Research Spotlight: Navigating workplace change

Change graphicMiguel Quiñones describes today’s business climate with an age-old saying: “The only constant is change.”

“With competition coming from the other side of the globe and over the Internet, the rate of change has accelerated. Organizations must constantly adapt to survive,” says Quiñones, who joined SMU’s Cox School of Business as the Marilyn and Leo Corrigan Endowed Professor of Management and Organizations in 2006.

Quiñones focuses much of his research on individuals working in these organizations, including his new study, “Explaining Differences in Reactions to Organizational Change: The Role of an Individual’s Stage of Change.” The study began in 2005, while Quiñones was a U.S. Fulbright Scholar and visiting professor at Pontificia Universidad Catolica in Santiago, Chile. There he met David Huepe, a graduate student and consultant to the Chilean investigative police, which was significantly changing how it hired detectives – and creating conflict between managers and subordinates in the process.

In developing a survey that Quiñones and Huepe gave to 580 officers in Santiago, they drew from a 1994 model that identified five necessary stages for lasting change – precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance – and demonstrated that different techniques are needed to move individuals from one stage to the next. Their survey found more managers at the action stage, when they felt genuinely committed to the change, and more subordinates at the early stages, where they felt forced to change. “When making a change, organizations clearly must not assume that everyone is at the same place,” Quiñones says. “If they don’t lead individuals through the process, the change isn’t likely to take hold.”

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