Discussing Methods of Communicating during Change in a Business


This paper explores the topic of communicating urgency during change with a focus on the need to communicate urgency and the best methods of doing so. I have researched papers that discuss this topic in detail and also provide examples of the successes and failures from real world organisations that went through change. From the analyse in this essay I will argue that in order for an organisation to have a successful change they must first create a sense of urgency to its employees and stakeholders and need to communicate this through more than just one medium. With no urgency for an organisation to change, its employees and stakeholder can become complacent and happy with the status quo and then in most cases by the time they realise they need to change. It is too late. Balogun and Hope Hailey (2004) report that around 70% of all change programs fail. I will now show how communicating urgency is crucial for a successful change.

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There are a number of emergent change models on change management that include Kanter et al.'s Ten Commandents for executing change(1992), Kotter's eight step process for successful organisational transformation (1996)and Luecke's seven steps (2003) [Appendix 1]. A similarity between Kanter et al.'s (1992) and Kotter (1996) is they both have a step in their model for creating or establishing a sense of urgency. Luecke's (2003) model tries to combine the two emergent approaches but does not list urgency as a step itself for successful change.

A trend in todays global economy is the growing amount of significant and on many occasions distressing change occurring in organisatons in the last couple of decades. This trend is only going to continue as a result of our ever increasing use of e-commerce. Organisations should already be at the Web 3.0 Collaborative stage to retain business and should already be targeting Web 4.0 which is the Intergration stage [Appendix 2]. Many organisations are still playing catch up to get a presence on the web let alone look at online shopping or interaction websites (A REFERENCE). It must be understood that the need to create urgency is just one part of the planning process of change management and is not just needed to get change in motion but sometimes is needed throughout change programs to keep momentum going (A REFERENCE).

Literature Review

1.REF 4. Change can come about in a number of different ways, the way in which it does occur will greatly affect the need to communicate urgency. Todnem (2005) argues successful management of change is a highly required skill however most change is currently reactive. From Burnes (1996 : 13) arguement that success is less dependant on detailed plans and projections then on reaching an understanding of the complexity of issues concerned it can be suggested the emergent change approach is more concerned with change readiness and facilitating for change then to provide pre-planned steps for each change project and initiative. This suggestion of being concerned with change readiness supports communicating urgency as the urgency would function as a source of inertia to encourage an effective change process.

2.REF 3 Using Pilkington Australasia as an example who at the time had a core business of

the manufacture, and distribution of flat and safety glass, coated glass mirror and ceramically decorated glass. From this case it can be seen that a company in crisis still may not be enough by itself to create urgency to change (Graetz, 2000). When Pilkington's three major client industries collapsed due to the recession in 1990 the command and control bureaucracy was still firmly in place, and management had not seen this crisis as a way to communicate the need for change. Pilkington's workforce was aware that there were difficulties being experienced but as this had not been communicated properly they were still unprepared for merging of businesses and rationalising of the workforces which happened afterwards.

The methods in which management communicate urgency can affect the success or failure of the change. Pilkingtons method was the appointment of a new General Manager HR. This helped relight a sense of urgency by public admission by senior management of the difficulties that were ahead of Pilkington (Graetz, 2000). This supports the theories of _________________that change efforts need the support from the top.

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3.Ref 6. Another case study that provides an example of a failed change as a result of failing to create an urgency was a bellwether in the US manufacturing arena. Its decision was to spin off its subsidiary manufacturers of goods (Bernerth 2004). A survey was conducted using Armenakis et al.'s (1999) 5 components to change and of the 115 responses it was seen that the change was that of a paper change. They were operating under a new business name and the job did not change yet there was still strong negative reactions. The two lowest average of the surveys were Discrepancy and Approriateness readiness for change. The employees did not see this a necessary change but a change that has only brought on unanswered questions and uneasiness. The 2nd lowest average being appropriateness which again the respondends wondered why the change was needed as the actual job at hand did not change.

This survey shows that they did not see the reason for change, if urgency for change was communicated to the full extent explaining the external competitive pressures and management believing in the change there might not have been such a negative response and this communication would have better prepared the employees to be a driving force for continued change. (possibly a REFERENCE).

4.Ref 5. Motivation of employees plays a crucial part to get change in motion. How well a leadership figure can motivate a workforce can greatly affect the change outcome (Gill 2001). Motivating an employee to change when they don't see a reason to change in the first place can be long and on many occasions as soon has whatever was motivating them to change stops or ceases to be a force they can revert back to their prior behaviour. Therefore to be successful the the leader needs to make the current environment 'seem' more dangerous than the unknown to motivate them to change to the new requirements. This will mean there will be much less of the workforce reverting back to the old behaviour due to this 'Danger' (Gill 2001).

5.Ref 2. In the paper from Dutton & Duncan (1987) they show most empirical research is focused on why change has failed due and not on the success. Dutton & Duncan (1987) use the term 'Strategic Issues' to illustrate the events or progress which have not had a decision made in which the 'event' has the potential to change the upcoming or current strategy. The interpretation of the strategic issue is called Strategic Issue Diagnosis (SID) which can be seen in Appendix 3. This model shows the Assessment for Urgency as a key part in creating a momentum for change. The model puts forward the urgency and feasibility assessments assist in applying meaning and clarity to an issue which is needed in facilitating change.

