The contemporary business environment is undergoing a myriad of transformations, which are pressurizing organizations to adjust their strategic management practices in the quest to achieve sustainability and business excellence. Traditionally, responses to organizational events were perceived as managerial and organizational activities. However, this perception has changed, and organizations are progressively adopting a cognitive approach in dealing with the phenomenon originating from the business environment (Isabella, 1990). Amongst the numerous phenomena currently being experienced, change is considered the most challenging aspect. Isabella (1990) further contends that the “events are rarely static or contained within a discrete timeframe” (p. 7). Consequently, organizations are required to undertake continual modification of their strategic and operational management practices, which presents unending challenges. Despite the managerial challenges encountered in implementing organizational change, Luscher and Lewis (2008) agree that organizational change is critical in promoting an organization’s short-term competitiveness and long-term excellence.
Numerous studies have been conducted in an effort to assist organizational leaders in understanding the most effective approach to adopt in responding to organizational change. Part of the available literature affirms that change progresses through a number of sequential stages, which include unfreezing, changing, and refreezing (Isabella, 1990). Moreover, different theories and models on how organizations can implement change have been formulated. The most common models include traditional change models such as the teleological model/planned change model, the lifecycle model, and the dialectical change model. Thus, organizational leaders have a duty to select the most appropriate change model.
Moreover, effective assumptions regarding change outcomes must be formulated. The significance of the change in enhancing organizational sustainability has led to the formulation of diverse assumptions regarding change outcomes. Palmer and Dunford (2008) assume that change outcomes can be unintended, intended, or partially intended. This paper is a critical literature review and a problematized write-up. The paper proposes that ineffective change management affects the outcome of the change implemented by a particular organization.
Workplace-based problem scenario
In an effort to achieve business excellence, a well-established oil and gas company that has established subsidiary firms across the world undertook extensive reforms within its management structure. The change mainly affected the top cadre managers. The organization’s restructuring decision was motivated by the quest to optimize its financial sustainability. Consequently, the firm’s change efforts were focused on maximizing the company’s sales revenue, gaining a larger market share, promoting stock price growth, and attaining a high level of profitability.
Within one year, the oil and gas company improved its performance substantially. The firm’s motive was to sustain its positive financial performance into the future. On the flip side, the organization failed to manage the implemented changes change. One of the aspects that illustrate the firm’s failure in managing change includes its ignorance of the human capital aspect. The oil and gas company did not appreciate the significance of incorporating all employees in implementing change. The top management pressured the employees to improve their performance in order to achieve the set financial benchmarks. The extra pressure stressed and strained the employees. Subsequently, the majority of the firm’s employees developed the perception that the management processes were largely skewed towards attaining financial gains at the expense of the workers’ welfare.
Analysis of the workplace-based problem
The successful implementation of intended change presents a daunting task to most organizations, as evidenced by the numerous cases of organizational failure in the process of implementing change. Sims (2009) affirms that most change efforts do not achieve the desired outcome. Thus, the significance of adopting effective change management concepts should not be underestimated. One of the most important change management concepts that the oil and gas company ignored relates to employee involvement. Sims (2009) further argues that extensive involvement of employees in the change process enables the change agents to implement the intended change successfully. Conversely, failure to involve employees reduces their understanding of how to implement the intended change (Balogun & Johnson, 2005).
Most employees perceive organizational change as a threatening situation (Paraskevas, 2006). According to Brockner and James (2009), change leads to the generation of mixed behavioral and emotional reactions within an organization’s workforce. Employees might develop a negative perception regarding the change, hence eliciting negative reactions such as depression, anger, despair, and uncertainty. Brockner and James (2009) argue that the emotional reactions arising from the change initiative may culminate in severe reactions amongst employees, hence affecting their productivity. The negative emotions might impede information sharing between the top-level managers and their subordinates. On the other hand, employees might not perceive the opportunities associated with the change initiative. In a bid to succeed in implementing change, it is essential for organizational leaders to integrate a psychological approach. Graetz and Smith (2010) contend that change management involves collecting information from all stakeholders associated with the change in order to assuage the internal organizational members’ uncertainties.
