An Overview of Change
Change is making something different from the way it was. Change is a powerful and inevitable part of life. Although many fear
change, others champion it as a means to political or social success.
People can change, whether on their own or in response to external circumstances. Usually when people change, we hope for personal improvement that results in them becoming more disciplined, organized, and self-fulfilled. Professional change also happens in life as companies struggle to keep up with technological developments and market fluctuations.
Organizations as a whole need to deal with change as they seek to improve themselves in areas of efficiency, productivity, and profitability.
Because we must all deal with change at every level of life, we must learn how to manage it. As part of this effort we turn to theories of change that can help us understand, effect, and manage change so it can be a constructive rather than destructive force in our lives.
Eric Havelock formulated one widely studied and accepted theories of change and how we deal with it. Havelock’s Theory of Change gives us one way of looking at change in a six stage process that acknowledges resistance to change and the need to carefully plan for change.
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The 6 Aspects of Havelock’s Theory of Change
Most change theories share several key aspects, such as Lewin’s unfreeze, change, refreeze process. Because linear models are rigid and fail to account for the complexities of real life, other models, such as Havelock’s Theory of Change have been formulated to expand on Lewin to manage change through planning and monitoring.
- Relationship. Havelock states that a relationship with the system in need of change needs to be established. This could be regarded as a stage of "pre-contemplation" where things are going along as usual.
- Diagnosis. Once the agent of change is comfortable with the system as it is, the person or entity being evaluated needing change is evaluated to see if there is any awareness of a need for change. During this contemplation phase, the subject of change must decide whether or not change is needed or desired. Often the change process can end prematurely here because the subject decides that change is either not needed or not worth any effort to correct.
- Acquire resources for change. At this change, the need for change is understood and the process of developing solutions begins by gathering as much information as possible that is relevant to the situation that requires change.
- Selecting a pathway. The fourth stage of Havelock’s change theory is when a pathway of change is selected from available options and then implemented.
- Establish and accept change. Once the change has been put in place, it must be established and accepted. Individuals and organizations are often resistant to change, so careful attention must be given to make sure that the change becomes part of new routine behavior. After change has been accepted, the change process can be declared successful.
- Maintenance and separation. Now that the change is successful, the change agent should monitor the affected system to make sure that it is successfully maintained. Once the change has become the new "normal," the change agent can separate from the person or organization that was changed. At this stage, we hope that the person or organization has learned enough about themselves and the change process that they can maintain their new behaviors.
The End of Change
Through Havelock’s theory of change we see the importance of planning an orderly process from recognition of the need for change to the subject’s ability to maintain a changed system. Those who teach the theory do not always include one possible outcome: relapse. This occurs where attention to the changes lapses and the system declines back to its original state.
Change often embodies a noble desire to improve self or a system, but often people fail to recognize the amount of work that is required in order to effect lasting positive change. Havelock’s theory of change helps you recognize this as you work as an agent of change.