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In most work places today as it was two thousand years ago, change is part and parcel of business. Organizations are always trying to stay ahead of competition (in terms of profit making, avoid mergers and acquisitions), strategy change, keep abreast with technological advancement and new initiatives: These drives constant diversification of workplace procedure thus making change part of the working environment. The role of top level management is to give direction to the organization and as such is held responsible for planning, strategizing and the implementation of the change process. This excerpt looks at the top-down approach to change management as it places the responsibilities of this process on the organization's workforce that is tasked to do so, leaving the lower level management to implement the arrived at strategy to enable the organization to grow. It also compares the top-down model with the mixed model in terms of their strong points and weaknesses establishing that the mixed model is more efficient change tool and arguably less traumatic to employees than the former which is in itself a very admirable model (Julian 2004).
Top-Down/Systematic model of change
According to Storey (1992), change in the organization is usually a hard process for many if not all organization and as such is met with a lot of suspicion and often rebellion and resistance. The top-down/ systematic model of change involves considerable influential leadership and hierarchal interaction amongst the departments involved in the change process. Top management official(s) envision strategies and implementation plans which are then communicated to lower positions for the information phase. This model follows explicitly the rules of project planning with a concept that top management is obligated to lead the organization and is therefore task with identifying opportunities for change to facilitate for the formers strategies and kick starting the change process in the workplace. However, its main drawback is that there is a lack of participation in the planning process in that the ideas come from top management instructing the rest of the organization on change processes. In most cases local managers are not involved and as thus there is little or no sense of ownership of the process.
Initiatives or change models to create a diversification in organization structure in the top down approach start at the top with the leadership commitment. Top management develops a high level strategy that's complete (has goals, mission and goals). This top-level initiated change relies on the unpredictable trickle down effect to reach the workforce at the bottom of the organization chart. This undoubtedly results in highly distorted information reaching the bottom if at all it makes down to the intended workforce (Patrick 2003, p.15).
As suggested the top-down approach is a very admirable undertaking as it is usually a brain child of top executives undertaking, however without an equal bottom up strategy the change initiatives in the work place get side tracked in mid-level management never really bringing wholesome organization change (Storey 1992).
SWOT analysis of top-down/ systematic model of change
Basic elements of this model include training, equal employment opportunities, recruitment and retention, workplace culture change programs and linkage of the change process to the overall organization goals. This is usually in an effort to create a sense of security in the workplace that everyone starts to gain in the change process while at the same time still making the condition better for workers.
The CEO and other top executives create a powerful coalition in order to convince people that the change process is necessary. The idea here is that change initiative that has support from key people in the workplace and a strong leadership will bear fruits. People resist imposed changed as opposed to popular belief that people resist change. This can be seen in a company situation where the workforce comes to the office and finds a new set of procedures to follow in order to improve the bottom line. This will definitely create a conflict. On the other hand if the management was to announce that it is accepting suggestion for practical change efforts that are to be discussed by the entire workforce before implementation then that would be more acceptable (Storey 1992). This model of change does not assess the workforce to gauge their readiness to accept change. Change is therefore viewed as threatening and new ideas rejected if this is the case. Mind you this is the case for departments that may be held in low esteem and may see change as a threat to the job security as it is for departments that are well performing and wonder, so why change? Readiness to change is usually attributed a workplace is average in terms of their performance and achievement of organization goals (Julian 2004).
Richard (2003) argued that the top-down approach presents a situation where top-level management tries to change lower level staff values, beliefs and working attitude in order to achieve change. This produces profound change which unfortunately leads to a lot of trauma in the work place. The mixed model goes for behavior change through activities such as teambuilding which produce less traumatic effects. As such the top-down approach tends to be problem focused I order to identify situation that require change as that is the objective of top-level management. This model can actually sustain this problem by drawing attention from what is actually working to the problems that may not even exist as most top level management is not involved in the day to day menial jobs in the workplace.
Top-down approach versus mixed model change
When the mixed model is used it is able to assess the readiness of the work force to accept change and is therefore able to minimize the likelihood of resistance. This is done by in involving low esteem departments in visions and future probabilities that are promising. On the other hand the exemplary department that may also resist change is confronted with relevant facts and incites that will check their high esteem into realistic views of the organization. These models are therefore able to move the organization into a somewhat average position where change is more readily acceptable and as such are able to have higher success rates of change implementation than the top-down approach that is nothing short of dictatorial (Patrick 2003, p.14).
