Organizational change has become one of the most important elements in organizations’ efforts to achieve sustainability. Brockner and James (2008) emphasize that change is a never-ending organizational process. Previous studies have led to the formulation of numerous change theories/models such as the teleological, evolutionary, life cycle, and dialectical theories. Brockner and James (2008) lament that the available literature on change management concerning the impact of organizational change on firms’ performance is extensively underdeveloped, as evidenced by the high rate of failure on organizational change initiatives.
Werner, Tosi, and Gomez-Meija (2005) assert, “Breakdowns or discrepancies in change models occur when organizations do not change in a manner that is consistent with the conceptual model” (p. 377). The breakdown in the change model should provide firms’ management teams with information on how to adjust the change process. Pryor, Taneja, Humphreys, and Singleton (2008) believe that successful organizations in implementing change are aggressive in responding to the complexities associated with change. Therefore, organizational leaders must select the most effective change management model.
According to Isabella (1990), the change management model adopted should enhance the organizations’ long-term sustainability. This paper entails a literature review and problematizing write-up. The paper identifies ineffective change management as the major factor that might hinder firms’ quest to achieve long-term financial sustainability.
Workplace-based problem write-up – scenario analysis
A major oil and gas service provider that has established a global market presence undertook a major restructuring at its top management level to achieve business excellence. The change initiative was necessitated by the need to become efficient and effective in its operation. Furthermore, the firm’s decision to implement the change initiative was motivated by the need to optimize its financial performance through growth in its sales revenue, level of profitability, and stock prices. The firm has been successful in implementing the change initiative, as evidenced by the improved financial performance.
Moreover, the firm‘s management team intends to sustain the positive financial performance into the future. However, the firm has expansively focused on achieving financial sustainability, and thus it has ignored its employees. The firm’s focus on economic sustainability has led to an increment in the level of stress amongst its workforce. The stress originates from the intense pressure on employees to be productive without gaining any benefits from their work.
Traditional change models
The teleological model is also referred to as the planned change model. The model assumes that organizations are adaptive to internal and external environments to achieve their desired goals. Therefore, the teleological model focuses on change that emanates from the management’s perception of the need for change. On the other hand, Hellriegel and Slocum (2011) posit that the evolutionary change model assumes that organizations undergo a stream of mutations arising from environmental influences.
The lifecycle model emphasizes the significance of integrating human capital in an organization’s change process. The model appreciates the importance of taking into account the impact of change on human capital. Furthermore, Mahapatra and Pattanaik (2009) add that the theory holds that organizations go through a lifecycle, which is comprised of four main stages, viz. birth, growth, maturity, decline. The dialectical change model proposes that organizational change arises from the interaction of opposing forces. This assertion shows that different models have been formulated to explain the organizational change.
Despite this observation, available literature shows that implementing change in organizations continues to be a major challenge. Mahapatra and Pattinaik (2009) assert that the rate of failure concerning change implementation surpasses 70%, which indicates the existence of a gap between change management practice and the previous change studies. Moreover, the high rate of failure in the process of implementing change is an indicator of the complexity of the change management process.
Analysis – change management
According to Boz and Kucukaltan (2013), poor implementation of change can cause a major organizational crisis, which means that a firm might not attain the desired level of organizational performance. Subsequently, organizational leaders must be prepared and prevent such occurrences. Moreover, a crisis presents organizations with three main dangers, which include a threat to the organization’s reputation, financial loss, and a high rate of employee turnover. Pryor et al. (2008) emphasize, “Crises have a severe impact on financial, physical, and emotional structures of an organization” (p. 2). Under such circumstances, the employees’ loyalty might be affected adversely.
Pryor et al. (2008) opine that organizations are operating in an environment characterized by unprecedented changes. Thus, organizational leaders should be concerned with making decisions to sustain their organizations’ operations into the future. Therefore, most strategic management decisions made should entail planning the organizations’ long-term and contingency plans to avoid reactive responses to change. Pryor et al. (2008) assert that failure to incorporate long-term and contingency planning may lead to “change happening to the organizations instead of the organizations being on the forefront in implementing change” (p.3). Subsequently, organizational leaders must appreciate the importance of integrating effective change management strategies.
