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Organizational Change: What Is Change and How Do Managers Deal with It?

Organizational Change: What Is Change and How Do Managers Deal with It?

If it weren’t for change, a manager’s job would be relatively easy. Planning would be easier because tomorrow would be no different from today. The issue of organizational design would be solved because the environment

would be free from uncertainty and there would be no need to adapt. Similarly, decision making would be dramatically simplified because the outcome

of each alternative could be predicted with near pinpoint accuracy. It would also simplify the manager’s job if competitors never introduced new products or

services, if customers didn’t make new demands, if government regulations were never modified, if technology never advanced, or if employees’ needs always remained the same. But that’s not the way it is.

Change is an organizational reality. Most managers, at one point or another, will have to change some things in their workplace. We classify these changes as organizational change, which is any alteration of an organization’s people, structure or technology. (See Exhibit 7-1.) Let’s look more closely at each of these three areas.

Changing structure includes any alteration in authority relationships, coordination mechanisms, degree of centralization, job design, or similar organization structure variables. For instance, in previous chapters, we’ve mentioned that work process engineering, restructuring, and empowering result in decentralization, wider spans of control, reduced work specialization, and work teams. These structural components give employees the authority and means to implement process improvements. For instance, the creation of work teams that cut across departmental lines allows those people who understand a problem best to solve that problem. In addition, cross-functional work teams encourage cooperative problem solving rather than “us versus them” situations. All of these may involve some type of structural change.

Changing technology encompasses modifications in the way work is done or the methods and equipment used. One organizational area, in particular, where managers deal with changing technology is continuous improvement initiatives, which are directed at developing flexible processes to support better-quality operations. Employees committed

to continuous improvements are constantly looking for things to fix. Thus, work processes must be adaptable to continual change and fine-tuning. Such adaptability requires an extensive commitment to educating and training workers. Employees need skills training in problem solving, decision making, negotiation, statistical analysis, and team-building, and they must be able to analyze and act on data. For example, Herman Miller, Inc., used both technology and employee training to achieve its market-leading position in the office furniture industry.2

Changes in people refer to changes in employee attitudes, expectations, perceptions, or behaviors. The human dimension of change requires a workforce that’s committed to quality and continuous improvement. Again, proper employee education and training are needed, as is a performance evaluation and reward system that supports and encourages those improvements. For example, successful programs put quality goals into bonus plans for executives and incentives for employees.

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