Organizational Change Management

Organizational Change Management



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How and why do middle managers support and resist strategic change?

“Understanding the triggers that lead people to think change is needed, and what happens when managers try to make changes, is essential given the volatile world we live in.” (Senior & Swailes, 2010) Organizational change may vary from large scale restructuring to micro scale adjustments. Large scale restructuring includes the closing of old organizations and the development of new oneswhile micro scale adjustments include implementingcurrent software in an office setting.For organizations to remain competitive and relevant in the built market, change is needed. Organizations have to also be successful in implementing change so that they can keep up with their competitors. However, it is important to note thatimplementing change in an organization is not an easy task.

Research shows that change initiatives fail awfully. Only thirty percent (30%) of change initiatives succeed. Keller suggests that these change programs fail terribly due to the fact that, “too many managers do not realize transformation is a process, not an event”. (Aiken & Keller, 2009)

Middle managers play a central role in the process of change and, therefore, affect the eventual failure or success of a major change initiative in the organization.They are responsible for attaining the goals of the Organization by implementing and translating strategies, motivating subordinates, building teams, making sure that operations run smoothly, creating a suitable work environment, and managing change. (Conway & Monks, 2011)

The process of change is not smooth and organizations have to deal with different levels of resistance. It is common for middle managers to show resistance to change. However, since they play the central role of facilitators of change, it is important that they are well prepared so that instances of resistance to change are minimal. In short, middle managers have to first go through the change process before they can lead the other employees to change. They are forced to learn faster and change more due to the rationalization and restructuring of their organizations.

“Middle managers are playing an integrative role in the vertical communication about the formulation and implementation of the strategy. They also play a pivotal role in the translation and change of organizational culture as a means of achieving organizational flexibility. Dealing with a broad range of human resource issues is also for a great deal the responsibility of middle managers.” (Ekaterini, 2011)

The middle managers may take certain factors into consideration before deciding whether to support or resist change. First and foremost, they have operational wisdom that cannot be taught in business schools; they have had to learn the hard way on what works best and what does not work at all for a given organization. Among the factors that lead to change resistance or support is the organization’s order and stability. An organization’s technologies, processes, systems, structure, strategy, and mission serve a common aim. This aim is to acquire predictability and reduce conflict through specification of quality standards, normal procedures, acceptable behavior, accountabilities, arrangements, relationships and goals. If an organization does not respond sufficiently due to problems in its stability, then the middle managers will surely support change in such an organization. However, if an organization is very stable and sufficiently effective in all it does, the middle managers will resist change that will disrupt the smooth running of the organization and only accept change that increases the productivity level. (McCann, Morris, & Hassard, 2008)

The notion of uncertainty also affects how the middle managers perceive change. Senior managers make and plan large – scale changes in the organizations and leave the middle managers to judge on how the implementation processes will take place. This leaves the middle managers feeling uncertain on what course of action is best to use in the implementation process. Uncertainty is very common during change. There are two theories on uncertainty; uncertainty management theory and uncertainty reduction theory. According to the uncertainty management theory, some middle managers will be hopeful for a positive aftermath instead of being sure of a negative aftermath. On the other hand, the uncertainty reduction theory provides that some middle managers will undergo a psychological state of stress that they will be motivated to reduce. (Sharyn & Nerina, 2006)

Communication also greatly influences the outcome of the change process. Good communication positively influences change in an organization. Employees relate better with their supervisors and would rather receive information on change from them. This is because middle managers, act as opinion leaders and employees trust them more. Poor communication results in the terrible failure of the change process. Some change efforts do not succeed due to under communication. “Transformation is impossible unless hundreds or thousands of people are willing to help, often to the point of making short-term sacrifices.” (Aiken & Keller, 2009)

The roles of the middle managers during change are to communicate the aim of the change, act as role models, guide their subordinates and actively engage in the change implementation. Their greatest challenge arises when they have to change and develop their own job roles. Majority of the middle managers also find it difficult when it comes to switching between daily business routines and changes. They have to be simultaneous while facilitating change and focusing on their daily practices.

A recent research study conducted on middle management resistance to change indicated that there is low resistance from middle managers. The study further showed that the resistance was not based on emotions at all. The managers did not feel uncomfortable, tensed or stressed about the change. The study also revealed that resistance from middle managers is more passive rather than open. This explains why they tend to not change their minds easily; they keep things unchanged and prefer to stick to routine. Most of the middle managers prefer to deal with change that is short term. Some reasons as to why they resist change could be that they disagree with some elements of the change or find it unpleasant for their working conditions or personal situations. (Braaf, 2011)

Middle managers are very influential during change; they can assist employees in the change process. Their uncertainty management can be made easier by involving them in forming strategies, communicating with employees and senior management, peer interaction and receiving assistance from senior managers.

