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Sun Tzu, in the 2500-year-old classic The Art Of War, declares that "there is no invariable strategic advantage (shih ), no invariable position (hsing ), which can be relied upon at all times." According to him, warfare is an extreme example of human turbulence. As in warfare, there is no cookbook method for dealing with change, no fixed and reliable strategy -- and yet there are certain fundamental ideas that can help us think about our situations.
Those fundamental ideas are the ones I will be applying as I attempt to evaluate Moran and Avergun's statement.
Firstly, I will offer a few definitions of change as recorded by expert in change management. Secondly, the statement by Moran and Avergun will be evaluated by revealing the implied meanings of the statement and providing points in support and against each of the implied meaning identified. Attempt will also be made to offer some kind of illustration using some industrial experiences and acquired knowledge.
I will later suggest ways change can be managed to avoid members of an organization feeling powerless and overwhelmed.
A lot of change management experts have offered a lot of definition of change, but I will limit myself to the following two that simplify change for me:
Fresh and Bell (1999, P2) defines change as 'the new state of things is different from the old state of things. While:
Van de Van and Pole (1995) see change as 'an empirical observation of difference in form, quality or state over time in an organizational entity or in the overall organization.
Part A. Evaluating Moran and Avergun's Statement:
Firstly, the statement that 'Change is a series of closer and closer approximation of increasingly ambitious goals which are embraced by more and more members of an organization' seems to imply that:
Change in one part of the organization will result to change in other parts of an organization.
Effective change is one that is embraced by every member of the organization.
Change is non linear.
Secondly, the statement, 'For this reason, change often seems endless and confusing. Often those involved in the change process feel powerless and overwhelmed' can be seen to also have the following underlying meanings:
That change is dynamic
That the very nature of change (non-linear and dynamic, etc) can make those involved in the change process feel powerless and overwhelmed.
In evaluating these underlying meanings, the pros and cons of each of them will be examined.
Change in one part of the organization will result to change in other parts of the organization:
When a certain function has undergone successful change, it often exposes the need to cascade the change down the other functions of the organization. In most successful organizations, where functional effort are in synergy, change in one of the functional unit (e.g. the marketing function) will most definitely trigger a change in another functional unit(say the production department) and may continue until change occurs organization wide. This is what Moran and Avagun's statement seem to be suggesting when it says that 'change is embraced by more and more members of the organization'.
Laurie J. Mullins (P818) agrees with this when it says that:
'Change is a pervasive influence. We are all subject to cultural change of one form or another, change is an in escapable part of social organizational life. Because of its pervasive nature, change at any one level is interrelated with changes at other levels, and it is difficult to study one area of change in isolation'
The pervasive nature of change is also being highlighted by the fact that Moran and Avergun suggest that change has 'increasingly ambitious goals which are embraced by more and more members of an organization'
Salminen (2000) categorizes change on the scale of how extensive the organization is affected by change. It is small scale when it involves job restructuring at the workplace level and large scale when the organizational structure of a whole enterprise would change.
In view of above classification by Salminen, small scale changes such as inter/intra group team build strategies , restructuring of work teams and work process redesign are changes that may not necessarily affect other parts of the organization and as such would take place in isolation. They may not necessarily cause change at other parts of the organization once started. So to argue that change is pervasive is to exclude this form of change.
Effective change is one that is embraced by every member of the organization:
Effective change is one that gets the buy-in of more and more members of the organization especially those members who are likely to be adversely affected.
This can be done by adapting some or all of the behavior modification models being postulated by change management experts like Lewin.
According to Lewin, the first step in a -three -step behavior modification process is 'unfreezing' process. 'During this time those championing change tries to reduce those forces which tend to maintain behavior in its present form and recognition of the need for change and improvement to occur'. In the second stage the change occurs. This is typically a period of confusion. We are aware that the old ways are being challenged but we do not have a clear picture to replace them with yet. The third and final stage he called "refreezing". The new mind set is crystallizing and one's comfort level is returning back to previous levels.
Change efforts that do not seek the buy-in of majority of staff members often are often stalled by those whose authorities are being challenged; who would prefer the old ways and those whose personal interests are threatened by the change.
