The Psychology of Change Management - A review (HRM) The Mc kinsey Quarterly 2003 Special Edition

About Author

Emily Lawson is a principal in Mc Kinsey’s London office.
Colin Price is a director at Mc Kinsey, where he also is the Global Knowledge leader for the organization practice. He has consulted on organization design, leadership development, behavioral change and post merger management for two decades in over 50 countries. He’s advised many of the globe’s largest corporations. Price holds a visiting professorship at The school of Management, University of Bath. He holds degree in Economics, Psychology and Organization behavior.
Source: The Mc kinsey quarterly

What is Change Management?

Change management is a structured approach to transition individuals, teams and organizations from a current state to a desired future state. The current definition of change management includes both organizational change management process and individual change management models, which together are used to manage people side of change.
Source: Wikipedia


 Human Resource Management (HRM) is the strategic and coherent approach to manage any organization’s most valued assets- the people working in it. It is these people who individually or collectively contribute to the achievement of the objectives of the business. For the last few decades the companies CEOs of various companies are looking forward to come with a strategy to ensure high performance of their companies. However this requires lot of changes in the companies with top down approach. Organizational change seems a difficult thing. Adding to that the rhetoric of “looking to the future”, think differently”,” be proactive” etc is enough for an employee to take vacation. However it is non debatable issues that change in any form is inevitable. The companies adopting change management shall reap benefits in the long run. ‘Change’ is no longer a buzzword, change and the need to manage it has become prime issue in today’s competitive environment and it is most likely to remain one for many years to come.
Companies in the last few decades have made a lot of efforts in terms of research to find out ways to increase quality and productivity. Early theorists put lot of emphasis on the monetary benefits to motivate employees to perform better. Besides in many organizations a lot of emphasis is put on providing comfort and better working environment. However, in last few years of 20th century it was inferred that in addition to the monetary and other benefits the psyche of the employee needs to change to be changed for a better performance.

The Four conditions

  This article “Psychology of Change management” by Emily Lawson and Colin Price  brings about this perspective of employing the change in the psyche of the employees to perform better. Success of the companies can be brought about by transforming the way people think about their job, their company and their surroundings. The authors have pointed out four important conditions that affect the changing mindset of people.
1.    Employee must be able to see clearly the need for change.
2.    Employees must feel the relevance to change
3.    They must possess the required skill sets to perform what their work demands.
4.    There must be role model who ‘walks the talk’.
The theory of “cognitive dissonance” by Leon Festinger emphasizes that there arises a state of dissonance in mind when people find that their beliefs are inconsistent with their actions, just like an agnostic priest. However the positive outcome of the theory in the concerned article is that people if understand the overall purpose of change they might be able to relate to it and happy to change the individual behavior In order to serve the purpose. However the concept of reinforcement by B.F.Skinner (experiment with rats) suggests that the using right amount of incentive is inevitable as it still remains the primary source of motivation to the employees. However the reinforcements could be both positive and negative.
Skill sets required to perform a job effectively keeps on changing with the changing times. So the employees must update themselves with newer technologies. According to a study by David Kolb, it shows that adults can’t learn things only by listening there is a need to demonstrate them. For better understanding, the subject matter has to be separated into chunks. However there is a requirement of a role model. Most of the human behavior is a product of imitation with reinforcements. Here the need for CEOs becomes prominent. Besides the junior level managers and the people working under them have to be role models for the next level and so on. Even colleagues working together in an organization can be role model for one another.

In Indian perspective

The Indian industry be it service or manufacturing were late in adopting the metamorphosis going throughout the world. The globalization is a great leveler.. But as the proverb goes “Jaba jaago tabhi savera”. Indian companies soon understood the need to undergo change and several companies started the initiative of change.  Focus of management is now reverted on changing the Mindset, an area explored by Indian sages 2000 years back. As the Indian economy opened up for the world the indigenous companies understood that if they need to survive hey had to change.  Most of the structural weakness has been neutralized. And it’s the result of this initiative that we find Indian companies reining all over the world.


It was seen that people put lot of efforts to the job they understand better. Besides this helps to forge an emotional link with their job. And once they understand the importance of their skill sets for the company, which undoubtedly increases the productivity of the employee and hence the company, people do take pains to update their skills. This in turn helps them to gain a deeper sense of meaning and a higher sense of responsibility.

PS: This review was part of our HR curriculum at LIBA

any difference of opinion is welcome

1 comment:

  1. The article is really impressive and certainly well written