XII. Techniques for Managing Change

A. Structural Changes

Earlier we discussed some of the factors in organization structure decisions. Organizations can modify their structure through work specialization, job redesign, increased span of control, simplified chain of command, decentralization and formalization. All these changes will create some resistance and stress among the workers.

One of the most popular current structural changes is in implementing TQM. Organizations who desire TQM most modify their structure to become more decentralized, lower the division of labor by increasing scope of individual jobs, widen the spans of control and create cross-functional teams. To manage this change, the CEO MUST be knowledgeable on the process and actively involved in the change.

Another approach to today's economic environment is reengineering the workplace. This represents a radical change in the structure of the organization and the job descriptions of the workers. Often considered a "starting over" strategy, this process assumes that anything within the organization can be changed to meet new conditions. This another volatile environment which increases resistance and stress without increased communication by management to the workers.

One result of restructuring is often downsizing. Communication regarding the need for downsizing is critical, as are company efforts to help re-establish the former workers in another organization. The difficulty with this change is the feelings of guilt, uncertainty, and mistrust of management felt by the remaining workers. In addition, the workers who stay are given greater job responsibility and an increased number of tasks to perform. Managers should seriously consider hiring professional counselors to aid workers through this transition.

B. Technological Changes

We live in a time of continuous technological change. No sooner does an office worker learn a new work program than a new version is installed with a different interface. Just when that worker learns the new version, the operating system is updated which modifies everything again!

There is a lot of resistance felt by workers when technological change is considered only "change for change's sake." Managers should openly discuss the importance of learning the new technology, focusing on the competitive advantage the technology provides. They should also realize that there is a learning curve involved with all new technology, it may take workers a while to master the new equipment. During this learning time, productivity and efficiency will suffer. Managers must not criticize employees for this drop during the learning cycle or they will reinforce the inertia: workers will blame the new technology for the drop - and they will be right!

C. Changes in People

This last area of change is the most important and the most difficult. All change will effect people, and managers function by using people effectively.

D. Other Means

    1. Organization development is used to change the attitudes and behaviors of people. Some of the methods are sensitivity training, surveys, consultation, team building and development.

    2. Sensitivity training aims to change the behavior of people by making them more aware of the differences between people and allowing for them. While this training may aid communication, it primarily changes observable behavior, not the underlying attitudes. A bigot who receives sensitivity training may learn not to use racial slurs in the workplace, but the bigot's beliefs regarding the relative value of other races lies hidden and mostly unchanged. This may actually increase the stress felt by the bigot and this stress will be just as strongly felt by others in the workplace as the stress from the old outward behaviors was.

    3. Survey feedback is another technique to increase awareness of differing attitudes and perceptions. Its primary uses are to discover the feelings of workers and to share them with the workers to open up the lines of communication. The greatest fear of workers is that they will be identified and their answers held against them. Trust must be developed between those giving and taking surveys before honest answers are forthcoming. Often workers will provide the answers they believe management wants to hear to avoid conflict.

    4. Process consultation is the use of an outside consultant to determining and understanding a process within the organization. These processes can be anything from workflow analysis to intercultural communication. The only limit is the skill and creativity of the consultant.

    5. Team building as the name implies attempts to convert a group of people into a functional team. Once again outside consultants can be used or outdoor training facilities can be used to build teams.

    6. Intergroup development is similar to sensitivity training, but the focus is reducing the stresses and conflict between work groups rather than between races or genders.

E. Stress Management

A natural result of change in people is stress. Stress is a reaction to uncertainty and exhibits both mental and physical symptoms. People under stress have more difficulty focusing on tasks, have shorter tempers, become ill more often and may develop long- term physical damage such as hypertension, muscle/back strain, and substance abuse.

While some stress is natural and productive, an excess of stress is dysfunctional and will affect the performance of the worker. Overall organization stress can be reduced through an effective selection program. By hiring people with the necessary attributes and skills the stress of incompetence is lessened. Greater communication and clearer job descriptions and evaluation criteria will all reduce the stress felt by workers due to uncertainty.

Stress, which is the result of an employee's personal life, can be lessened through professional counselors.

F. Modifying Organizational Culture

Organizational culture is comprised of people's attitudes and beliefs toward the workplace. Changing a culture is a slow process that may take years of concerted effort! This process may be easier if any of the following conditions exist: a dramatic crisis occurs that threatens the organization, top leadership changes, the existing culture is weak or if the organization is young and the culture hasn't fully developed yet.

If a manager can catch an organization in one or more of the above conditions, the culture can be modified using the following steps. First, reorganize the structure of the organization, then introduce new stories and rituals that convey the new cultural values, and finally change the systems that are effected by culture to reflect the new culture. These systems include the reward, performance evaluation, selection, socialization, and training processes.

G. Inspiring Innovation

There are three structural variables that can increase innovation. Organic organizations are more innovative as formality is low. Abundant resources and frequent communication both also increase innovation by removing structural restrictions to ideas.

From an organizational cultural perspective, cultures who place a high value on ambiguity, accept ideas (without initial concern over practicality), have few controls, tolerate risk and conflict, keep a long-term focus, and are environmentally sensitive are most likely to be innovators.

 

Copyright Information
Title: Techniques For Managing Change (Lecture Notes)
Author: John Anderson  (Instructor)
University: National University
Course: MGT 409C- Principles of Management and Organization
Date: June 1, 2002 (Received)

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