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Organizational change is a highly debated topic in the education sectors. Because changes in the organization are inevitable for variety reasons such as: innovation in technology, globalisation, and merger. However, organizational change is always a tough job because change will challenge vested interest and it is human's nature to protect his/her interest. Therefore, many problems will appear in the journey of organizational change. This article will focus on the issues arisen during the process of change by analyzing Interflora's case. There are three parts along this report. The first part will give a deep insight of the toughest part of change: cultural clash. The second part will analyze the most common problem faced by organizational change: resistance to change (group political behaviour). The third part will focus on the most interesting part of change: individual-level political behaviour.
Back in 1997, Interflora was an UK florist trade association. The organization worked like a platform which allocated customers to the flower shop and charge the membership fee from florist. At the end of 1980s, some well-known high street brands entered the flower delivery market which made the market become a more competitive market. Interflora was faced with declining sales and was difficult to retain market share in the highly competitive market. The board of Interflora was aware of the crisis and decided to reform their organization. Doug McGrath, a man with rich experience in the modern company, was hired to modernise and commercialise the organization. Doug McGrath believed that the best way to commercialised the Interflora was to convert the company to a plc. In this plan, the company would go public and the shop holder would be staff instead of the owner of the shop. The annual membership fee would rise from 300 pounds to 1,750 pounds while the charge for each customer transatction would reduce from 2.99 pounds to 60P in order to challenge the competitive threat from rivals such as Marks & Spence and the supermarkets. All the membership shops should share the consistent surface, image and uniforms. Interflora would be more efficient and profitable due to the central purchasing of flowers and centralized control of the flower shop. However, change is always a painful journey. Many problems appeared when they tried to implement the plan. (Barber, 1999)
The first problem and the toughest problem faced by Interflora's plan was the cultural crash between family culture and modern culture. Prior to discuss the cultural crash, this article will first analyze what is the "organizational culture". One of the most important frameworks for a successful organization is the organizational culture. "Organizational culture is an idea in the field of organizational studies and management which describes the psychology, attitudes, experiences, beliefs and values (personal and cultural values) of an organization. It has been defined as: the specific collection of values and norms that are shared by people and groups in an organization and that control the way they interact with each other and with stakeholders outside the organization."(Black, 2003) The day to day life of organization and employees all reflect the organization's culture. The cultural difference is the most critical factor which determines organization's structure, behavior, politics, and policies. For example, Loose control culture is an informal culture which determines employees and management tends to be laid back about the work, scheduling, and even costs; while tightly controlled cultures emphasize formality, adherence to standards, punctuality, and so on.( Hofstede, 1997)
Interflora is a cosy family constituted by a group of independent florists. Members within the organization are friends with each other and they often have a dinner or coffee together. Its annual general meetings were seaside postcard scenes of egg-and-spoon races and cockney sing-songs. It is belonging of family which gets the florists together. Therefore, the family-like organization enjoys a loose control culture. The loose control culture of Interflora determines that members of the organization enjoy sufficient independence. Member shops have all kinds of authority: flower purchasing, independence finance, own image and so on. Interfolra is only a trade association or club for the florists. However, in Dough's plan, a brand new modern culture would be imported into the Interflora to replace the old family culture. It is a tightly controlled culture, and the key word of which is "centralisation". The mission of this culture is to maximum profit and realise the biggest commercial success. Under the direction of modern culture, Interflora will become a tightly controlled commercial organization rather than a big family to florists. In order to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of Interflora, powers of the organization will be centralised. Florists will only be sales man with no power to make decisions and orders are from the headquarters. All the membership shops should share the consistent surface, image, and uniforms.
Organizational culture is rooted in the shared tacit assumptions of the organization and the majority of culture is below the surface of awareness, therefore it is a difficult and time consuming job to change the organizational culture. Resistance often arises when someone tries to change one's culture. It is human nature to defend the change if they feel their security or status is threatened. "Organizational culture change can generate skepticism and resistance in employees, making it sometimes difficult or impossible to implement organizational improvements" (Folger & Skarlicki ,1999) Resistance is an inevitable response to the cultural change, and there is no exception in the Interflora's case. The new culture of Interfolra is totally opposite to its old culture. Florists are shocked when they found the board tried to change their family-like culture and had no idea about what the organization would be. It is hard to make the florists understand the new culture. The crash between modern culture and family culture has been the main reason which leads to the fail of Dough. Some of the florists stood up to resistance the change of the organization.
