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It is imperative that organisations maintain a greater reach, are present in various different places and constantly abreast of regional and cultural differences and ensure to integrate these into their strategies for the different market and communities they occupy. Due to the ever growing importance of change within organisations, it has become imperative that managerial staff posses the skill to successfully manage these changes when they occur (Senior, 2002; By, 2005).
Merrel (2012) described change as a continuous reality for organisations that intend to survive and prosper in these volatile and unpredictable times. He went further to define change as “simply doing things in a way different from what you are used to or doing completely different things”. It is in the best interest that all stakeholders within an organisation work together to ensure that changes are managed effectively. Effective change management is generally described as execution of change programmes or initiatives that achieve the goals for which they were intended on time and within budget and also succeed in delivering sustainable benefits to the organisation (ibid).
However, major changes within organisations require ample inputs in terms of time, energy and resources. Over time it has been found that majority of change programmes have failed to meet the desired goals of the organisation. Published sources estimate that the success levels of change in organisations may fall as low as 10% (Oakland and Tanner, 2007).
Most changes that occur within organisations tend to be intermittent in nature. They usually start off at a particular point and are then followed by a number of steps that result in a final outcome. Every growing organisation experiences a continuous process of evolution. At certain intervals of this growth cycle, organisations have to evaluate, determine or reinstate their standards and processes. This evolution could at sometimes be a slight change or at other times a major overhaul. Where there is a change made in one aspect of the organisation, this usually triggers a chain of events that requires further changes t o be made to other areas within the organisation in order to achieve a new balance (Pandey, 2012).
Following the constant evolution and the consequent changes that occur within organisations, effort has to be put in to reinstate and create a new balance to continue working towards the goals and objectives of the business. This new balance is created primarily by the workforce and is not an easy feat. Therefore, it is essential that an effective and reliable change management strategy is employed (Gans, 2011).
As defined by Gans (2011) Change Management is a process whereby organisations support members of their workforce that have been affected by one way or another as a result of an organizational change. She went further to stress the importance of accounting for any member of staff affected by the change in the development of a change management strategy.
Despite the importance of change management in the business world today and as highlighted previously, Balogun and Hope Hailey (2004) have reported that of all change programmes that have been initiated, there has been a 70% rate of failure. Burnes (2004) suggested that this poor success rate of change management programmes shows a basic absence of an adequate framework of how to carry out and manage changes in organisations. He went further to state that what is currently available to academics and practitioners is a wide range of contradictory and confusing theories and approaches.
2.0 EXISTING APPROACHES TO CHANGE MANAGEMENT
There are a number of existing approaches to organizational change and there is continued debate as to which qualifies as the best. This difference in opinion amongst academics and practitioners is the reason that many managers within organisations may have reservations on the importance and validity of existing literature on change management. It is also a reason for confusion as to which approach to employ when considering change (Bamford and Forrester, 2003).These reservations are further fuelled by the existing critical management literature that highlights numerous incidents of change programmes that have gone wrong. Based on the literature, amongst a few others, there are two main approaches to change; emergent and planned (ibid).
In this article, we would be looking into the two main approaches to change, highlighting their weakness and strengths, by critically analysing the already existing literature on the topic.
2.1 PLANNED CHANGE
This approach to organisational change is described as a process that moves from one set state to another through a succession of pre – arranged steps. This approach to change can be analysed using various frameworks, such as the Lewin’s (1951) “action research” model and Lewin’s (1958) “three – step model” which describes the three stages of change as freezing- holding on to the familiar, unfreezing – brainstorming, addressing issues and exploring other approaches and refreezing – identifying, applying and consolidating values, culture and newly acquired skills to those pre – existing and currently desired. This approach to change acknowledges that prior to new characteristics successfully adopted the previous set need to be eliminated, only then can the new set be fully established (Bamford and Forrester, 2003).
2.1a STRENGTHS OF PLANNED CHANGE
Burnes (1996 as cited in Eldrod II and Tippet, 2002) identifies planned approach to organisational change as an attempt in explaining the process that initiates change. The planned approach is also thought to highlight the importance to organisations of fully comprehending the different stages that are involved in the process of going from and unsatisfactory state to an unknown desired new state (Eldrod II and Tippett, 2002).
Planned change is also credited for considering changes that may not be in direct line with the organisation’s general transformational vision but are seen to be worth making. It is in tune with the organisational breakdown structure and by virtue of its nature being perceived to be a logical program by stakeholders, providing organisations with a variety of choices of initiatives. Because it is made up of a clear and solid directive, it tends to be easier to circulate to all areas of the organisation. Although this solid directive may in some cases work as a disadvantage as it may make it easier to attack and/or avoid (Weick, 2000; Beer and Nohria, 2000).
2.1b WEAKNESSES OF PLANNED CHANGE
Planned change has received a lot of criticism from as early on as the 1980s despite its popularity, (Kanter et al., 1992; Burnes, 1996; By, 2005). It has been faulted for focusing on only small – scale incremental change and ignores cases where there may be a need for quick and transformational changes (Burnes, 1996, 2004).
Another shortcoming of this approach is the fact that it bases its design on the assumption that organisations operate under conditions that are static and they can move in a pre – planned pattern from one stable state to another (Bamford and Forrester, 2003). This approach is also known to ignore situations where a more dictated approach is needed e.g. in a situation where there is a need for rapid change and no room for widespread consultation or involvement (Burnes, 1996, 2004; Kanter et al., 1992; By, 2005). Critics have also argued that this approach is based on the assumption that all the stakeholders involved in the change have a combined interest in carrying it out and that a uniform consensus can be reached with ease (Bamford and Forrester, 2003). This presumption does not take into consideration issues of politics and conflicts that are common place within organisations, but goes further to assume that these can be identified with ease (Burnes, 1996, 2004).