One of the most recent successful of high-profile organizational change is the turnaround affected by Lou Gerstner, Jr. at IBM. For decades, IBM employees accepted that a sales-and-marketing orientation, as opposed to a customer-needs and product focus, was what propelled growth. IBM achieved its transformation by jettisoning its internally protective culture and becoming externally focused on customers and competitors - in effect by systemically facing up to, and overcoming, the corporation's collective fears
- culled a Journal of leadership and Organizational studies (2004)
Well, by saying that effective change is one that is embraced by members of the organization, Moran and Avergun seem to imply an evolutionary change - one that progresses at the speed in which the organization is comfortable with, and which allows it to get the involvement of everyone affected by the change. The statement did not seem to consider Revolutionary changes - those in which the change cannot be accomplished gradually. Because such changes occur in situation of crisis, the leader has no time to solicit the buy-in of members of the organization. The leader, under this condition, uses the autocratic approach and practically imposes the change on members of the organization
Change is non-linear:
The assertion by Moran and Avergun that 'Change consists of a series of closer and closer approximations of increasingly ambiguous goals' suggest that organizational change is non-linear.
'Organizations are complex adaptive systems' - Joe Fowler (1996) as such, their outcomes or reactions are non-linear. Their reactions or actions (changes) are equally non-linear.
The non-linear nature of change become even more evident in this statement by Strickland, Francis (1998) -
'Experienced change management practitioners will be aware however that point B is either continually moving and thus harder to reach with rigid predetermined change plan, or the environment changes significantly in time it takes to reach B'.
Changes can be sudden, paradoxical, and chaotic. For instance, increase plant capacity a small amount, and production doubles or falls drastically or flips from one to the other.
An organization desirous of changing from its current state A to its desired state B may not necessarily get there by following a rigidly defined path. - it might find out in the middle of the change process that point B might shift before the end of the change process. This is mainly because of the changing nature of the organization's environment and the need to adapt the changes to the varying environmental changes (The contingency view of change).
There are other organizations such as the military where the structure is based on chain of command. Change in this kind of organizations can be said to be linear because change in this kind of organization is ordered and their outcomes can be very accurately predicted. This type of organization was not probably considered by Moran and Avergun.
By carefully studying behaviors change can be made as predictable as possible. For instance, by studying the behavior of members of an organization, a leader can accurately predict and manipulate the outcome of a change process by using the right stimulus to cause a desired change. The following motivational theories lend credence to this:
The Victor Vroom expectancy Theory - which states that an individual will act in a certain way based on the expectation that the act will be followed by a given outcome and on the attractiveness of that outcome to the individual
Herzberg's hygiene factor theory, which states that the presence of certain factor (hygiene factors - working condition, work environment etc) can cause job satisfaction while its absence can result to job dissatisfaction.
Both theories clearly support the fact that some changes are predictable and their outcome can be manipulated to a very large extent.
Change is Dynamic:
By describing change as 'consisting of a series of closer and closer approximations of increasingly ambitious goal' Moran and Avagun imply that change is dynamic. The dynamic nature of change is portrayed by the fact that once change is started, an organization continues to change throughout its life time. This is because 'success with one type of improvement often triggers the need to jumpstart a change effort in another area' - ULMC Module 3 (2002, P1.8).
Like individuals, organizations change continuously, reacting to developments in their markets and to the arrival and departure of key people. In a large company, these changes go on more or less unnoticed. But sometimes a company must change more quickly than this gradual evolution allows; it needs a break with the past, an accelerated pace of change-a transformation.
One other statement that seems to support the dynamic nature of change is the notion that 'success breed's failure' and organization attempting to constantly win in their markets, industry and sector, must constantly innovate (change).
Moran and Avergun's statement is hinged on the Darwinian gradualism which is based on incremental cumulative and continuous change.
However, there is the Punctuated Equilibrium model put forward by Eldredge and Gould (1972) which considers evolution (change) as 'relatively long periods of stability punctuated by compact periods of qualitative metaphoric change'. Here change is not seen to be continuous- as suggested by Moran and Avergun, but discrete stages of stability and change.
Dumphy and Stace (1988) also distinguish between Evolutionary change which is characterized to be continuous and small, and a Transformational (revolutionary) change which is discontinuous and large-scale in nature. For instance, the acquisition or sale of a unit of a corporation is a discontinuous change event which happens only once.
