Managing Organizational Change
By Michael W. Durant, CCE, CPA
The increased pace of change that many of us have encountered over the past ten years has been dramatic. During the late 1980s, many of us were grappling with issues that we had never encountered. The accelerated use of leverage as a means of increasing shareholder wealth left the balance sheet of some of America’s finest organizations in disarray. Many of our largest customers, that for years represented minimal risk and required a minimum amount of time to manage, consumed most of our energy. By the end of 1993, many of these organizations had either resolved their financial troubles in bankruptcy court or no longer existed.
Just as we began to think the external environment would settle down and our professional lives would return to a normal pace, many of our organizations initiated efforts to improve operating efficiency to become more competitive in the world marketplace.
Competition has heated up across the board. To succeed, the organization of the future must serve customers better, create new advantages and survive in bitterly contested markets. To stay competitive, companies must do away with work and processes that don’t add value.
This hypercompetition has invalidated the basic assumptions of sustainable markets. There are few companies that have escaped this shift in competitiveness. Entry barriers, which once exerted a stabilizing force on competition, have fallen in the face of the rapid changes of the information age. These forces have challenged our capacity to cope with organizational life.
Permanent White Water
Things are not going to settle down. Many things we used to take for granted are probably gone forever. We cannot predict with any certainty what tomorrow will be like, except to say that it will be different than today.
Peter Vaill has captured the essence of the problem of a continuously changing context in a compelling image - “permanent white water.” In the past, many of us believed that by using the means that were under our control we could pretty much accomplish anything we set out to do. Sure, from time to time there would be temporary disruptions. But the disruptions were only temporary, and things always settled back down. The mental image generated by these thoughts is that of a canoe trip on a calm, still lake. However, Vaill explains, in today’s environment, we never get out of the rapids. As soon as we digest one change, another one comes along. Usually there are many changes occurring simultaneously. We have limited control over the environment, but to navigate
the rapids we must exercise skill. The “permanent white water” image has a strong visual appeal, conveying as it does a sense of energy and providing a visual sense of navigating on an unpredictable wild river.
Creating the Vision
Vision and leadership drive successful change. As the change agent, first you must create a vision of the future that is capable of focusing the group’s energy. The vision should contrast what is with what can be and it must be comprehensive enough to direct attention at how to bridge the gap to the future.
Change must become a core organizational value using customer feedback, internally developed organizational improvements and other external feedback. Change initiatives should also be linked to efforts to improve overall performance and profitability. Commitment from senior management at the earliest stages of the change process is required. Managing change effectively requires an understanding of the variables at play, and adequate time must be allowed for implementation.
Three Stages of Change
To thrive in the chaotic world we live in, we must embrace strategies that have been developed to successfully manage change. The theory and practice of organizational change contains elements of both behaviorist and cognitive learning theories. An investigation into change within an organizational setting reveals a three-stage...
Bibliography: Burke, W. Warner, and Bill Trahant,Traveling Through Transitions, Training &
Development, 1996, 50, 37 - 41.
Buchel, Mary, Accelerating Change, Training & Development, 1996, 50, 48 - 51.
D’Aveni, Richard A., Hypercompetition: Managing the Dynamics of Strategic
Maneuvering, New York: The Free Press, 1994.
Galpin, Timothy, Connecting Culture to Organizational Change, HRMagazine, 1996, 41,
85 - 90.
Henderson - Loney, Jane, Tuckman and Tears: Developing Teams During Profound
Organizational Change, Supervision, 1996, 57, 3 - 5.
Hendry, Chris, Understanding and Creating Whole Organizational Change Through
Learning Theory, Human Relations, 1996, 49, 621 - 639.
Kemp, Alex, Aleda V. Roth, Ann S. Marucheck, and Doug Trimble, The Knowledge
Factory for Accelerated Learning Practices, Planning Review, 1994, 22, 26 - 33.
Larkin, Sandar and T.J. Larkin, Reaching and Changing Frontline Employees, Harvard
Business Review, 1996, 74, 95 - 104.
Vaill, Peter B., Managing as a Performing Art, San Francisco: Jossey - Bass Publishers,
Please join StudyMode to read the full document