Why do models of planned change not bring about cultural change?

Culture has been commonly defined as a socially understood phenomenon that is layered, eclectic, and pervasive, which is developed through assumptions, beliefs and values but expressed through behaviors, structures and artifacts (Detert, Schroeder, & Mauriel, 2000).

Models of culture change focus on either “forced” revolution or “natural” revolution. “The most established evolutionary approach is the framework of Sathe. This approach centers on the premise that as new organizational members are socialized, they are inculcated with the organization’s culture, which is further reinforced as dynamic interaction occurs. Thus, through focusing on how culture evolves, Sathe argues that culture intervention efforts should focus on the means through which culture is perpetuated.” (Sathe, 1983) This approach has received continuoussupport over the years from other authors.

Every effective leader envisions change. Organizational culture greatly determines the success of change initiatives implemented by a leader. According to (Smollan & Sayers, 2009), “change triggers emotions as employees experience the processes and outcomes of change, including cultural change”. “Change is fundamentally about feelings; companies that want their workers to contribute with their heads and their hearts have to accept that emotions are central to the new management style…the most successful change programs reveal that large organizations connect with their people most directly through values – and that values; ultimately are about beliefs and feeling” (Duck, 1993)

Over the years, organizational culture has continued to emerge as an important aspect in determining the success of change efforts. Both models of organizational change, that is, process and conceptual models, have received modifications to mirror the role of culture in moderating the efforts of leaders to impact the behavior, norms and attitudes of employees in the organization. (Harris & Ogbonna, 2002)

According to (Smollan & Sayers, 2009)cultural change is particularly emotional due to the fact that organizational culture is drenched in emotions. Firstly, an organization can purpose to change their culture, but the change can occur indirectly due to operational, tactical and strategic changes. Secondly, how these emotions are expressed and experienced is greatly influenced by a company’s affective culture. Thirdly, the fact that an employee likes or dislikes various aspects of a culture influences his or her emotional responses to various types of changes.

More often than not, an individual’s sense of identity can be negatively undermined by a change in values of an organization. However, some values can facilitate the change of other values in the organization. Convincing employees to accept a new culture through the alignment of values can be the way to attaining successful change; however, it is not easily achieved. If the employees dislike the values imposed on them, it is highly likely that they will resist change on affective and other levels. For instance, in a situation where an organization was taken over by another organization, resistance may occur due to the fact that the employees feel as if their identities have been dislodged. (Burnes, 2004)

Former research studies conducted on acquisitions and mergershave shown an interconnection between an individual’s own identity with that of a corporate identity; when change occurs on the corporate identity, an individual’s identity is fragmented. (Van Dijk & Van Dick, 2009)Some resistance experienced from employees can be brought about by the fact that new cultures appear to be less participative than previous ones. Former research has also indicated that exclusion of employees from the decision making process is a huge barrier to change in the organization. (Lines, 2004)This can be especially experienced by managers who had formerly made major decisions in the organizations, or individuals who had previously enjoyed the role of a general manager. (Van Dijk & Van Dick, 2009) suggest that “employees who identify with a salient social group that is negatively impacted by the change process are resisting a loss of status for that in-group as a whole.”

The perception of culture for those receiving and leading change is very different. Those leading change perceive affective culture as positive while those receiving the change vary in perceptions. “The affective culture of an organization can thus exert subtle or more direct pressure on employees to conform to norms. Female employees, in particular, consider it unbecoming to cry in front of male bosses or colleagues. Researchers have commented on how organizational norms of emotion management have been constructed by men to marginalize women” (Putnam & Mumby, 2002)

Culture should influence employees positively. How an employee perceives culture influences their emotional behavior and reactions. This, especially, is seen in how employees make sense of certain changes in the organization. However, it is important to note that organizational culture can be two – sided, such that, while some practices and values engage one employee, the same practices and values may have the opposite effect on another employee. Organizations should strive to align the values of the organization with those of the employees. This is because research has shown that when the values of the employees are in line with those of the organization, job satisfaction and commitment has been seen to increase significantly. (Amos & Weatthington, 2008)

Organizational change has the ability to change the culture of an organization, whether on purpose or not, and further affect the emotional reactions of individuals. On the other hand, the culture influences how staff responds react to change on an emotional extent. Researchers have argued that emotions, change and organizational culture are socially intertwined. Organizations need to develop strong and sufficient cultures that can accept change without amending their core ethos and to accept the fact that emotions are a natural fragment of organizational change and organizational culture.

How do leadership behaviors positively and negatively impact upon employee commitment to organizational change?

