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Human Engineering

The management and mitigation of any resistance against a coming change.

Download Change Management Manual

Introduction to Change Management


General management can be defined as the process that achieves specific objectives (gets things done) through the application of particular resources, typically human resources. These objectives are those that are in line with the organisational goals. In terms of Business Engineering it implies the process of engineering the business as well as continuously aligning the business. This needs to be done in order to ensure that the business is being managed within the context of the Strategic Direction that has been decided on.

“Managing change” has become the theme for general managers in the 1990’s, and involves managers viewing any form of change in relation to the “big picture” and in line with the organisation’s strategic direction. Organisational change is the change that is required to the workforce to enable new tasks and procedures. Business Engineering depends on a strong business case that has to be recognised communicated through to the organisation and accepted by the people. The change manager should see to it that resistance to change is addressed and that the overall change initiative is being “bought” by each and every employee.

A general manager has the task of effectively and efficiently deploying all the available resources, in order to successfully deliver the required business benefits.

The task of management focuses on the following:

  • What should be done?                                    (planning)

  • Who should do what?                                     (organising)

  • Giving instruction                                            (directing)

  • Ensuring the instructions are carried out           (controlling)

These are the generic and traditional tasks of management, and within these four dimensions, the ability to effectively deal with change will become increasingly important.

This "animal" called CHANGE


The 1990’s have already presented individuals and organisations with some very complex problems and challenges to overcome, and change will continue to railroad its way all over organisations.


The advantage in the year 2000 will belong to those who commit to continuous learning - who are prepared to manage and move with change.

Managing the changes facing organisations in the 90's is critical for the survival of the smallest business. The reality is that the challenge of managing change has to be faced by all organisations, large or small, industrial or commercial or publicly owned, service or marketing or production oriented.

In his research project to assess the changing role of the management practitioner, Steward (1991) identified the following as the major changes being faced by organisations in the 1990’s.:

  • Increasing commercialisation

  • Increasing competition

  • Customer Sovereignty

  • The need for personal accountability

  • Technological advancement

  • Shifts in state intervention

  • Political influences

  • Fundamental social change

  • Demographic change

  • Workforce diversity

These issues have a tremendous change management implication, and the Human Engineering System was developed to address all of them. Specific tools, methods and techniques, which will be discussed later, will form part of managing acceptance of and commitment to the above changes.

The Nature of change

The management of change is of increasing interest to those responsible for ensuring the continued success of work organisations. But why the increasing interest? And what is it that organisations are seeking to manage? In exploring the nature and true meaning of organisational change, the context will be set for Discon’s approach to change management.

a.) Types of Change

In order, to better understand change, it is useful to develop broad generalisations, which reflect the relative severity of the change usually faced by organisations. Although not empirically “tested” models, these generalisations are important in our perceptions of change.

Firstly, change may be smooth incremental. This is a characteristic of business environments, which have been evolving slowly in a systematic and predictable way. Although this kind of chang  was typically prevalent in the markets of the 50's and 60’s, some organisations today believe that a relatively smooth state of change is in place.

Secondly change may be bumpy incremental. This is characterised by periods of relative tranquillity punctuated by acceleration in the pace of change, which is then frequently perceived as “overload”. These periods of overload are often associated with periodic reorganisation.

Discontinuous change is typically associated with a break in the pattern of smooth incremental

Discontinuous change is change, which is marked by rapid shifts in either strategy, structure of
culture, or all three.

Major types of change.png

b.) Change as experienced by species

Charles Darwin’s theory suggests that species need to adapt to changes and changing environments if they are to survive. Those species that do change survive and prosper, those that stay the same become extinct. The operation of natural selection also works at two levels: “inter” and “intra” species. In practice this means that individual members of a species with features giving selective advantage successfully reproduce and thus ensure those features are passed on to give primacy in the survival stakes with other competing species.


Evolution is a continuous and ongoing process. The human species is also evolving and continuously changing. Physical features are the most obvious example of changes that have occurred and are still occurring, but intellectual and emotional characteristics are changing too. By any comparison Homo sapiens are not the same today as when we first emerged as an identifiable species, nor will we be the same in 10 000 years time.

The science of ecology teaches us that there exists a series of mutually dependent relationships among the various forms of life on the planet. The idea leads to the suggestion that species interact with and influence and change their environments. Instead of being passive responders and adaptors, life forms engage in symbiotic relationships with their environment, and it is through this interaction that natural selection works to determine survival or extinction.

c.) Change as experienced by individuals

Individuals are always subject to the process of change. The process normally forms a cycle of birth, development, growth, decline and death. The physical changes are the easiest to observe, but individuals also change intellectually and emotionally as we go through our lives. These changes do not end in “maturity”, they continue throughout life.