Numerous studies have been conducted on organizational change, as evidenced by the diverse empirical and theoretical perspectives on the issue. The studies conducted focus on four main areas, which include contextual issues, content issues, process issues, and criterion issues. Content issues entail the substance of the intended change. The contextual issues related to forces that stimulate organizational change, which originate from the internal and external business environments.
Macro-environmental forces are considered as the major drivers for organizational change (Pryor et al., 2008). However, organizational leaders may initiate radical change, which might lead to structural transformation in organizations. Such change might lead to a reshuffling of the top management team as illustrated by the scenario above. The process issues are related to the various actions that are undertaken to implement the intended change while the criterion issues cover the various aspects that are taken into account to assess the outcome of the change.
Palmer and Dunford (2008) assert that change management should be inclusive, which means that it should not only focus on organizational structures or strategy, but also the prevailing organizational processes and culture. In the above scenario, the oil and gas company only focused on restructuring the top management and ignored adjusting the organization’s culture. Pryor et al. (2008) emphasize that instituting “reengineering requires new patterns of behaviour throughout the entire organization” (p.6). Organizational leaders continue to experience challenges in their quest to enhance their firms’ competitiveness by implementing change.
The available literature identifies resistance as one of the major threats to organizational change. Pieterse, Caniels, and Homan (2012) note that two main theoretical perspectives have been formulated to explain resistance to change. These perspectives include the critical perspective and the conventional perspective.
Conventional change management literature
According to Pieterse, Caniels, and Homan (2012), the conventional perspective holds that some employees might perceive change as a form of collateral damage to the organization, which leads to behaviours such as material sabotage, foot-dragging, and strikes. This perspective on resistance emphasizes the significance of taking into account the subjective approach to understanding the change management process effectively. This assertion arises from the view that some employees might accept change reluctantly and fail to air complaints on the intended change to the top management.
Moreover, resistance to change might emanate from an ineffective management team that does not have adequate skills to implement the change successfully. Pieterse, Caniels, and Homan (2012) argue that being critical in the change management process can increase the outcome of the change process.
Critical change management literature
This change management literature focuses on two main themes, which include the power theme and the discourse theme. The power theme holds that the employees’ resistance to change arises from the existence of unequal power relations. Therefore, an organization’s top management team might implement organizational change due to the authority vested in them. This assertion means that the top management team circumvents the change management process by ignoring the social dimension.
The second view on power underscores the significance of cultural socialization and ideologies in ensuring that employees or followers adhere to the existing order without any form of force. Additionally, Pieterse, Caniels, and Homan (2012) assert that employees “are depicted as being at the mercy of their managers who apply discursive techniques to silently imbue the workers with compliant mindset” (p. 801). The discourse view underlines the importance of ensuring that the desired change is communicated effectively to ensure that employees understand the importance and significance of implementing the desired change. Failure to integrate effective communication leads to discourse problems, such as a lack of cooperation and collaboration in the process of implementing change. Luscher and Lewis (2008) emphasize that lack of cooperation leads to lack of convergence, which hinders the achievement of the desired change objectives.
Alternative change management models
To be successful in implementing change, organizational leaders should exercise effective organizational leadership. For example, organizational leaders should be role models, and thus their behaviours should motivate the lower-level employees. Such a type of leadership aligns with the social learning theory, which underscores the importance of learning within the social context. Furthermore, organizational leaders must incorporate effective change management practices by integrating different models such as the GROW and the McKinsey 7S model.
The McKinsey 7S model
This model is one of the most effective tools that organizations can incorporate in their quest to facilitate organizational change. The model focuses on two main areas, which include the hard areas and the soft areas. The hard areas entail the organizational systems, strategy, and structure, while the soft areas include the organizations’ style, skills, shared values, and staff. However, the model advocates the importance of nurturing a high level of interaction amongst the different internal organizational elements such as staff, skills, systems, strategy, structure, shared values, and style.
The McKinsey 7S model highlights the importance of developing an organization that has a well-established reporting system. Moreover, the model further underscores the importance of effective information flow across the various departments. Therefore, organizations’ management teams must incorporate an effective communication strategy. On the other hand, the staff component of the model holds that organizations should take into account their workforce in the process of implementing different strategic management practices. This goal can be achieved by formulating strategies on employee motivation, reward, and training. According to Lunenburg (2011), employees are likely to develop a positive attitude towards their organizations if they believe that their efforts are being rewarded equitably and fairly.