6.Ref 7. As already discussed there are a number of models that have been created over the past few decades to lead and teach change plans in businesses. We have already identified Kanter et al.'s Ten Commandents for executing change (1992), Kotter's eight step process for successful organisational transformation (1996)and Luecke's seven steps (2003). Mento et al (2002) also adds General Electric (GE)'s seven-step change acceleration process to this list. This draws on from the other models but based on the change process at an actual Fortune 500 defence industry firm.

This paper highlights the starting point of a change effort should be "what needs to be changed or what new product should be introduced or what particular innovation might bring a significant lead over competitors" (Mento et al 2002). These needs should be arisen through creative tension. Creative tension is a way to create a sense of urgency. Senge (1990) advises that creative tension develops from the organisation seeing where we wants to be, and telling the truth about where we are now, our current state. The difference or gap between the two creates a tension and upsets the status quo and supports the urgency of the need to change.

7.Ref 8. The change projects of Deutsche Lufthansa Airline Group (Lufthansa) has effectively altered its profile over the 13 years between 1991 and 2004 (Bruch et al, 2005) which includes surviving the collapse of the airline industry after the September 11 Terrorist attacks in 2001 when many other airlines went bankrupt (A REFERENCE POSSIBLY). The Lufthansa"D-Check - Maintaining Leadership" change program is evidence that urgency is a key part of a successful change initative. A reason for its successes was their understanding that change projects have to make a sense from the beginning. The change has to feel right for the organisation and also have the necessary sense of urgency (Bruch et al, 2005). Ghoshal (2004) goes on to state "the required urgency for initiating a change can be achieved through a largenumber of visible, tangible activities". Using visible tangible activities ensures momentum is not lost during a change process.

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Bruch, H., P. Gerber, et al. (2005).

8.Ref 10 The research of Narine & Persaud (2003) explore organisational change efforts in healthcare aimed at improving quality through Total Quality Management (TQM). Their research findings indicate that the change programs have not fulfilled their aims in improving service delivery. Their analysis is aimed to provide insights into improving the chances of successful change management using the healthcare industry as its foundation. A key factor that has come through from this research is gaining commitment to change through ensuring organizational readiness for change and surfacing dissatisfaction with the present state which is another case supporting the communication of urgency during change.

In the absence of an observable issue or crisis, it is difficult to see why there is any need of change, for this reason the managers have to create a sense of urgency about the change by encouraging feelings of dissatisfaction with the present position. An important factor in the failed attempts of adopting TQM was the absence of a sense of urgency being communicated by management to those in the frontline Huq and Martin (2000) discovered. Organisations that have had success in large-scale change initiatives have expressed to employees an undeniable need to change the way the organization carries out its business (Smith, 1998). Kachinowski (1997) offers methods of communicating urgent needs that can include forces on gaming ascendance in healthcare background such as accountability, benchmarking, performance measurement and evidence-based decision-making that will drive the need for change. The employees/stakeholders should have tools for recognising consequences of not changing and these consequences need to be easily identified.

9.Ref 11 Glaxo Wellcome (Now Glaxo Smith Kline) one of the large pharmaceutical companies had the need for a significant change program as the demands for greater efficiencies in drug development, changes in the regulatory environment, sudden rising health care costs and significant progress in biotechnology were having a major impact on their current working practices (James & Ward 2001). One of the reasons why Glaxo Wellcome succeeded in their change was through the use of a multinational dispersed team to deliver the Customer Focus Project

ABSTRACT To thrive in the global workplace, dispersed multinational or virtual teams that

cross functional and cultural boundaries are essential. These teams need to deliver fast,

behave collaboratively and stay connected often with little travel. This paper examines how

Glaxo Wellcome formed and managed a

. Throughout the project, the team dynamics and project plans were

continually evaluated to ensure it capitalised on the advantages of using a dispersed

multinational team, while effectively controlling the additional complexities.

The team identified that there were

several drivers for change. These were

focused on four key areas to ensure clear

and concise communication to all key


- Completing trials more quickly could

significantly increase the commercial

value of clinical trials.

- All pharmaceutical companies are

dependent upon staff at the clinical

trial site to select rapidly the

appropriate patients to enter trials and

produce data for trials.

- The customer interface is becoming

more complicated. It is therefore

essential that the needs of each

customer segment are understood and

managed in a targeted way.

- Many environmental changes are

making completing trials more

complicated. These include increased

regulatory requirements and increased

demands on the medical profession

by patients and management


All of these factors stressed the urgent

need to change and maintain a

competitive edge by minimising product

development time. In order to achieve

this, it is essential to understand

customers and optimise the way in

which staff from GW and customers at

the trial site work together. In order to

focus the project, three key problem

areas were identified:

1. Customer performance is not meeting

targets in terms of set-up time, patient

recruitment and data quality.

2. Customers complain that GW's

working practices impede their ability

to perform effectively.

3. The level of customer satisfaction

with GW clinical research activities is




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