The world is changing in every minute. Increasing global integration and
deregulation of government, fast-paced technological innovation, shift of
social trend, as well as workforce with more knowledge and skills etc., all of these
have contributed to a more competitive world. The ‘Red Queen’ Effect
demonstrates competitions between players to maintain the status quo. This is
exactly what problems organizations are facing today in the fast-paced world –
because of development of other competitors and the environment, organizations having
worked hard in competitions often find themselves in the relatively ‘former’
status. Thus, in order to continuously improve, not only do the leaders need to
help the employees in organizations to ‘run’ harder, but also ‘run’ smarter.
That is, to make changes. This essay first introduces some academic approaches
of change management, revealing a trend in research from ‘either-or’ approaches
to ‘the genius of AND’ (Collins & Porras, 1994), then it focuses on the
problem of resistance to change in organizations by illustrating forces that can
restrain or drive changes, as well as strategies to minimize employees’
Increasing number of researchers have addressed change as a persistently
existing feature of organization life (Burnes, 2004), and agreed on the
importance of change management. According to Moran and Brightman (2001),
organizational change management is the process of continuing renewal of the
direction, structure and capability of organizations, in order to serve the
changing needs of external and internal customers. Change management is usually
reactive and discontinuous, often triggered by crises taking place in external
or internal environment (Burnes, 2004; De Wit & Meyer, 2005; Nelson, 2003).
Although almost all have realized it is necessary to manage change effectively,
there are still lots of dilemmas and few valid methods in leading change. Thus,
the first part of this essay will focus on some dilemmas in change management,
and emerging approaches highlighting the importance of inclusion.
One of the main dilemmas is between radical and incremental change.
Radical change refers to fast shifts in organizational strategy, structure,
culture or all of them, resulted from internal or external problems, followed
by long period of stabilization (Grundy, 1993; Senior, 2002; Luecke, 2003). It
is a dramatic, occasional, frame-breaking revolution to overcome inertia. It
creates new structure, strategy or culture in organizations with breakthrough
technology or products. Thus, there are two modes in radical change – one is
relatively stable conditions, and another is unstable, revolutionary change.
Proponents of radical change addressed that it is cost-effective, because there
will not be endless change initiatives which lead to large costs in the long
term. Rieley and Clarkson (2001) also suggest that constant change is not
effective and will not improve organization performance. In addition, Guimaraes
and Armstrong (1998) think radical change leads to less chaos in organisations.
However, many researchers have found the influence of radical change does not
last long (e.g., Bond, 1999; Grundy 1993). Also, Luecke (2003) found radical
change will bring about defensive behavior, complacency and internal focus, and
these attitudes and behavior still call for large-scale reform.
In terms of incremental change, it is defined as the process that
individual parts of organization increasingly focus on one problem and one aim
in one time (Burnes, 2004). It is the process of cumulative, moderate and
continuous evolution planned and carried out by top executives in organizations,
and will result in improvements in structure, strategy, culture and products.
Incremental change has the benefits of on-going monitor and response to the
external or internal environment, so that organizations can keep pace with
unpredictable and fast changes.
Another dilemma in change management is the debate between planned
approach and emergent approach. Planned approach is a top-down driven method.
In order to carry out planned approach, leaders need to understand what change
does organization need to make, and how to implement it (Burnes, 2004). It
addresses the importance to understand different states of the organization in
order to lead from an unsatisfying state to a relatively desired state (Eldrod
II & Tippett, 2002). Planned approach was first brought up by Lewin (1946).
