

Answer: As a manager, you need to know what has prevented your company from improvement. What barriers your company has? Why they exist? And how to remove them. You need to understand that change is NOT easy because most people are afraid of change. They do not know what will happen to them when change happens so they resist. Without a clear understand about the change and its impact, people will not do anything about it. Typically, managers go to meetings to discuss about change but no one will make any decision, some even prefer to procrastinate as long as possible, anything out of the ordinary is risky so they rather wait, which leave important changes not done. The attitude of most managers is waiting and not participating because if something happen their job may be damage so the best solution is not doing anything. People by nature, avoid controversy, so when there is disagreement among managers, decisions are usually not made and things will stay the same.

Most large companies have many groups, each do their own thing. However change requires closely cooperation among these groups for efficiency. If some of them do not participate, change will not happen. Some managers deliberately prevent changes from being made because they may not want to lose control of their group. They resist change for fear that it may reflect badly on them. Basically, it is very difficult to change existing processes even they are obsolete or even broken as old habit is difficult to change. People are used to do things in a certain way and that have made them success, asking them to change is almost impossible because nobody know what may happen to them. The larger the company, the more difficult to change and history is full of story like that. That is why smaller and aggressive companies are moving quickly to capture the market when large companies are often fail and go bankrupt.

Change must start at the top of the company, the owners or executives must want to change and manage the change themselves, else than nothing will happen. The owners must give clear direction to every manager and personally manage all changes; else it is just talk and no action. Owners must take action and remove any barriers, including people who resist the change because change is a management job, workers will follow whatever managers order so to make thing happen, it is the owners or the executives must take action.


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University