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 paper looks at the top-down approach implemented by theMacquarie bank. This offers an excellent example of a highly successful company that has managed to maintain its excellent performance through the use of an incremental adjustment process while still remaining a competitive player in an ever changing environment. The bank views change as a constant adjustments process and never engages in quantum changes. This is because the company is based on partnership concepts that dictate that policy decisions need to evolve (Storey, 1996).
Organisation change involves moving from the existing state the organisation is in to the desired future state. This process is gradual not immediate and involves a transition period for the company to learn how to implement the activities and condition required to achieve the desired future state. For any organisation to successfully identify and implement change, it is required to plan for the change, plan for commitment and establish management structures. However, change is more than a new process. It requires the participation and engagement of the organisation's workforce that is involved. Key issues that are involved in the change process include: change models, resistance to change and its impact and the culture of change. Work place change should be a process of intentionally introducing goal oriented activities that make the working environment different. These changes can be triggered by certain determinants or forces. A change agent is tasked with looking at these determinants to determine strategies that intervene. Organisational change is impacted by political, environmental, socio-cultural and technological factors. It is only when an organisation responds to these factors that it chances of survival increase (Patrick, 2003).
Between 1983 and 1988 major changes occurred in Australia's financial institutions environment. The labor government initiated a rapid deregulated the financial services sector in Australia and the development of the bank's home base as an international financial centre. This presented the ever changing environment for the bank by introducing more players in the industry (Storey, 1996, 51).
Merchant banking was the bank's strategic domain. The bank diversified further in the 1980's by establishing the country's first cash management trust. The deregulation provide an opportunity for further diversification onto specialist markets in particular bullions, commodities and corporate services which presented high value added niches. The diversification process was heightened further when the bank entered property, leasing, equity investments and retail domestic banking in the mid 1980's. Growth was by both acquisition and development. Despite the early 1990's recession and stock market crash the bank managed to remain one of the most profitable and successful in the country. It managed to achieve this feat through sound organizational change practices (Storey 1996, 52).
The banks viewed change as a matter of values, not revolution. The bank's change was a constant adjustment process that presented the organization with the potential to gradually evolve. The greater complexities and size created complexities in the co-ordination process. The bank which has collegial values with highly trained professionals could not solve this problem by simply creating additional systems, controls and structures. It therefore opted to produce a statement of goals and value to articulate the banks long held values on culture and business behavior including strategies to manage the change (Storey 1996, 53).
The organization is a meritocracy, with the policy of growing their own workforce, developing and promoting them from within where possible. Because of its short communication chains and collegial workforce culture it was able to be flexible enough to respond to market demand changes. This strength emanated from strong decentralized, strategic business units that many large organizations seek to emulate (Storey, 1996, 54).
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 (Storey, 1996, 54).
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 (Richard, 2003).
The intersection between the process of change and innovation at Macquarie bank and the corporate management style elicited interesting views. Change was viewed as both top down and bottom up by top management. However mid-level and first line managers viewed the leadership as directive not consultative. Most of them preferred this method as appropriate citing that they needed decisiveness and strength at the top. Those who viewed the process as consultative believed that it was not decisive enough. This has lead to the conclusion that in turbulent external environments that necessitates change a decisive leadership is preferred. This management style advocates for the use of the top- down model by storey (Storey, 1996, 53).
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).
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 (John and Jeffrey, 2001).
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 (Storey, 1996, 54).
The world is ever changing and as such knowledge is continuously shifting and we can therefore never fully grasp work situation. 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).
The mixed model provides a 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 (Swart, Kinnie and Rabinwotz 2007).
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. the Macquarie Bank was able to maintain an incremental strategy and achieve such high perform in such a dynamic environment by mainly focus on a combination of the flexibility of its workers, diverse niche strategies and its small size relative to other banks. However, as the bank grows further this strategy will not work, nevertheless this case demonstrates that the mixed model can be an effective change strategy for relatively small, successful and specialized niche player like Macquarie (Storey, 1996, 54).