What is organizational change?

Published: 2019-10-16 08:00:00
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Organisational change is a process where an organization undergoes reorganization and restructuring then finally optimizes the imbalances created in its operations and performances to achieve stability (Cummings, 2014). The change is triggered by a shift in the organizations environment, both internal and external. This change is a response meant to offset the imbalance created by the dynamic organizations environment. Organizational change is a very important process in a business life and the adjustment process requires an understanding of what the change entails, and the implications that the change will have on the entire organization (Cummings, 2014). Most importantly an organizational change can go a long way in defeating leadership toxicity in an organization.

According to Alvesson (2012), an organization is form of a social entity made up of people working together for a common course. It is therefore in the best interest of the organization to maintain an ample working environment for the society within its borders. The organization needs to implement effective methods of operation and maintain a harmonic environment. However, when an organization assembles a considerable number of people, managers face the problem of ensuring that the diverse group of people is managed in a way that engages them to contribute to activities that positively contribute to the achievement of the organizations goals and objectives (Alvesson, 2012). The management has to create a control system that increases the efficiency and effectiveness of the organizations operations: Especially when dealing with its human resource and the customers in order to avoid counterproductive behaviors and leadership toxicity.

Most organizational change approaches are an attempt to change or modify certain sectors or levels of the organization (Casey, 2010). However, change in a single component of the organization does indeed have a ripple effect and can affect the entire organization changing expectations, beliefs, values and norms that are part of the organizations culture. Some of these changes can be very abrupt and radical and may streamline the organizations operations while others take time to catch on. All in all, organizational change should be done with a lot of care and on a foundation of knowledge if it is to help eradicate negativity and toxicity and streamline the organizations operations towards achieving their objectives (Casey, 2010).

Key Theories and Findings of Organizational Change Research

Several organizational change theorists have coined some relevant theories and research findings that explain organizational change and how to achieve the transitions and adjustments after the change process. (Burke, 2013). People in leadership and management positions have developed various models for guiding and managing change. Although these models are different, they have a similar foundation. The most significant models are Kurt Lewins model, Kotters model and Peter Senges approach (Burke, 2013).

Lewin's Change Management Model

Kurt Lewin developed one of the cornerstone models that explained the concept of organizational change back in the 1950s and it still holds true to date (Shirey, 2013). Lewin model or theory is known as Unfreeze-Change-Refreeze. It refers to the three change processes that he described. Lewin was a social scientist and a physicist. He used the analogy of changing the appearance of a block of ice to explain the theory of organizational change (Shirey, 2013). The analogy goes like; if for instance one had a big block of ice stone, then they realized that what they needed is a cone shaped piece of that ice, what would they do?

Lewin says that, one would need to first unfreeze the ice to make it easier and amicable to change. Then they have to mold the melted ice into the desired shape (i.e. change) then finally they would have to solidify the melted ice to regain the desired shape, (i.e. refreeze) (Shirey, 2013). By evaluating the change process as having these distinct stages one can prepare themselves to handle what is coming and make the necessary adjustments to manage and accommodate the transition. These will avoid a scenario where people dive into a new situation blindly causing themselves unnecessary turmoil, conflict and chaos.

John Kotter Model

We are living in a world where business is change (Burke, 2013). Business environment with new initiatives, technological improvement, project development and cut throat competition. All these come together to drive the change processes. Whether an organization is considering small or big changes involving multi stages, it is common for the feeling of uneasiness and uncertainties to hit hard and intimidate the change process (Burke, 2013). The knowledge that change needs to happen is not enough. One should figure out, how the change is to start, how it should be delivered, how it should be effected, who should be involved and how to see it through to the end. John Kotter introduced the eight steps process (Burke, 2013). His 1955 book, Leading Change, explains and describes the eight steps. Below are the 8 steps he proposed.

Step 1: Create Urgency:

For change to take place, the whole organization has to need it. There is need for creation of a sense of urgency to effect the change (Jones, 2010). Urgency initiate and create the spark that to get things started

Step 2: Formation of Strong Coalition

This step is all about formation of coalitions. It requires a very strong leadership and physical support from the executive within the organization (Burke, 2013).

Step 3: Create a Vision for Change

When deciding on the best vision for change, one should consider all the other ideas available around the company and links them into one concept to come out with a vision that can be understood and acceptable by all the people in that organization (Hayes, 2007).

