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Managing change effectively – review


Name: Managing Change Effectively
Author: Donald L. Kirkpatrick
Publisher: Butterworth-Heinemann
Date of Publication : December 2001
Price: £24.99
Format: Hardback, 180pp
ISBN: 0877193835

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The book is a compact 180 plus pages, and the author describes it as 'written specifically for managers in all types of organisations, whose job is to implement ideas from top management, as well as to suggest and initiate ideas for improving the effectiveness and efficiency of their departments'. As a tool for understanding and managing change, the book has a number of reasons to recommend it. Generally it is accessible, well constructed and gives you ideas and suggestions you can make use of in a careful and structured way. Kirkpatrick is clearly experienced and knowledgeable in his field, and introduces many examples of working situations to exemplify the ideas, strategies and techniques advocated, backing this up with sound sources, and a full bibliography.

Somewhat scarily, the book starts with a pretest of 50 questions about the reader's 'Change Management Knowledge'. You have to agree or disagree with statements such as 'People with negative attitudes to change should be encouraged to quit' or 'the timing of a change can be very important in its acceptance'. There is then of course, at the end of book, a 'post test'. (I have to say I didn't take either, but then I'm not too keen on tests !). At times perhaps the book is a little too inclined to use tests and tables for what is essentially presented as a humanised and people-centred domain.

The foreword explains that the book 'explores how people feel about change, and how their motives, wants, needs, and possibilities affect their responsibilities', and this is the key thrust of the book, which seems most effective when explaining principles of change, and providing useful approaches to managing it. The book is split into these three sections :

Part 1 deals with philosophy and principles and presents a focussed view of what change is about, and the factors which affect it. Some of these are to do with economic, technological or physical change or development, but central to all change, Kirkpatrick states, are that: 'the effects of changing times are not limited to the environment alone. They also involve human lives, men and women.'

Part 2 describes specific approaches and methods for making change decisions and getting them accepted, and presents an interesting and user-friendly 'Seven Step' model for change. This model is intended to 'ensure that the best decisions are made and that the changes will be accepted by those involved'. The 'Seven Step' model provides a flexible and useful way of seeking to progress change through a structured and reflective approach.

The key 'ways and means' for accomplishing change, are described as being a mixture of 'empathy, communication and participation', and each of these aspects of change management is given a full and clear treatment with examples and case studies. Overall, what is presented is a planned, structured and people-centred approach to managing change, which, it is argued, can produce better productivity and outcomes, as well as a more balanced and engaged workforce.

Part 3 presents case examples or organisations that have successfully planned and implemented changes.

The strongest aspects of the book for me are where the models of change and the change management approaches are being explained, and the whole approach seem to make sense (If, as Kirkpatrick emphasises, 'top management' are prepared to adopt a more human and participative approach) to someone who has seen these approaches work, and seen disasters when they are not used.

The weakest aspects of the book are the tendency to see change as primarily hierarchical, and to use the word 'subordinate' to describe workers, rather than 'co-workers' or 'colleagues', which seems to me to be more suitable.

At times the case studies do not seem too relevant to people working in public sector or small workplaces, and at times Kirkpatrick can seem over 'folksy', as if he is dispensing wisdom from above.

Overall however this is a useful addition to an important area of work.

Jim Crawley


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