The very Nature of change (non-linear, dynamic, etc) can make those involved in the change process feel powerless and overwhelmed:
If an organization views change as a linear non dynamic process of getting form an undesirable state A to a desired state B and discovers that point B has shifted severally (as suggested by the contingency view), the entire organization will definitely feel overwhelmed by the share rate of change.
Again, the fact that 'success with one type of improvement often triggers the need to jumpstart a change effort in another area' means that as soon as one change process is completed, another need will arise somewhere else in the organization. As this happens, the organization members will feel that the change might be in perpetuity and as such will be overwhelmed by the unknown volume of work that needs to be done.
Members of an organization will feel powerless when the change type of change is revolutionary. Revolutionary changes are usually explosive and in a way that impacts the organization and the impact challenge the basic assumptions, practices and the existing cultures which seek to retain the status quo. Since the change initiative is practically being shoved down the throat of members of the organization, coupled with the fact that they lack the power to offer resistance, members of the organization will feel powerless.
Peter Senge was one of the main architects of the 'learning organization'. He describes the 'learning organization' as a place where 'people continuously expand their capacity to create the result they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspirations are set free and where people are continually learning to learn together' - ULMC Module 3 (2002, P2.2).
When people are creating the result they truly desire, there is no way that people will feel overwhelmed by change irrespective of its pace and volume. In this kind of organization change is a part of the organizations culture as they 'constantly improve through knowledge and understanding' - (Fiol)
It is therefore obvious that Moran and Avergun were not referring to this type of organization in their statement.
Experts in Organizational change management have successfully developed change management tools that have reduced the 'side effects' of change. Tools such as Training and Development and Organizational Development (OD) are widely available and have recorded measurable successes where they have been stringently applied.
How change can be managed to avoid people feeling overwhelmed and powerless
In attempting to answer this question, it will be proper to highlight the things that can make members of an organization feel powerless and overwhelmed during an organizational change and then proffer solution or ways to manage it.
Members of an organization will feel powerless and overwhelmed when:
They feel they cannot do anything about a change initiative that has just started in their organization
Resisting forces are subdued.
Staff members are not involved in the change effort
The pace of change is fast - especially in revolutionary change when change takes place at a very fast pace.
Cultural changes - which challenges the status quo
All these issues can result partly from the natural resistance that manifest when change is being initiated in an organization and from a change that has been poorly managed.
Interestingly, according to Jonathan D. Day and Michael Jung
'The art of leading deep corporate change can be learned. The trick is to help each member of the company discover a new reality'
So through proper and well articulated change management processes, organizational change can be managed in a way that members of the organization do not feel powerless and overwhelmed. The following steps can be taken to implement and manage change:
Force Field Analysis:
Kurt Lewin is the proponent of the force field theory which states that the equilibrium between those factors that create a pressure of change (driving Forces) and the factors that create a pressure against change (Restraining Forces) determines the current state of the organization.
Firstly, a force field analysis is important to identify driving forces and possible resistance to the change process. The result of this analysis will reveal the relative strength of the restraining and the driving forces. The strategy will be to reinforce those driving forces while trying to convert the restraining forces to driving forces when and where possible.
One example of how not to implement change is the type that happened at the former Network Group (NWG) in 2004. The Capital Programs Group (CPG), with an executive as the head, was carved out of the old NWG to handle network rollout while NWG was left to manage network operations.
The split diluted the powers of the Chief Technical Officer (CTO) and other senior managers who, before the change wielded a lot of powers because of the huge rollout budgets they controlled under the old NWG. The change was implemented, irrespective of the concerns of the CTO and some senior managers who before then managed this budget. The CPG now control the huge rollout budget much to the chagrin of the CTO and the senior managers who are left with a lean Operations budget. The resultant effect of this change is the fact that up till date, the two divisions work at crosses purposes. The expected synergy required to increase rollout numbers and stay ahead of competition (the ultimate goal of the change) was lost.
One of the ways to overcome resistance such as this would be through education and communication.
The transformation of a company requires its employees to adopt a new view of its future, a future they must regard as essential. Before employees can arrive at this deep conviction, three things must be absolutely clear to them.