Step 4: Communicate the Vision

After one creates the vision for change, what they do after determines their success (Burke, 2013). One needs to powerfully and frequently communicate it and incorporate in every aspect of the organisation.

Step 5: Remove Obstacles

At this step one needs to ask themselves whether there is anyone who is opposed or resisting the change (Jones, 2010). Is there anyone getting in the way? There is need to put up a clear structure for change and maintain a continuous monitoring for any barriers that may results along the way.

Step 6: Create Short-Term Wins

Nothing gives motivation than success. It would be prudent to give the organisation a feeling of victory early in the change process (Burke, 2013). The change process should be designed in such a way that within a short time frame like a year depending on the nature of change, there will be some short and quick success that the employees can see.

Step 7: Build on the Change

Kotter says projects fail because people tend to celebrate little success way too early (Jones, 2010). Real change is supposed to run deep and the quick wins should not blind people to forget that a long term success is built on a strong foundation, and that the creation of this foundation does take time.

Step 8: Make the Changes Part of the Corporate Culture

The final step involves making the change achieved stick and become part of the organizations core (Burke, 2013). The change must form a day to day corporate culture and must be seen in every day running of the organisation influencing every aspect

The learning organisation model

Peter Senge, a strategist of the 20th century, popularized the Learning Organization model in his book, the fifth Discipline (Senge, 2014). According to him, the rationale used is that during rapid change, only those organizations that are adaptive, flexible and productive will succeed. Thus, they have to discover how to tap capacity and commitment of people to learn at all levels (Senge, 2014). He came up with five basic disciplines or components to innovate learning;

System thinking; it teaches the need for interdependency and change and deals with the forces that shape the results of ones actions.

Personal mystery; involves formulating a clear picture of the outcomes that people desire to gain.

Mental model; It is focused on creating awareness of the perceptions and attitudes that shape thought and interactions.

Building shared vision; it establishes a focus on mutual goal. People share images of the future they mutually desire

Team learning; it is the discipline of group interaction, skillful discussion and team transformation (Senge, 2014).

Summary

Organizations that handle change well do not struggle to survive, while those who do not accommodate and adjust to these changes cannot survive the dynamic world of business. The concept of change is not new to many businesses; the problem comes when managing the change. Change in a business depends on the form of business, the nature of the change involved or the people tasked with the responsibility of effecting the change. The most important part of change is how important the people perceive it to be and how much they understand the change process. The vibrancy that is inherent in business environment implies that organizations must adopt and implement change from time to time.

Key Implications for Management Practice

The impact of organizational change has realized more good results than bad. Initially, organizational change was viewed as a passing phenomenon by some, and by others regarded as an overdue corporate management correction (Ford, 2010). However, the continuous opening up of the international economies competition and the involvement of companies in other developing economies intensifies the pressure for these changes. The pressure inside an organization to increase its flexibility and reduce the cost of production and other fixed costs has kept the need for restructuring on the most organizations agenda now and for years to come.

Therefore, the implication of an organizational change, in this respect, is the continuous restructuring and reconfiguring the organizations system and management practices in the coming years due to the benefits realized by todays organizational change (Ford, 2010). Today, restructuring means more than a mare adaptation to new management practices or different work systems, it means adapting or modifying an organization in such a way that the changes occurring today positively affect the future, and pave way for more adjustments.

Another implication of organizational change on management is the crisis that change causes on the organizations human resource and its management (Alvesson, 2012). Due to the interconnectivity of most of the aspects of an organization, restructuring can leave a series of disruptions or even destructions in its wake. Some employees may find that they have lost or are in the verge of losing their job security and other benefits like pension, allowances or insurance. At the same time, those who survive the companys reorganizations may find themselves landing on very unfamiliar sectors performing duties they did not have before, some of which could be more challenging (Alvesson, 2012). Usually, employees are encouraged to do more with the little they have and be open, more flexible towards change and adapt, but some conditions may be way above their comfort zones.

If the leadership is resistant to change, and is forced to face a decline in competition, then restructuring and downsizing measures is not feasible. In such a case, the costs of both the employees and the companys wellbeing is just too high to risk as the short term pressures are more than the benefits of long-run commitments (Alvesson, 2012). However, if the leadership has maintained a culture that is open and welcoming to change, it become...

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