"Resistance to change is the action taken by individuals and groups when they perceive that a change that is occurring as a threat to them." ¼ˆChanging minds, 2010¼‰ 'Perceive' and 'threat' are the key works in this theory. There are four main reasons which may cause the resistance to change within the organization. First, cultural clash. Cultural clash is often considered to be the main reason which causes resistance because of its importance. Culture is the degree to which members have a shared value about how to do things in the best way. The influences of culture clash always show up immediately and the resistance caused by cultural clash is tough. Second, misunderstanding and lack of trust. Resistance can rise if staffes do not understand what the change contain, the necessity of change, and what it is likely to be. Where there is an atmosphere of mistrust between the manager and staff, management may be reluctant to disseminate information about proposed change. Therefore, the given information may be incomplete or distorted. In this situation, the dissidents may find opportunity to create uncertainty and make some rumours. Third, self-interest. It is important for people to maintain the status quo because of the benefits associated with it. Change will challenge the present advantages such as, power, status, and influence. Besides, people have already invested a lot in the present jobs or systems, and change is an threaten to these investments. These are reasons change is resisted. Forth, opposite assessments. Due to the difference in education and experience, people may have different view on the impact change is going to have. People will have different ideas on advantages and disadvantages to change. This often happens when information about change is inadequate ( Mckenna, 2000).
According to the theory, cultural clash, misunderstanding and lack of trust, self-interest, and opposite assessments are the main reasons which cause the resistance to change. All of these four reasons can be imported to explain the resistance of Interflora's members. Firstly, cultural clash. As it has already been stated, the clash between modern cultural and family culture is the main reason which arise resistance in the Interflora's case. Secondly, misunderstanding and lack of trust. Idea of the board does not delivery to the members directly. Some florists were confused about the plan and some rumours spread among the people. Misunderstanding got bigger and stronger, and the members did not trust the board any more. Thirdly, self-interest. In the Dough's plan, all the members should share the consistence surface, image and uniforms. This is a cost and time consuming job and some florists do not want to waste money on it. Fourthly, opposite assessments. Douglas McGrath, former Grand Metropolitan executive, has worked in the business world for a long time; In his view, business means maximum profits. While the majority of Interflora's members are florists for a life time, and they know little about commercialise and modernisation of the business. In Dough's opinion, the biggest mistake they make is that they think florists are intellectual. Their difference in experience and education has decided their different views on the change of Interflora.
The shape of resistance could either be formal or informal. Informal resistance refers to behaviour that is taken place through informal network rather than organizational channel. Formal resistance means staffs use the organizational structure and system to solve the problems (Malhotra, 2009). In the Interflora's case, the resistance was informal in the beginning. Members complained to each other through their informal family networks like: having lunch together and making telephone calls. Members are anxious and afraid of what was going to happen. And two of the floweriest: Rose-Marie Watkins and Bev decide to do something to prevent the process of modernization. Writing by hand to all 2,600 Interflorists, the two dissidents campaigned for an Extraordinary General Meeting. At this time, their resistance got bigger and stronger through the organizational channel. When the resistance has been through the organizational channel, it becomes formal. Thanks to the unsatisfactory climate on the modernization plan which has already been built by the family network, the rebels' efforts works. The signatures gathered by them were enough to force Interflora to hold a special vote, which will take place in Coventry on 11 May at the first EGM ever called by members in Interflora's 74-year history.( Godsmark, 1997 ) From the case it can be found that both the informal and formal resistance have a strong influence on the organization. Although the informal resistance does not affect the affair directly, the climate made by it contributes a lot to the success of the formal resistance.