Employee involvement constitutes a primary aspect in ensuring that the intended change is entrenched optimally. Brockner and James (2009) contend that employees who are deeply involved in the change process play an important role in designing, implementing, and supporting organizational change. Employee involvement should not be limited to workers at different levels of organizational management. On the contrary, it is imperative to integrate all employees. One of the most effective damage-control measures that organizational leaders should adopt entails focusing on different organizational stakeholders who might be affected by the change effort (Brockner & James, 2009).
Brockner and James (2009) further emphasize that considering a wide range of stakeholders enables an organization to generate different perspectives regarding the change effort. Consequently, the top management’s view of the desired change improves considerably. Incorporating such a level of employee involvement is critical in fostering organizational performance by fostering a culture of innovation, learning, and adaptation.
Organizations can adopt different approaches in entrenching employee involvement. One of the most effective approaches entails communication. The importance of entrenching communication during the change management process is further highlighted by the concept of managerial sense-making. Luscher and Lewis (2008) state that sense-making “denotes efforts to interpret and create an order for occurrences” (p. 221). In their quest to implement change, organizational managers have a duty to communicate their opinion regarding the intended modifications in a manner that culminates in their subordinates developing a workable certainty. Isabella (1990) cautions that speculations or rumors regarding an eminent organization change affect the employees’ productivity negatively. In order to prevent such outcomes, it is imperative for organizational leaders to ensure that effective communication on the change initiative is undertaken. Such an approach will safeguard against the generation of negative perceptions on the change event.
The changing approach adopted by the oil and gas company was the major cause of the failure in the successful implementation of change. The firm’s top management team did not involve employees in its change initiative despite the fact that it required the support of all employees in implementing change. Luscher and Lewis (2008) are of the perception that unsuccessful change projects are largely a result of the top management’s failure to manage organizational expectations. Sims (2009) affirms that change agents must identify, appreciate, and address the possible frustrations that might arise amongst employees due to organizational change initiatives.
Commonly held assumptions in managing change
The past studies that have been conducted on change management have led to the development of diverse prescriptive and theoretical frameworks. Subsequently, organizational managers face considerable conceptual challenges in making decisions on the most appropriate approach to adopt whilst executing their managerial activities (Palmer & Dunford 2008). The diverse approaches to change management have led to the formulation of different assumptions on managing change and its outcome. Palmer and Dunford (2008) categorize the assumptions into two main groups, which relate to change outcomes and managing.
Assumptions on change outcome
According to Palmer and Dunford (2008), change outcomes can be intended, partially intended, or unintended. Intended or planned change involves a change outcome that is aligned with the desired or proposed change outcomes. The above workplace-based problem shows that the oil and gas company undertook intended change. Palmer and Dunford (2008) argue that intended change “outcomes refer to situations where it is believed that proposed change outcomes are achievable” (p. 22). Therefore, intended or planned change is attained through the diverse actions undertaken by the change managers.
Partially intended change relates to change initiatives in which some of the change actions are achievable while others are not. Some of the factors that limit the full attainment of the proposed outcome include the varying skills levels of the change agents, such as the organizational managers charged with the responsibility of overseeing the change process. Partially intended change outcomes emanate from an organization’s power differences, varying interests, and organizational processes adopted by an organization (Alvesson & Sveningsson, 2007). Conversely, Palmer and Dunford (2008) contend that unintended outcomes “signify the existence of considerable difficulties in attaining the desired outcome due to diverse forces that lead to unplanned change outcome” (p. 22). Unintended change outcomes mainly originate from the existence of powerful forces as opposed to the influence of the change agent. Thus, the change efforts adopted by the change agent are dampened.
Assumptions about managing
The two main categories of assumptions with reference to managing change include:
- Management as control
- Management as shaping
The management as control approach underscores the significance of integrating a hierarchical or top-down approach in managing change. Thus, managers have a duty to drive organizational change by ensuring effective allocation of roles and responsibilities amongst employees. Conversely, the management as shaping approach argues that organizational managers are charged with the responsibility of influencing change outcomes. Organizational managers do not have the capacity to control the final behavior amongst employees. Despite this aspect, Palmer and Dunford (2008) contend that the “responsibility of management is to produce strong corporate capabilities that provide the organization with a firm platform to respond to and shape external changes” (p. 22).