Weick (2000; Beer and Nohria, 2000), also highlighted a number of disadvantages of applying the planned change approach. He states that with implementation of the planned change approach, there is a high chance of reversal of the effected change, following the changes; integration of the various parts of the organisation may not take place in a uniform manner, unpredictable results due to limited foresight, a high chance of individuals failing to act out their parts in the change process despite verbally agreeing to do so, adoption of practices that may have been suited elsewhere but may not necessarily yield positive results within the organisation due to a difference in context, failure of top management to have a full understanding of capabilities at the front line and contingencies and finally a delay in execution which would result in the change initiatives being obsolete even before they are implemented.
2.2 EMERGENT CHANGE
This approach to change is relatively new and does not have the formal history of planned change. It is believed that this approach covers a wider area of understanding of the issues faced by organisations related to managing change within intricate environments. In this approach, change is perceived to be less reliant on detailed forecasts and plans and is more focused on arriving at an actual understanding of the intricacies of the underlying problems and deriving possible solutions (Bamford and Forrester, 2003). There is also the suggestion that the occurrence of change here is unpredictable that senior managers are unable to effectively select, propose and carry out suitable actions in response (Kanter et al., 1992).
The emergent approach to organizational change adopts a “bottom – up” process of initiating and implementation as opposed to a “top – down”. Considering the complex and rapid nature of change, it is deemed impossible for senior management to identify and implement every action necessary to successfully carry out changes. This implies that the role played by senior management must undergo some changes in itself from controller to more of a facilitator of change, as the responsibility for change is seen to be more devolved (Bamford and Forrester, 2003).
2.2a STRENGTHS OF EMERGENT CHANGE
It has been established that the business environment is one of uncertainty and the proponents of emergent change have argued that this uncertainty of both the internal and external environments makes the planned approach to change less appropriate. Assuming that organizations operated is an environment that is stable and predictable; there would be little or no need for change. This makes the emergent approach to change much more pertinent than the planned approach (Bamford and Forrester, 2003).
Burnes (1996) is of the opinion that emergent change encourages management to pay close attention and gain understanding of strategy, culture, systems, structure and style, looking into how they can work as blockages or facilitators of an effective change process. He goes further to argue that a successful change process is more concerned with gaining an understanding of the complex issues within the organisation and developing a range of options for tackling these issues. It can then be deduced that the emergent change is focused more on the preparation for change and actual implementation as opposed to providing planned steps and objectives for each change programme or initiative (By, 2005).
Weick (2000; Beer and Nohria, 2000), insists that change must be more emergent than planned. He is of the opinion that organisations are in a constant state of evolution and there are always change initiatives ongoing on various levels within the organisation. Main stakeholders are always in search of ideas to increase the performance of the organisation and this means that there is a constant flux. It is important that this flux is identified and maximised. Efforts should be made in identifying these little changes occurring in different areas of the organization and they should then be spread to other areas of the organisation. There are no rules that govern the way change is initiated; it simply involves “creating a connection between the actions carried out by the individual areas within the business to create a working synergy (Pettigrew and Whipp, 1993).
2.2b WEAKNESSES OF EMERGENT CHANGE
Weick (2000; Beer and Nohria, 2000), in his critical analysis also highlighted a number of weaknesses of the emergent approach to change. He noted that emergent changes are too slow to come together, tend to be too negligible to have a noticeable effect on results, are more suited for taking advantages of opportunities than responding to threats, crippled by already existing culture and technology, deficient when competitors are focused on transformation; more generic rather than focused; lack foresight; operates on the assumption that change is driven by intent, which in reality is not always that case and this implies that situations where change is evolutionary or is driven by life – cycle would be over looked (Van de Ven and Pool 1995; Weick, 2000; Beer and Nohria, 2000) .
One of the main challenges of the emergent change is the fact that is quite new compared to the planned approach and this has led to reservations concerning its consistency and the variety of techniques available (Bamford and Forrester, 2003; Wilson, 1992). Another criticism of the emergent approach is that it is generally made up of models and approaches that lack correlation and only tend to do so in their unified lack of faith for the planned approach to change than to and agreed alternative (Bamford and Forrester, 2003; Dawson, 1994).
According to Burnes (1996), to validate the general theory and implementation of the emergent approach to change implies that one has to be of the opinion that all organisation function within a volatile and unpredictable environment to which they constantly have to adapt. This would then bring rise to the assumption that ‘the emergent model is suitable for all organizations, all situations and at all times’ (ibid). In reality this is clearly not the case.
Dunphy and Stace (1993) disagreed on that view arguing that agents of change require a model that is adaptable to different situations and clearly shows how one can adjust their change strategies to achieve the “best fit” for a particular situation taking into consideration the changing environment (Dunphy and Stace, 1993).
Following a review of the existing literature on planned and emeregent approaches to change, it can be concluded that both approaches have fair shares of limitations and advantage. Generally, there seems to be more of a preference for the emergent change approach and this could be because this approach was more recently introduced in comparison to the planned approach and it its design, consideration was taken to address some of the shortcomings that were experience with the planned approach.
However, in order to achieve a successful organisational change, it is important that an approach be developed that not only takes into consideration the constantly evolving environment, but also identifies that there are a number of approaches to change. This approach should be flexible to suit the different needs of various organisations as opposed to one that is tailored to be applicable to all organisations. Dunphy and Stace, (1993) clearly state that no two organisations are identical and most probably have varying situations and this would mean that their structure and strategies would also be different and this emphasis the need for a flexible approach to change.
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