He suggested that before the new behaviors and approaches are adopted, organizations
need to first discard old behaviors, structures and culture. In order to
achieve this premise, Lewin (1952) and Eldrod II & Tippett (2002) suggested
a three-step approach as unfreezing present level, moving to new level, and
refreezing the new level. However, this approach is rather broad. A more
specific and practical approach is the four-phase model of exploration,
planning, action and integration (Bullock & Batten, 1985). This model
focuses both on the process of change, which is mainly the methods helping organizations
move from one state to another, and the phases of change referring to the
stages organizations must experience to achieve successful implementation of
change. Planned approach is highly-effective, but it can only apply to
small-scale, incremental changes and cannot be used in radical, transformative
changes which need directive approaches to apply (Burnes, 2004). Also, this approach
is based on the idea that management is in stable conditions which allow for
prepared execution (Bamford & Forrester, 2003), but the current environment
with rapid shifts weakens this idea (Burnes, 1996,2004). In addition, Burnes
(1996,2004) suggested that organizational change is an open-ended, continuous
process where pre-identified events would not work. Planned approach also
assumes that all stakeholders are willing to implement changes, therefore
ignores the potential organizational politics and conflict (Burnes, 1996,2004).
Emergent approach (Bamford & Forrester, 2003; Burnes, 1996,2004) is based
on that change happens so fast that it is impossible to effectively identify,
plan and respond to it (Kanter et al., 1992), thus it proposed devolution of
responsibilities of change management. Rather than episodic linear movement,
emergent approach sees change as an open-ended process adapting to uncertainty
of external or internal environment (Burnes, 1996,2004; Dawson, 1994). It also addresses
the learning nature in organizations, which means the extensive understanding
about strategy, structure, people and culture as well as information of the
environment (e.g., Dumphy & Stace, 1993). Emergent approach calls for less
dependence on detailed plans and more on reaching a consensus on complexity of
issues and identifying available options (Burnes, 1996). Practical models in
emergent approach are Kanter et al.’s Ten Commandments for Executing Change
(1992), Kotter’s Eight-Stage Process for Successflu Organizational
Transformation (1996) and Lueke’s Seven Steps (2003). Take Kotter’s model for
example, the eight steps are: Establishing a sense of urgency, creating a
guiding coalition, developing a vision and strategy, communicating the change
vision, empowering broad-based action, generating short-term wins,
consolidating gains and producing more change, and anchoring new approaches in
the culture. Critics about emergent approach first focus on the lack of
coherence and reliable techniques in these models (Bamford & Forrester,
2003; Wilson, 1992). Also, Bamford & Forrester (2003) and Dawson (1994)
suggested that these divergent models just focus on skepticism to certain
planned approach rather than an agreed alternative.
There are also other dilemmas like static vs dynamic models of change (e.g.,
Nelson, 2003), piecemeal vs holistic view of organizational change (e.g.,
Kotter, 1995; Pettigrew, 1988) and macro vs micro approach of change management
(e.g., Bamford & Forrester, 2003; Washington & Hacker, 2005). However,
these trade-off approaches have limitations that cannot be ignored: The success
ratio of organizational change is surprisingly low. According to Pfeifer et al.
(2005), there are only around 30% of re-engineering or strategic reorientations
have succeeded, while in European firms only 20% achieved substantial success.
Thus, researchers recently have turned to the logic of inclusion in
organizational change. Chia (1999) pointed out that organization and change
should not be understood as complementary, but intrinsically reverse
tendencies. Opposing tendencies can generate necessary tensions in
organizations, which lead to organizational evolvement and transformation.
Collins and Porras (1994) brought up the ‘genius of AND’, which means the
ability to embrace two extreme factors simultaneously in multiple dimensions.
The logic of inclusive addresses integration of the paradoxes instead of
choosing between them. Famous paradoxes are punctuated equilibrium, exploitation
and exploration, Theory E and Theory O, and change and continuity.
Punctuated equilibrium was first brought up by Tushman, Newman and
Romanelli (1986). They found in the companies over long period of time, the
most successful ones all have workable equilibrium as basic guidance for many
years, also they can initiate sharp, widespread change to face environmental
shifts. The long-term incremental change which refers to convergence supports
basic organizational plans and strategy for continuous improvements, and the
radical, discontinuous change which refers to upheaval contributes to shape and
reorganize the overall company. Here is an example of punctuated equilibrium
(Tushman, Newman and Romanelli, 1986). Alpha Corporation, a leading company in
industrial fastener industry, is well-known for its dependability,
cost-effectiveness and great technical service. However, as industry part
matured, the company’s profit decreased. Although retrenchment strategy was
useful, more measures needed to be done. The new CEO initiated an overall
reconstruction throughout the company. Profit lines were cut, a plant was
closed, overhead was trimmed, most essentially, the CEO paid attention to the
developing computer parts which require close tolerance, CAD/CAM tooling and
cooperation with customers in product design. After four years’ struggle, Alpha
Corporation gained a new market niches, and new incremental change strategies
were back in use. This example illustrates convergence punctuated by upheaval
in the organization, which means both incremental and radical change require
proper management with different strategies.