According to Patrick (2003), while the top down model of change focuses on the initiation of change processes by the top-level management through development of programs for the workforce to follow that is then communicated downwards. However for effective change to take place then the change process should be initiated from the bottom up in order for there to be overall acceptance of new policies. This is more so because there is a need to see the organizations processes which are usually run from bottom up that will ensure everyone is involved. The top down approach is most commonly used by positional leaders that are usually intent on establishing that they are the heads of organizations and as such have answer to workplace problems. This is no longer sustainable or appropriate in the modern world which requires real time adaptable change to remain viable in a highly competitive market. For example, a school principles highest priority is the education of students under the institutions care and support from their guardians (outside-in- dynamic). They must ensure the institution is run efficiently and effectively in order to maintain the expected standards from the school's governors. This demands clear and focused leadership (top-down dynamic). But, the best institutions usually have established a collaborative work environment that includes all the key stakeholders in the change process, which is the staff, community and owners/ custodians (bottom-up dynamic). This dictates that in order to consistently be able to implement change processes in the workplace it requires constant learning from the entire major stakeholders and as such the top-down method can only act as a threat to long-term far reaching change in the workplace as it does not use this principles. "The biggest stumbling block to change management is that senior management want autonomy not collaboration," (Canfield management school research).
The top-down model of change is driven by CEO's and top executives who are responsible for ensuring that an organizations' visions and goals are accomplished. They strive to secure the commitment of every employee in the organization with the intention of aligning operation requirements with the strategic objectives and overall goals. Although this is well meaning and admirable, the process of doing so often creates a lot of resistance and a lack of ownership (Storey 1992).
The top-down approach employs mechanisms such as performance appraisals, quality management programs, business plans linked to strategic goals and objectives, culture change schemes, client consultation programs, employee involvement, etc. as a result this approach is invaluable in the change management process, however when it negatively impact the other models hen the process is bound to be unsuccessful. Over 60% of local managers from whitebread breweries which use this approach feel that they are kept in the dark about the company's change processes and as such consider top executives as poor communicators.
The world is ever changing and as such knowledge is continuously shifting and we can therefore never fully grasp work situation this is more so because today "normal business" is change. Change in the workplace creates further change and therefore an organization needs to keep up with real time change in order to survive in the world. The top-down approach is therefore not relevant as it directs from one point only using data that is not localized. Directives to initiate change are therefore effectively outdated as soon as they are decimated from the top and rarely reach the bottom, therefore the need to localize the process as in the mixed model (Stephen and Kelly 2005).
According to Swart, Kinnie and Rabinwotz (2007), the mixed model provides two-way communication channels between employers and employees and also their active involvement in the implementation of the process which is core component in ensuring that the employees are responsive to change. However research has shown that this informal form of communication and participation might present a rift where management may think there is equal communication while the subordinate may feel less represented. This is overcome by selecting a change team, designing a vision, connecting organization- wide change, stakeholder consultation, effective communication and capturing learning and development opportunities in order to enable organization to cope with change.
The mixed model focuses on the individual in its approach by recognizing that change occurs to individuals differently depending on that person's experience. It therefore creates different strategies and developmental programs to cater to the different personalities in the organization: For example a company like Toyota in the USA has different races working for it and the majority may feel left out of an inclusion and diversity initiative. There is therefore need to address their concerns and make the process acceptable. There is also a creation of accountability at all levels of the organization and not at the top management like the top down approach ensuring that everyone I n the workplace bears responsibility for their role in the process. This is unlike the top down approach where a zero tolerance policy is viewed by the bottom employees as a gagging order whilst it is an opportunity to develop an affective mode of working with co-workers (John and Jeffery 2003).
According to Richard (2003), effective change management ensures the involvement of processes, system and discipline. It therefore calls for top-down, bottom up and organization -wide approached that encompass more than on model of change. However leadership is essential in supporting and developing change champions and consequently initiates local initiatives. Change champions are crucial to change management as they act as strategic opportunist discovering change paths, which should then be formalized to be passable to the entire workforce. As in my paper it is therefore clear that a combination of the top-down approach and the bottom-up approach is needed as this provides an evolved change process to fit the modern shifting environment. Top level management plays a crucial role to the success or failure of change in the organization since they play as much a role in the coordination and directing of change as they should in following and services to their employee. The authority component in change management starts with identification of the organization change champions as they are much closer to the action than anyone in top management and as such have a better idea of what change tactics will work. There proximity to operations enables change agents to assess readiness to change and in the process are able to steer the process from potential major execution plans bringing the organization closer to its change goals.