Employees are the determining factor of the ultimate triumph of change efforts in an organization; this is regardless of the type of change taking place in the specific organization (for example, virtual organizing, reengineering, downsizing, restructuring, mergers, etc.). It is also very clear that management and leadership practices are key drivers of change outcomes and employee reactions. Leadership involves inspiring and motivating, as well as aligning employees, and most importantly, establishing direction. Leadership also entails several functions and responsibilities, such as, problem solving and controlling, staffing and organizing, as well as budgeting and planning.

Organizations that do not have good leadership may be efficient at delivering specific services or products, but they end up lagging behind in the market as they lack the urge to compete and their goals are only short lived. Such organizations are not keen on the external environment (for example, competitors and markets). On the other hand, organizations with very good leadership behaviors are often perceived to over emphasize on planning, analysis and thought for the future.

Research on organizational change has looked at the effect of leadership behavior on the employee with regards to commitment to organizational change. For example, a study that was conducted at West Point reported that leadership accounted for seventy one percent (71%) and forty two percent (42%) of change in performance for military captains andcadets respectively. A study at a school also reported that the values of a school principal (that is openness to change) decreased the intentions of teachers to resist sizeable changes to their performance standards, work processes and qualifications. (Oreg & Berson, 2011) The above examples illustrate the power that a leader’s traits and his overall leadership, has on change outcomes and employee reactions. It further shows that a resistant leader begets resistance while an open leader begets openness.

Leadership influences employees in many ways, and thus, it is necessary that the credibility of the leader is not in question. A credible leader assures his followers that hismotives for the organization’s change are proper and that the interests of the employee will be under consideration throughout the process of change. How the leader behaves towards employees is also directly related to how employees react towards organizational change. The relationship between a leader and his employees also affects how the leader treats different employees. No matter how much a leader wants to implement change in his organization, resistance from employees may come as a result of various factors. This includes; how the leader makes decisions in the change process, the level of participation by the leader, how he shares information with the employees, and whether there is trust between the leader and his employees.

A creative leader has behaviors and traits that encourage change. Creativity is fundamental, with regards to doing something different or new. “Leading organizational change is conceptualized here as a creative function that fundamentally influences changing individual and group behavior in organizations. As such, creativity from a leader is expected to predict the capacity to lead change. Creative leadership involves not only recognizing the benefits of change, but also charting an inspiring new path that is motivational and considers employee reactions (for example, social and emotional)” (Gill, 2003)Leaders need to be very creative for organizational change to be fundamental.

Another behavioral approach that is important to leadership is transformational leadership. It has received a lot of attention from researchers in the recent past. Change is a basic element of transformational leadership. Transformational leadership is defined as leaders changing the primary attitudes, beliefs and values of employees. (Podsakoff, MacKenzie, Moorman, & Fetter, 2010) Transformational leadership involves six aspects that include; “articulating a vision of the future, fostering the acceptance of group goals, communicating high – performance expectations, providing intellectual stimulation, modeling appropriate behavior, and displaying supportive leader behavior”. (Bommer, Rich, & Rubin, 2012) Transformational leadership behavior is mostly applied on employees who are cynical and negative about change in the organization.

A study by (Herold, Fedor, & Caldwell, 2010) found that through transformational leadership, employees are more committed to organizational change. This was in comparison to other practices that were change specific. Thus, transformational leadership traits and behaviors have been perceived to positively affect employees with regards to accepting change. A specific aspect of transformational leadership that is of utmost importance in organizational change is vision. A leader must be able to come up with a compelling vision. However, the inspiring vision must be achievable, challenging and practical at the same time.

Employees’ reactions towards change can be affected by a vision. For example, an effective vision can assist the employee in understanding the implications, destinations and motives for change. An inspiring vision will also be genuinely embraced by stakeholders and employees. A good leader can ensure that his employees are committed to the vision by involving them in the vision making process. This ensures that the values of the employees’ are engrained in the vision for change and deviating from them could be hard.

Good leadership behaviors also include effective communication. Research has shown that information related to strategic change and the vision of the organization is more effective when communicated by senior leaders. Job-specific and implementation information should be communicated by the direct supervisors of the employees. Senior leaders are often perceived to assist employees to “see the big picture” and most importantly to motivate them to change. (Griffin, Rafferty, & Mason, 2012)

Another important leadership behavior is external monitoring; this enables the leaders to get information concerning the challenges and needs (for example, opportunities and threats) thatconfront relevant stakeholders such as, competitors, customers and suppliers. Leaders should also be keen on encouraging innovative thinking amongst the employees. This allows the leader to notice the benefits of employee insights, knowledge and skills in the change efforts of the organization. This also encourages employees to develop problem solving skills that are essential in organizational change. Another important leadership behavior is personal risk taking. This shows the employees that the leader has initiative. Breaking from the normal roles of leadership comes with significant consequences like alienation, bad reputation or even job loss. However, once a leader shows that he is willing to take initiative and risk, he gains considerable influence with his employees. (Yukl, Gordon, & Taber, 2008)


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