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Changes (simple/complex) within the business environment - define the way we see leadership. It is intended to benefit an organisation however employees often handle it with fear and uncertainty - thus a challenge for the leader to implement change successfully.
According to Mann and Neff (1964), people not only plan and direct changes but also become the targets of change.
Common types of changes include: mergers, corporate reorganizations, automation and computerization. These radical changes are prevalent and create varying degrees of discontinuity, upheaval and turmoil - thus produces a turbulent environment within an organization.
A management's primary function is to manage process of change - providing order, structure, strategy, and direction with a minimum of disruption.
Effects of Major Change on Employees
Change affects many people in the business society including entities related with the changing business. Therefore a manager must understand the impacts of change and who it will affect. A manager however usually dictates rather than manage invariably leading to turmoil and loss of employee morale.
There are many problems a manager will face during turbulent times when implementing major change - employee resistance and stress.
Resistance to change can take several forms - absenteeism, resignations, transfer requests and a state of suppressed discontent (Labovitz, 1997). Labovitz noted that there are essentially four reasons why employees resist change:
Economic factors - current job/career maybe in jeopardy
Inconvenience - Uprooting those things which are familiar and having to learn new people, places or procedures.
Uncertainty - natural fear of unknown
Symbols - Material or status items which one has accumulated through the years (e.g. large office, special privileges)
Employee stress has the same results which categorize resistance, however it is more subtle maybe more difficult to spot as it is always present in all business environments. One big negative is that stress can linger on far longer than the time period in which change was employed.
A study by AT&T in the early 1980s found that the degree to which people were able to control stress was directly related to certain 'coping resources' possessed by each employee.
Managing yourself through major organizational change
When an organization undergoes change, the leader's reaction can fall into two categories: Intellectual and Emotional.
Intellectual - 'This change will improve the company's bottom line and efficiency'
Emotional - 'I am not competent enough to deal with this; might lose my job'
Usually as a result, the emotional side wins out in the early stages (McCartney and Gerhardt, p 25.)
Techniques for managing major organizational change
The process of managing major organizational changes must be approached rationally and with empathy and flexibility.
Get to know your employees
Michael Bisesi (1983, p. 63) suggests that there are three excellent means to prepare for change:
Learning more about people and the way they work in teams
Discussing careers with the employees
Hiring a broad diverse set of employees
An awareness of the qualities, attributes and backgrounds of one's employees is critical to responding to situations where the right people must be placed in the right jobs. This knowledge could be the difference between success and failure.
Functional techniques for turbulent times
Ellis (1982) suggests that the manager approach major changes with four central objectives in mind:
Close adherence to the above management objectives will create a positive atmosphere even with changing environments.
However, no strategy for change will be successful without the support of people who will be affected by the change. Hence the manager could proceed in the following constructive ways:
Employer integrity - to provide new information when it is available and be open/honest about its meaning. Avoid 'covering up'. An honest approach, even to bad news will treat people as adults and maintain management's integrity.
Participative management - "Truly involved people can do anything!" according to Tom Peters (1987, p.365). To make this statement possible, these three characteristics must be present:
Summary of main points
The most effective and efficient route to change is through participation of everyone. For a significant change to occur many tiny changes must cumulate in a particular structure and this is overseen by a leader. Changes especially in business environments involves throwing away the traditionals and familiarity and the laying aside of patterned ways of living and working together. Most changes are intended to benefit the organization however it is often embraced by fear and uncertainty by employees thus becoming a challenge for the manager to implement successfully. Hence it follows that the primary functions of management is to manage the process of change by providing order, clear structure and also direction in areas of change which invite chaos and turmoil.
In the article, a study by the AT&T found that the degree to which people were able to control stress was directly related to certain 'coping resources' possessed by each employee. 'Copying resources' includes intangibles such as self-efficacy, self-esteem, and tolerance of ambiguity (Ashford, 1988). These findings are important in that they provide clues and help aid the manager in his/her ability to reduce the overall stress by devising strategies in the workplace during periods of major organizational change.
The first step in dealing with this problem is for the manager to confront his/her emotions. Organisations recognize the need to help managers through this critical period by holding training seminars of 'managing the manager'. Some of the suggestions include:
Controlling one's attitude
Be prepared for psychological soreness
Use the transition as an opportunity
Sense of humor
See yourself as a positive catalyst
It is critical that the manager prepares himself/herself emotionally using the techniques outlined above as this would allow them to lead better.
Finally, in order to be successful at implementing major change and creating a positive atmosphere, the manager should employ the management techniques (managing practically, actively, flexibly and sensitively).
Managing Practically - In a rapidly changing business world, waiting for the perfect time will mean failure. This objective involves partial solution - approach of solving what can be solved today in an effort to make the problem much simpler.
Managing Actively - Committed to getting things done and making active decisions this may lead to risk of failure. While managers usually avoid risk taking, in this current changing environment it may be an essential/non-optional requirement.
Managing flexibly - Mandates managers to be ready and willing to change his/her mind as circumstances warrant. This also means that a manager will be willing to learn from his/her mistakes.
Managing Sensitively - Making the best effort possible to satisfy the needs/interests of people in a tactful, aware state.
An awareness of these techniques can provide the manager with knowledge and skills and thus be the difference between success and failure.
In closing, it has clearly been seen that 'managing major change' is essentially a synonym for 'managing people through major change' as emphasized through the article.
Paragraph explaining connection to topic
Changes (simple/complex) within the business environment - define the way we see leadership. A manager must understand the impacts of change and who it will affect. Usually it is dictated rather than managed invariably leading to turmoil and loss of employee morale. Hence this article relates to 'Leadership in Different Environments' as it deals with the 'chaotic contexts' which is covered under the Cynefin Framework. Thus we can draw a relationship in the article, as it highlights that a successful leader, must arise from good 'crisis/turbulent' management. In this context, they must know how to identify and then transform the situation into a positive one, by controlling their behavior at the same time.
To help the leader identify the problem it is useful if they are familiar with the employees as he can allocate the tasks according to the strengths and weaknesses. Overall adequate leadership requires an openness to change on an individual. Good leaders are well-equipped with knowledge to operate in ordered domains which would mean that they can identify context changes, have the ability to change behavior to match context and understand transition from context to context. However more importantly they are able to instill this culture into their organisation and employees. In the past most leaders relied on natural character and capabilities using sublime instinct, intuition and intellect. However in the rapidly change and ever-evolving business world leaders need tools and approaches to guide their firms through less familiar circumstances.