Characteristics of change in Homo sapiens are the following:

  • While the fact of change in individuals is common, the nature of the change will vary between individuals

  • An essential influence on life-long development is the environment. The environment provides much of the experiences which help to shape and individual’s physical, intellectual and emotional development

  • As sapient beings, human individuals are capable to some extent of exercising free will and independent choice. In doing so we have an impact on and help to shape our own personal environments.

  • “Development” and “change" that has to do with intellectual and emotional characteristics occur through continuous learning and experience.

A species has an increased chance of survival if its individual members are able to adapt their behaviour in response to a changing environment. One of the reasons for the success of Homo sapiens as a species is the level to which this ability of individuals - to learn and change - has evolved. Continuous learning is thus a key to individual change.

d.) Change as experienced by Organisations

So what is the relevance of understanding change within species and individuals to managing change in an organisation?

Firstly, there are many potential lessons in nature for all aspects of human existence. Many of the principles, which underpin structural design, for example, are derived from natural forms and arrangements in nature, e.g., the load-bearing properties of a spider’s web, or a pride of lions as a representation of a project team.

A second point of interest is the simple truism that work organisations are literally “peopled” by individual members of the human species. We simply can not understand organisations without understanding human beings as a species and as individuals. Nor can we hope to manage organisations without this understanding.

James Steward (1991) summarises the following lessons from nature to aid our understanding of organisational change:

  • Change is a natural phenomenon.

  • Change is continuous and on going.

  • The purpose of change is to aid survival and growth.

  • Survival and growth depend on adaptation to a changing

  • The environment can be and is influenced and shaped by the actions
    and decisions of organisations.

  • Learning from experience is essential for successful adaptation and

  • Individuals change in both common and unique directions.

What this means for organisations is very simple:

We need to adapt to a changing environment and this requires, as with individuals, learning the intellectual and emotional lessons of experience. It also requires being aware of and taking account of the impact and effects of organisation actions on the environment.

Change in the new South Africa

The miracle birth of the New South Africa has now passed, but the transformation of the broad community and all its institutions has just begun. There can hardly be an organisation in this country; not undergoing change and this affects not only the country and the organisation, but also almost every individual on a personal and professional level. Many organisations are setting international precedents in terms of change management, especially in respect of stakeholders'
accommodation in governance structures. However, most organisations are not successful. What characterised the change in South Africa is that there are few rules:

“Change managers in particular are acting in a play which has not yet been fully written, never mind rehearsed”
Terry Meyer

Some of the key issues facing South African organisations and individuals are the following:

a.) Democratisation

Fundamentally it has to do with stakeholder participation. At corporate level it is concerned with
governance structures and stakeholder involvement in strategic change. Organisations have to
involve employees in their attempts to become world-class. This requires management, supervisors,
shop stewards, unions and employees to develop new understandings, a variety of new skills as well
as to confront significant value shifts.

b.) Reconstruction & Development

If the country fails to fulfil the promises, demands and expectations of the RDP, its economic future faces serious threats. The RDP has the potential to inject capital into the economy and grow many skills necessary for sustainability, thereby kick-starting economic growth. Once again the implications for change management are enormous.

c.) Affirmative Action

In its broadest sense, affirmative action involves a wide variety of strategies concerned with human development. Emotive issues include possible legislation to force a quota system, tokenism and structural and subliminal racism. More constructively it has to do with economic empowerment through appropriate board appointments and participation of black business in corporate South Africa. It also has to do with skills formation, individual growth, confidence and empowerment. All of these place enormous stress on change management in the organisation.

d.) From training to learning

South African companies need employees with access to information, knowledge and understanding when confronted by complex problems. The change management implication is that, in order to survive, the emphasis needs to be shifted from the provision of merely education and training, to the management and facilitation of multi-dimensional learning.

e.) Diversity

The new South African Company is characterised by increased racial, cultural, ethnic and gender differences.
Work groups are made up of people with many backgrounds, people that were not exposed to the working environment before. The diversity or multiculturalism management challenge will be to implement the three “R's” - to recruit, retain and release the full potential of every employee.

e.) Traits of organisational change

Any-large scale organisational change in a company will entail at least one of the following traits, and keeping this in mind, might help South African change managers to write and rehearse the “change play”.

Trait 1 - Multiple transitions
Rather than being confined to one transition, complex changes often involve many different transitions. Some may be explicitly related others may not.

Trait 2 - Uncertain future state
It if difficult to predict or define exactly what the future state will be. There are many unknowns that limit the ability to describe it. Even when it can be described, there is a high probability that events will change the nature of the state before it has been achieved.