The model underscores the importance of nurturing shared values amongst the workforce, which refers to organizational norms and standards. The shared values constitute an organization’s foundation. In the above scenario, the organization did not take into account the employees’ needs in the course of implementing the organizational change, as evidenced by the high level of stress amongst employees. The organization’s management team did not take into account the employees’ personal development needs, which has adversely affected their level of motivation. Hanafizadeh and Ravasan (2011) assert that employees have personal development and career goals that they intend to achieve. Subsequently, organizations should take into account the employees’ needs in their strategic management practices.
The GROW model
This model can assist organizational leaders to deal with different problems such as change management. For example, the model can assist organizations to minimize the employees’ resistance and lack of motivation that might affect an organization’s pursuit for excellence through change management. The model underscores the importance of identifying the behaviour that an organization intends to change.
For example, the above scenario shows that the likelihood of the organization sustaining its high financial performance is low due to a lack of motivation amongst employees. To deal with this challenge, the oil and gas company should focus on motivating employees as one of its goals in its change management process. For example, the organization can motivate its employees by assisting them to progress through their career paths.
However, the organization should develop a comprehensive understanding of the prevailing situation amongst its employees. This aspect means that employees should be involved in the goal formulation process to formulate an effective strategy to deal with the problem. Thirdly, the organization should explore the various options that can be incorporated to assist the employees to deal with the prevailing problem. This goal can be achieved by conducting a brainstorming session to generate different options. The final step entails establishing the will to follow the selected option. By adopting this model, there is a high probability of the firm nurturing a high level of organizational commitment amongst its workforce.
The above literature review and scenario analysis show that employee resistance and lack of motivation are the major hindrances to organizations’ efforts to implement change. However, most of the prevailing studies on change management are concerned with explaining the causes of organizational change, but they fail to illustrate how organizations can be successful in implementing the change. This aspect explains the high rate of organizational failure in their change management processes. However, this problem write-up underscores the importance of implementing an effective internal organization communication system and employee motivation in the process of implementing change. This goal has been achieved by illustrating some of the models that organizational managers should consider in the process of implementing change.
Boz, I., & Kucukaltan, D. (2013). Crisis preparedness system, crisis experience and an assessment concerning the characteristics of organizations; evidence from Turkey. American International Journal of Contemporary Research, 3(7), 70-78.
Brockner, J., & James, E. (2008) Toward an understanding of when executives see a crisis as an opportunity. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 44 (1), 94–115.
Hanafizadeh, P., & Ravasan, A. (2011). A McKinsey 7S model-based framework for ERP readiness assessment. International Journal of Enterprise Information Systems, 7(4), 23-63.
Hellriegel, D., & Slocum, J. (2011). Organizational behaviour. Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage.
Isabella, L. (1990). Evolving interpretations as a change unfold: how managers construe key organizational events. Academy of Management Journal, 33(1), 7–41.
Lunenburg, F. (2011). Expectancy theory of motivation; motivating by altering Expectations. International Journal of Management, Business and Administration, 15(1), 1-6.
Luscher, S., & Lewis, M. (2008). Organizational change and managerial sensemaking: working through paradox. Academy of Management Journal, 51(2), 221–240.
Mahapatra, P., & Pattanaik, S. (2009). Analyzing organizational change; a sense -making perspective. New York, NY: Xavier Institute of Management.
Palmer, I., & Dunford, R. (2008). Organizational change and the importance of embedded assumptions. British Journal of Management, 19(1), 20–32.
Pieterse, J., Caniels, M., & Homan, T. (2012). Professional discourses and resistance to change. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 25(6), 798-818.
Pryor, M., Taneja, S., Humphreys, J., & Singleton, L. (2008). Challenges facing change management theories and research. Delhi Business Review, 9(1), 1-20.
Werner, S., Tosi, H., & Gomez-Meija, L. (2005).Organizational governance and employee pay: how ownership structure affects the firm’s compensation strategy. Strategic Management Journal, 26(2), 377 – 384.