Contemporary business leaders are enacting policies that support incremental changes that invoke visions of high-speed, diversity, competitiveness, and energies that create momentum required to overcome the inevitable inertia within organizations that builds over time. The main challenge that leaders have to contend with is developing the right pace, sequence and linearity of radical change that guarantees that the right intervention have been made (Laura-Georgeta, 2008). Changes occur in processes, products, business lines, ownership, and personnel among other business processes (Kotter, 1995). Changes are aimed at improving business processes or adopting different strategies altogether; it can be triggered internally or from external forces. Some management scholars contend that change should be of rapid/continuous change strategies while others advocate for “painless change” approach (Barbara & Jocelyne, 2006). This paper discusses the two standpoints by scholars; at the end, it will offer recommendations on the best approach to manage change in the contemporary business environment.
Rapid and continuous change
Change has been a dominant theme with the business environments; according to continuous change strategy supporters, change should be taken as any other business process; however for successful rapid change, there are some peripheral elements that need to be address first. According to the strategy, there is no optimal operation level thus a company should always work hard to get to the higher level. Business operating levels are seen as indifference curves whereby the attainment of one level creates a room for getting to a higher indifference curve (Parssian, 2008). At one particular point, a business operates at an indifference curve but can move to a higher curve when the current processes and strategies are improved. In this approach, leaders are seen as the drivers of change and employees as the doers or implementers of the change (Carr, Hard & Trahant, 1996).
The approach takes the form of improving current business process and ensures that future business processes are always better than those of the previous period. Some of the tools used when adopting continuous change include total quality management (TQM), continuous process improvement, customer relationship management, and Six-Sigma (Diamond, 1986). The processes aim at improving what the organization is doing through rapid results initiatives. When a successful change has been implemented, the next important stage is ensuring that it offers platform for future improvements (Wheelen & Hunger, 1998).
Advocators of the strategy acknowledge that change is inevitable; however, companies should not be changing always, they should shy away from an ever changing environment that is likely to cause anguish to stakeholders. Companies should intersperse major change initiatives when they can cause minimal disorientation to a company; change should be slow, gradual, piecemeal, and if possible implemented from department to another (Drucker, 1983). When adopting change, every period should be approached with tinkering and kludging processes to avoid chances of dynamic stability approach which is disastrous to organizations orchestrate teams. When changing, the process is in most cases uncomfortable and comes with numerous challenges, it is from this notion that the ideology of painless change rests on that change should come at a period when it can cause minimal pain and disorientation (Sadler & James, 2003). The main difference that can be seen between continuous change and painless change is the general approach of each one of them, continuous change has change as the most crucial element and seeks to call for it in all business situations; on the other hand, painless change approaches has the focus of changing when no much pain can be inflicted (Ford, Ford & D’amelio, 2008).
In current business environment, change is inevitable; leaders have the mandate of implementing and managing change within their organization (Hansen & Gammel, 2008). Businesses, countries and the world in general are facing massive changes and developments; there are transition and development in different areas brought about by technological improvement, globalization, and changes in consumer tastes. In an organization, change should be gradual but fast enough to ensure that the organization benefits from opportunities offered by the prevailing business situation or mitigate any threats offered by changes in business world (Wheelen & Hunger, 1998). An effective change management policy ensures a smooth transition from old business process to the new processes; when undergoing change, management should ensure that it has been well managed and controlled to ensure it has been fully embraced by employees and other stakeholders (Hayes, 2010).
- Objectives of a change management program
There are different reasons why change should be undertaken in an organization; the prevailing condition determines the objective to be met by the change process (Peng, Xiaosong, Roger & Shah, 2008). Major objectives of a change management strategy are:
- Improve current working condition; this is through adoption of modern or relevant strategies, for example to implement risk management strategy, there are some change that need to be accommodated in an organization (Hiatt & Creasey, 2003).
- Make new combinations of resources in the organization; this is mostly when better combination ways have been innovate or invented (Stephen & Timothy, 2010).
- Adopt new technology; scientific innovations and developments have resulted to technological innovation that robust organization should adopt for efficiency and effectiveness in internal and external processes ( Ian & Dunford, 2005).