Trait 3 - Incomplete transitions
Many of the transitions that are initiated do not get completed. Events often overtake them, or subsequent changes subsume them.

Trait 4 - Transitions over long periods of time
Many large-scale organisational changes take a long time to implement - in some cases as much as three to six years. The dynamics of managing change over this period are different from those of managing a quick change initiative with a discrete beginning and end.

Trait 5 - Everything looks like failure in the middle
In nearly every change project, doubt is cast on the original vision because problems are mounting and the end seems to be nowhere in sight. Reality is that change is often messy, chaotic and painful, no matter what precautions are taken to smooth the process.

Attitudes about change

Attitudes about change influence the way in which the workforce accepts a change initiative. However, it is not the change itself that is resisted by employees - it is their attitudes about the change that will determine whether or not they’ll resist it. The existing organisational paradigm usually influences the way in which people think about and react to certain issues. A paradigm analysis is a handy tool in assessing the organisational paradigm and investigating ways in which it could be either utilised or changed to bring about change acceptance.

Change will effect each and every employee in different ways, depending on their attitudes and perceptions about change. It is important to realise that attitudes are both cognitive and highly emotional - our minds form the attitudes, and we often react to them on a gut level.

Some employees’ perceptions may be derived from common misconceptions about change, and if the change agent understands this, the resistance to change can be managed successfully. Typical misconceptions are the following:


Another reality is that people have a natural tendency to resist change. Anticipating, managing and overcoming this resistance is the key to successful change management.

DISCON Specialists Human Engineering System



DISCON Specialists have developed the Human Engineering System because:

  • Of the complexity, scope and duration of Business Engineering projects.

  • It provides a framework for approaching and managing change interventions in a formal way.

  • “Emotional” issues and trauma experienced due to change in organisations need to be addressed and 
    managed in a formal and strategic way.

The Human Engineering System was developed to “de-mystify” the concept of change management in the organisation, and to manage “human” issues in an organisation within the context of Business Engineering.

The DISCON Specialists Change Management System contains four systems to provide a total and complete change management environment. The systems introduce an element of flexibility wherever possible in order to enable DISCON Specialists users at all installations to apply the methodology effectively. At the same time it integrates the three disciplines, Change Management, Project Management and Architecture that are required to deliver Business Engineering projects successfully.

The Human Engineering System

The human engineering system is based on four sub-systems that will be discussed below. It is important to keep in mind that these four sub-systems each have four dimensions. These are based on the classical generic management tasks of planning, organising, directing and controlling. The guide to Business Engineering Project Management deals with these four tasks in detail.

The four phases of the Human Engineering process are:

  • Establish The Need For Change (Diagnosis)

  • Ensure The Alignment Of Human Engineering With Business Strategic Positioning
    (Strategising and Planning)

  • Align The Workforce With The Change Direction (Implementation)

  • Establish And Ensure A Change Sensitive Workforce And Organisation (Empowerment and

Function Structure Diagram (FSD)

The function structure diagram (FSD) for the DISCON Specialist Human Engineering Management System is given below.

A.) Establish the need for change

  1. Ensure assessment of total human engineering environment

    • Define the organisational environment to be assessed

    • Define and plan the research project

      • Identify the project business area​

      • Determine target group effected by change

      • Identify key role players

      • Determine time implications

      • Validate research project parameters

        • ​Time available

        • Timing of deliverables

        • Prominent constraints

        • Facilities

  2. Execute the research project​

  3. Assess the determined environment by analysing the findings

    • Include and accommodate past research findings

    • Include “subjective” findings and observations

  4. Identify change problems​

    • Define barriers​

    • Identify key change forces

    • Interpret assessment results

  5. Ensure contextual value of change​

    • Consider possible change directions​

    • Choose desired direction

    • Determine gap

    • Define future value of selected change direction

B.) Ensure the alignment of Human Engineering with Business Strategic Positioning (plan)

  1. Determine relevant strategic objectives (form master business plan)

  2. Map future change direction to strategic objectives

  3. Determine aligned Human Engineering objectives

  4. Plan Human Engineering project(s)

C.) Align the workforce with the change direction

  1. Establish an environment conducive to change, enabling the workforce to be productive and Motivated, effective and efficient, focusing on the pillars of change:

  • Communication​

  • Leadership development

  • Team development

  • Training/learning

  • Process consultation

  • Customer interventions

  • Practice development

       2. Ensure organisation-wide HE project directing

       3. Ensure HE project organisation

D.) Establish, ensure and maintain a “change sensitive” workforce and organisation

  1. Develop and maintain the “change competency”

  2. Nourish and maintain the learning organisation

  3. Monitor and control HE initiatives

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