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Resistance to Change Change is rarely, if ever, an easy process, especially within an organization. Nowadays however, change in organizations is the norm, not the exception. Heading into the 21 st Century, the world of business is faced with critical challenges. Increasing returns is an important concept for todays economy - one that requires growth in order to survive. It is not merely an idea for the e-world, but one that applies to all businesses that want to remain competitive and adaptive in todays uncertain marketplace. By understanding that innovation is more of a process than a single plan and that innovation that cascades throughout the organization is essential for its progress, companies can begin to build unforeseen growth potential.
In a 16 -year study of over 200 firms cutting across 22 industries, John P. Kotter and James L. Heskitt found that poor performing organizational cultures were those with the inability to change and adapt. (Scott, p. 47) Another study, conducted for a March/April 1997 Harvard Business Review article points out that in a period of less than 13 years, one-third of the 1970 Fortune 500 companies had been acquired, merged, or for some reason disappeared. (Scott, p. 60) Both internal and external factors force todays companies to continuously redefine their organizational goals, purposes, and their way of doing things. Increasing global competition, merger boom, and changes in governmental programs escalate the unpredictability of todays unstable market. Managers all over the world are faced with ever-changing consumer tastes and expectations, rapid technological modification, and major shifts in workforce demographics.
Additionally, the new world of knowledge-based business presents multiple outcomes to any one problem. Further to these external forces that require managers to closely observe and follow every oh-so-slight move in the market, they are also pressured by its stakeholders. The Board of Directors is requested by the companys shareholders to improve efficiency and productivity, increase return on investment, decrease the introduction time of new products, continuously improve the quality system, and enhance customer service and all this while reducing resources. Top management needs to provide the basis for organizational members to carry out the mandate of a faster cycle of knowledge creation and action based on this new knowledge. Internet technologies offer a range of potentially useful applications to organizations in many different industries.
Simple Internet applications such as e-mail can facilitate communication within distributed multinational corporations. Related networked applications can simplify flows of information among elements of a single organization and among multiple organizations. Real-time teleconferencing technologies can support meetings involving individuals located in different cities. Direct capture of sales information can enable retailers to streamline the delivery of inventory and forecast purchasing patterns. New automation systems can allow for distributed management of supply chains, support of human resource functions, and exchange of contact and other sales information. (Halley, p. 117) The basic issue is that although the rate and intensity of change has escalated over the years, human nature has stayed the same. Research shows that people traverse an inescapable cycle in dealing with unsought change, a cycle that resembles the process of confronting death.
After all, change means the end of old ways and the start of new ones. Furthermore, employees experience a sense of loss over what used to be and they mourn the "good old days" of yesterday. People ask, "Have we been doing it wrong all these years?" They feel like they have no choice or control over decisions which affect them directly. Additionally, employees may also be resistant because they have no perception of personal gain with the change. People who think that change will not benefit them personally and fairly are certain to oppose change.
Moreover, one of most important resisters to change is fear of incompetence. Some people may fear they will not be able to handle the new job requirements. Therefore, they try to manipulate the system for their own agenda. The morale in the organization becomes affected negatively, and the company becomes fragile. Many organizations appoint internal change agents who are critical to how change will be implemented and accepted within the organization. Ideally, they possess both technical know-how as well as social skills and are perceived as credible advocates of change.
They must be knowledgeable about the particular process being changed, as well as how it interacts with and affects other processes within the organization. This builds their credibility as leaders. In addition to technical expertise, change agents should also have strong social skills. Effective leaders will be able to define and communicate what is expected to each person within the organization in a non-confrontational and non-threatening way.
In effect, a change agent is the companys salesperson for change. They need a firm understanding of other disciplines within the organization and must be diplomatic in their interactions, willing to ask tough questions and influence policy wherever appropriate. (Ray, p. 94) They must also be trustworthy and thick-skinned enough to face criticism and resistance to change. Finally, they should be effective in communicating, practicing, facilitating and training for the organizations new and improved way of being. For innovation to be elemental and changes to be implemented successfully, every employee must have the mindset, skills and incentive to contribute and embrace a culture of innovation. To achieve this goal, the leader or management team must be committed to creating an environment and culture that unleashes creativity, strikes for joy and humor in the workplace, can overcome the natural tendency toward risk aversion, and a willingness to contribute and the ability to embrace change.
Additionally, the understanding of the forces of change constantly reshaping business today needs to be broadened throughout the organization. Through encouragement of new mindsets that help break through to new levels of customer service, continuous improvement, and personal empowerment, the basis for a perpetually innovative organization can be created. Once the cultural basis has been adopted, the organization needs to provide the platform and provide the resources for its employees to be innovative and handle the stress of change and competition. Bibliography Halley, J. (1999) Training and Development Programs in Organizations. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999.
Ray, D. (1997). The Employees Attitudes vs. Corporate Culture. Washington: Maxwell MacMillan Co. Scott, S. (1999). Developing Organization, Issues, Concerns, and Contrasts.
New York: Aldine De Gruyter Pub.
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