- Change of business, target market, production formulae, management, job schedules, job description among other; this is where an organization need to take a different approach in business
- Have a different human resource management system, computer system or supply chain management among other strategic business processes (Adrian, 2003).
In whichever the reason that has triggered change in an organization, management should have an effective change management strategy/system; change management is a process where the management learns, understand, and critically think about alterations they are supposed to make (Jones, 2003). However, for an effective change process, change should not be imposed to employees but they should be involved in the change system. When undertaking change, the employees are the immediate stakeholders who will be affected thus they need to be engaged from the earliest stage (Kanter, 1983). In this fiercely aggressive business world, the goal of most firms is to establish distinctive or unique capabilities to gain competitive advantage in the marketplace through utilizing their core competencies. Competencies refer to the fundamental knowledge owned by the firm (knowledge, know-how, experience, innovation and unique information), and to be distinctive they are not confined to functional domains but cut across the firm and its organizational boundaries.
There are different models of change that can be adopted in varying conditions, they include:
- Organizational development model. The model states that successful change should be a fore thought of management and calls for an effective management and support by leaders; the theory mandates leaders to manage both external and internal environments likely to affect a change process. The change is a process that has a number of iterative processes that involve personels in the change management (see the appendixes for a sample illustration of an organizational development model). This model is applicable in small enterprises that have good communication systems and where managers can control issues from a central place. A good example of an international company that has mastered the art of organizational model of change management is Apple Inc., the company has invested in its management to nature and prepares the company for change always.
- Complexity theory. The theory operates from the notion that the operation of an organization is complex and non-linear; an organization is connected internally and externally by some non-linear feedback loops that cannot allow a situation of automatic consensus, consistency, uniformity or order. With this notion, the model states that change should monitored with some strong guidelines that ensures logical rules of management are not ignored. The model identifies the role of change agents or leaders as, clashing counter-cultures, conflict resolution, and removing inconsistency. Change should be gradual and moves from one departmental to another; this theory appreciates that employees may be resistance to change but they need monitoring (see the appendixes of different working environments). The model is applicable in complex, large organizations where resistance to change is high; it can also be applicable in public institutions. For example hotel chains like Macdonald sells their products in different regions, when selling these commodities, they need to understand the markets they are operating for an effective business; the challenge comes as different areas may require a different approach. In the case of change, the company needs to consider complex change model.
A company like Bayer Corporation when deciding to change its products will have a number of issues to consider, they include the international husbandry regulators, animal medicine controllers among other stakeholders. Such an environment creates a web of people who have to be consulted before making a change.
With the fast changing business environments, leaders should be on the lookout for the best policies they should adopt as changes within their organization to meet the prevailing business environment. Employees are the doers in an organization, thus when planning, implementing, managing, controlling, and monitoring change, they should be in the center stage. Leaders are the change agents, as agents, they should ensure that employees understand why a change is crucial for their organization and how it will affect them (Kotter, 1995).
Resistance to change and organizational culture are two main business challenges that hinder successful implementations of change; managers have the mandate of creating and supporting positive organizational behavior and culture within their organization so that it can support change. Research has shown that the best method of reducing resistance to change is through enacting effective communication systems within the company (Burke,2008).
Advocators of rapid and continuous change approach emphasis on the need to keep an organization on the lookout for better strategies (Kotter & Schlesinger, 2008). On the other hand, the advocators of “painless change” seem to have focus on policies that are gradual, systematic and slow; the focus is to have changed only when needed. The challenge with the gradual change is that there are chances that a company may be caught off guard by its competitors (Senior & Swailes, 2010).
The best change approach should combine the strengths of rapid/continuous changes and those of “painless change”; the resultant policy should support continuous improvement but allows an organization to enjoy the benefits of a certain level of development before moving to the next better level. Normative conceptualization of change should follow a linear flow of elements and processes rather than having oscillations and delays (Senior & Swailes, 2010).
In the contemporary business environment there has been an agreement that organizations should undergo evolutionary and incremental change; however, the challenge facing leaders is to determine the pace, sequence and linearity of the change process. Leaders should develop a reorientation track that guides their organization’s change processes; the track should enact the right pace of radical transformation. Change delays, reversals, and oscillations are caused by organizational behavior and the degree of preparedness for change. To ensure smooth and successful linear transition, leaders should ensure they maintain effective change communication strategies.
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