Areas of contention and divergent perspectives
The change effort undertaken by the organization was counterproductive, as evidenced by the fact that employees became stressed and strained. One of the factors that led to the negative change outcome entails the top management’s failure to create an effective mission to guide employees through the change process. Tsoukas and Chia (2002) assert that varying images or visions can be developed from the various assumptions on managing change and change outcomes. These images include caretaking, coaching, interpreting, navigating, directing, and nurturing.
Palmer and Dunford (2008) emphasize that visions “should describe a future world where the mission is advanced and where goals and strategy age being successfully achieved in lockstep with the organization’s guiding philosophy and values” (p. 25). In this scenario, the oil and gas company did not develop an effective directing vision. Consequently, the firm’s employees did not understand the need for the change initiative. One of the aspects that organizational leaders can adopt in order to entrench the directing image successfully during the change process entails creating a sense of dissatisfaction and distress amongst employees regarding the firm’s financial performance. By focusing on the concept of direction, the oil and gas company would have been in a position to develop a strong degree of organizational identification. Thus, employees would have ensured that all their efforts were focused on promoting the organization’s financial performance.
Moreover, the oil and gas company failed to create a ‘caretaking’ image, which challenges the assumption that the top organizational management should have absolute control in implementing change. The ‘caretaking’ approach argues that organizational managers should appreciate the importance of seeking information from lower-level employees (Palmer & Dunford, 2008). In addition to the above aspects, the organization’s top management did not recognize the need to adopt a coaching approach, which emphasizes the need to develop a participative management approach in formulating organizational mission, vision, and goals. According to Palmer and Dunford (2008), the participative management approach improves the quality of the decisions made. In this case, the oil and gas company undertook a ‘lone-approach’ in setting the ground rules and the change parameters. This approach made the firm’s employees feel alienated, coupled with perceiving the change initiative as strange. On the contrary, integrating the concept of coaching would have led to the production of a better vision regarding the intended change, hence promoting better outcomes. Additionally, the top management would have received adequate support in implementing the change (Palmer & Dunford, 2008).
The GROW model
The oil and gas company’s failure in implementing its intended organizational change underscores the significance of incorporating effective change management approaches. One of the aspects that the firm’s management team should consider entails adopting the coaching approach, which can be attained by integrating the GROW model. The model argues that it is essential for organizational leaders to have a duty to coach their subordinates to do their best in undertaking the assigned job roles. Through coaching, organizational leaders provide their followers with insight on how to make effective decisions, hence improving their ability to deal with different work-related problems. Moreover, coaching provides employees with an opportunity to progress through their desired career path (Graetz & Smith, 2010).
In the process of implementing change, the oil and gas company should have developed a clear goal outlining the intended financial performance, which should have been communicated to all employees. During the process of formulating the goal, the firm should have identified the appropriate behavior that employees should have developed in order to achieve the goal.
In this case, the oil and gas company did not consider the importance of changing the employees’ behavior in order to enhance the attainment of the intended goal. Thus, employees were not focused on pursuing the set financial goals. Failure to involve employees affected the development of a strong link between the intended organizational goal and the current reality. Thirdly, the firm did not equip employees with adequate skills that would have enabled them to improve their job performance, hence increasing the likelihood of attaining the set financial benchmark. The final aspect that the firm attained by integrating the GROW model involves establishing the will or motivation amongst employees to pursue the set goal. In this situation, the employees lacked motivation towards the attainment of the set performance benchmarks.
The literature review and analysis of the workplace-based problem indicates the existence of poor change management skills amongst the top management at the oil and gas company. The organization ignored the significance of adopting a participative approach in enhancing organizational change, as evidenced by its failure to involve employees in the process of planning the intended change. The firm did not appreciate the importance of directing and coaching employees in order to improve their skills. This move would have improved the likelihood of attaining the desired outcome through the implemented change process. The oil and gas company should have entrenched the psychological philosophy. This philosophy would have ensured that the firm takes into account the individual employees’ personal views regarding the intended change. Subsequently, the firm would have developed a comprehensive understanding of the employees’ perception regarding the change. One of the most effective change management approaches that the firm would have considered is the GROW model. This approach would have enabled the firm to link the desired change to the human side in its change management process.
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