Paradox of exploitation and exploration (March, 1991) is similar to
punctuated equilibrium, but it puts more focus on the organizational
ambidexterity, that is the ability of an organization to balance tensions
between revolutionary (radical) and evolutionary (incremental) change, and
simultaneously pursue both in contradictory structures, processes and cultures
within one firm (Tushman & O’Reily, 1996). Exploitation and exploration follow
different rules and focus on different aspects in organization growth.
Exploitation means taking advantage of existing resources to achieve efficiency
and competitiveness, and it focuses on profits, efficiency and incremental reformation
with a top-down management. On the contrary, exploration means discovering new
resources and capabilities to adapt to the fast-changing environment and renew
current sources. It focuses on innovation, flexibility and radical
transformation with a relatively loose structure.
Theory E and Theory O (Beer & Nohria, 2006) illustrates a
two-paradox model addressing why and how would organizational change happen.
Theory E suggests the planned change and a top-down approach focusing on
maximizing shareholder value, while Theory O suggests the emergent change and
bottom-up leadership in order to develop organizational capability (Beer &
Nohria, 2006). It also suggests that effective organizations that can continuously
develop need to integrate both theories so as to achieve success.
Paradox of continuity and change focuses on the idea that continuity and
change, as mutually exclusive characteristics, coexist in the organization. Leaders
need to embrace and balance two factors to make sustainable adaptions to the
environment in the long term (Leana & Barry, 2000). Similarly, Sturdy and
Grey (2003) suggested that continuity and change are not alternative states,
rather they are coexistent, and leaders need to simultaneously manage both to
achieve continuous survival. Huy (2002) found the tension between continuity
and change is also found in individual level, especially when middle level
managers leading radical change need to make trade-off decisions which requires
emotional balance. Increasing number of leaders have realized the importance of
effectively management of continuity and change. For instance, Vigil Carter,
the former Executive Director of American Society of Mechanical Engineers, is
famous for his ‘Continuity & Change’ programme for governance and business,
which reversed the deficit financial performance in the past six years.
Organizational change has influence in both individual and
organizational level. In organizational level, it represents shifts in
policies, structures, procedures and work flows, in individual level, it leads
to alteration in patterns of behaviors, work procedures and interpersonal
relationships. When leading change, leaders’ corrective activities which change
the familiar patterns and values of employees may lead to resistance to change.
Many researchers agreed that resistance to change is an important reason that
can damage the outcomes of change efforts (Chiung-Hui & Ing-Chung, 2009;
Armenakis et al., 1993). Thus, to minimize or overcome resistance is becoming
an increasingly important issue in change management. When dealing with
resistance, it is necessary for leaders to understand the supporting and limiting
factors, which can influence employees’ attitude towards change.
Driving forces toward acceptance of change vary in strength. Some of
them appear at the beginning of change programmes, creating needs for change,
others may occur in the process as change develops. Some main driving forces
include dissatisfaction with present situation, external pressure toward
change, momentum toward change and motivation (Brown, 2006).
Dissatisfaction can occur when people in organizations realize the
current status is not healthy or effective and change is required to alter this
situation. Sometimes organization members who are not satisfied with their
positions will advocate strongly for change, and the more their dissatisfaction
is, the more motivated they are to push for change. Extent of dissatisfaction
varies in different cases. Some organizations are not very dissatisfied, given
that their operations meet industry standards. However, they realize the need
to make improvements and release potential, in order to take advantage of new
market niches. In other situations, companies do not meet industry standards or
internal goals, in these cases the motivation to change will be more.