Drawbacks of resistance to change can be out of people's imagination. The main disadvantages of it are the following: violate the chain of command, losing control of the company, challenging cherished beliefs and saying no to top management. (Vecchio, 1995) However, what happened in Interflora is more serious. On 11 May, Around 1,500 people attended the five-hour gathering at Warwick University, representing about 1,000 of Interflora's 2,500 voting members. (Gilbert, 1997). Not only Rose, Bev and their supporters but also the whole board was shocked by the outcome of the conference that the whole board is dismissed while the action of Interflora's modernization plan remained. It is unbelievable that the resistance from dissidents dismissed the whole board. Therefore, it should be careful when face the resistance to change whatever its reasons and shape. The disaster of Interflora's board shows that it should pay attention to the resistance to change. There are many ways to reduce the resistance to change. Here is one method which may reduce the resistance to change. The main idea of this method is to give control. Because people do not resist change, they resist being changed. There are three steps in this method. 1. Find out the result you want. 2. Suggest a path to achieve it. 3. Allow people to give suggestion on the path(Bregman, 2009). For example, if you try to use a new sale process. Do not sell it or try to get "buy-in" Instead of seeking agreement, try to surface disagreement. That gives you the opportunity to allow people to make changes, there on the spot. And then they become accountable.
Political behaviour began when change was proposed. Political behaviours in organizations have been defined as those activities carried out by people to acquire, enhance, and use power and other resources to obtain preferred outcomes in situations where there are uncertainties or disagreements. (Pfeffer, 1981) According to the concept of political behaviour, the key word for the political behaviour is interest. The concept of political behaviour covers a large range of actions within organizations. Resistance to change is a kind of group political behaviour because the dissidents are fighting for their own interest. Another action which can be classified to individual-level political behaviour is delighted self-interest within the organization. "Enlightened self-interest is a philosophy in ethics which states that persons who act to further the interests of others (or the interests of the group or groups to which they belong), ultimately serve their own self-interest."(Ikerd, 1999) People with this idea perceive the self-interest above the interest of the organization and other organizational members. Some articles argue that this thought depends on individual of psychology or psychodynamic. However, it is better to classify it into political behavior because its core value is maximizing the self-interest which is nearly same as that of political behavior.
Employees, even leaders, use political behavior to pursue their interests, compete for power and leadership. Each and every individual in all organizations or groups is willing to promote their own interest before promoting the group's interest as a whole. This can happen in any situation, at any time (Farrell and Peterson, 1982). Some genius at politics knows how to obtain the benefit for its own in the group conflict. Any organization including Interflora is going to have political animals in it, you won't be sort of person if you don't look for a change or the good opportunity. Geoff Hughes, a Bristol florist, is the "political animal" who catches the opportunity in the Interflora. Geoff is an ambitious man who is pleased to take a role in Interflora. He takes the chance to get a leading position in the campaign. After being the leader, Geoff shifts the rebel's strategy from stop the change to dismiss the whole board. As introduced above, under the leading of Geoff, the dissidents successfully fire the whole board. To everyone's surprise, the initial goal of rebels do not realize: the plan to change the organization is remained. Geoff Hughes becomes the new chairman of Interflora, and went on to implement the plan of the old board, point by point, with just as much steeliness as the people he had deposed. This made the rebels disappointed. Geoff tells the journalist, he has never thought the plan of board is wrong and he just thinks they are not delivering the plan in a right way. After all, the rebels find that Geoff is fighting for the power rather than fighting for the resistance to change. It is hard to judge whether Geoff's action is wrong or right, but it has to admitted that the man have a talent on the organizational politics and his story is a classical case of political behavior. He successfully detected and grasped the opportunity in the process of change and knew how to use the rebels to help him achieve his own aim.
This essay analyzed some common problems organization may face during the organizational change. The case of Interflora was employed to make sure that the reader has a better understand on the topic. Three topics: culture clash, resistance to change (group political behavior) and individual-level political behavior.
Culture clash is the misunderstanding and disagreement between different cultures. In Interflora, the new modern culture ran into the old family like culture due to the difference in value, belief, view and so on. The culture clash has a profound influence on the organizational change of Interflora, it is the main reason that arouses the resistance from the florists.
Resistance began when change was proposed. The shape of resistance can be either formal or informal. Both formal and informal resistance can have a strong influence on the organization. The dismissing of the Interflora's board is the outcome of formal and informal resistance from florists.
Political animals exist in every organization. These people will take any chance to maximise his profit. They perceive the self-interest above the interest of the organization or other organizational members. Geoff Hughes is a political animal in Interflora who successfully uses the conflict within the organization to achieve his own purpose: being the chair man.