First, the "why" of the transformation program, as well as the "why now," must persuade them; the benefits of success and the penalties for failing to act must be equally obvious. Second, the company's new future-the "where to"-must be clear and exciting to everyone. Third, each employee must understand the personal benefits of the program: the leadership must have credible answers to that natural question, "What's in it for me?" To inspire genuine conviction, the programs rationale and goal must withstand the toughest scrutiny from the most cynical observer right from the start.
An individual's attitude toward a change tends to evolve as they become more familiar with it. The stages a person goes through can consist of: apprehension, denial, anger, resentment, depression, cognitive dissonance, compliance, acceptance, and internalization. It is management's job to create an environment in which people can go through these stages as quickly as possible and even skip some of them. Communicating change in this manner reduces the feeling of hopelessness that engulfs members of an organization when change is imposed on them.
Take Small Steps:
Change effort can delay or even fail if it tries to address every issue or project at once. To avoid getting organization members feel overwhelmed by the change effort, and in other to build confidence and credibility for the plan, change should be implemented in incremental stages so that success can be demonstrated along the way. People should be given specific performance requirements which make the change more tangible in terms of individual and organizational performance. This way, there will not be confusion down the line.
Alan G. Lafley the CEO of Procter and Gamble (P&G) is one person who has successfully implemented change at P&G by taking the company goals down to 4 to 6 percent top-line growth, which still required them to innovate to the tune of one to two points of new sales growth a year, as well as some market share growth and, on average, a point of growth from acquisitions. He still committed to stretching but achievable double-digit earnings-per-share growth. Expectedly, the share price went down because the first thing he did was to set lower, more realistic goals.
Well his strategy paid off because, five years later, the markets are looking at Lafley and P&G very differently. From fiscal years 2000 to 2004, the giant company's profits jumped by almost 70 percent, to $9.8 billion, and revenues increased by almost 30 percent, to $51 billion. Investors have embraced P&G's future again.
Training and Organizational Development:
The two tools for changing people and culture are the Training and Development (TD) and Organizational Development (OD) tools. People and culture change pertains to the skills, behavior and attitude of employees. The marketing Division of MTN Nigeria is one success story in this regards. In the year 2000 65% or customers interviewed said that MTN Nigeria had the one of the worst customer service.
In order to change the company from its present position of providing customers random experience to a state where every customer is left with a predictable (MTN- Y'hello) experience, MTN - the leading mobile GSM telecommunication operator in Nigeria introduced a training and development program called the 'six steps to Y'hello. Six steps to y'hello is a training programme, which has been developed for front line staff of MTN Nigeria. The focus of the training is to alter their attitude to customers, and teach effective ways of winning the battle for emotional minds. The training programme is based on a story, FISH! This focuses on the following principles:
Have fun - where staff is expected to love the work they do even if they can't do the work they love.
Chose your attitude - encourages staff to choose and always bring a positive attitude to the workplace and use it to the benefit of the customer.
Be present - encourages staff to tap into the emotions of their customers through empathy and sharing their joyous moments.
Make their day - to ultimately create that MTN experience that wows the customer and leave a lasting impression in his mind at the end of the transaction.
This change effort is already yielding positive result going by the favourable customer satisfaction survey carried out by a marketing consultant by end of 2005. The survey shows that customer satisfaction has improved from 35% in 2004 to 47%.
This shows the effectiveness of training in changing the culture of members of an organization. Effective change management programs are frequently sequential, with early measures directed at overcoming the initial apprehension, anger, and resentment, but gradually evolving into a program that supports compliance, acceptance, and internalization.
Change is a constant factor in the affairs of man that is why, in the words of a Japanese proverb, 'one can stand still in a flowing stream and not in the world of men'
Change leadership is a shared responsibility of everyone in the organization so change managers must seek the buy-in of most if not all organizational members. Change that is literally forced down the throat of organization members is hardly sustainable.
To achieve sustainable change, change managers must clearly communicate change and use all change management tools and models to bring about behavioral change. This is because, according to Anatole France 'all changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another'. Change managers must ensure that the entire organization has shed their past life of 'the way we have always done it' to embrace new way that will take it to the 'promised land'
Finally the best way, in my own opinion, to manage change in a way that will not make organization members feel powerless and overwhelmed is through persuasion well articulated communication vision of change leader. After all it was Abraham Lincoln who once said that 'If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his friend'