Term Paper: Cultural Corporate Change

Pages: 11 (3691 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Leadership  ·  Buy for $19.77

Change may be difficult for a company, but necessary if the company is to survive. This is not only in the case of mergers and acquisitions, but also in regards to organizational change in general. An effective leader is one who is able to harness and negotiate this change so that the company is able to deal with it and survive.

Our worlds, as Morgan observed, is construed according to metaphor. The way we see things is the way we react. 'Change' can possess various contexts towards people, but the word is generally seen as threatening. Most people simply do not enjoy change since they prefer to live with security. In fact, O'Toole lists 30 causes of resistance to change which, according to him, explain why change is such a difficult element to welcome and accept (Weick & Quinn, 1999). Organizations are a macrocosm of the world of people -- they are a configuration of individuals - and, therefore, change is as threatening to them on the macro scale as it is to the individual on the micro.

Two perspectives of organizational change

The theory of metaphors can equally well be applied to how 'change itself is defined. According to Weick and Quinn (1996) organizational change can be perceived in two ways:

1. Episodic change where there is a unfreeze-transition-refreeze sequence, and

2. Continuous change which follows the freeze-rebalance-unfreeze sequence.

"The contrast between episodic and continuous change reflects differences in the perspective of the observer" (362).

Much depends on the perspective of the observer. From a distance when participants of the organization perceive the flow of events that constitute the life flow of their organization, they may see what appears to be repetitive action interspersed with inertia, and the occasional spurt of change. These observers would define their organization as experiencing episodic change. On the other hand, participants zoning closer would discern patterns of continuous ongoing adjustment and adaptation and the frequent small changes and gradations introduced by the peak of revolutionary change. In this way, the change is frequent and continuous, and this later category of observers would perceive their organization as having undergone frequent and continuous organizational change.

Change is not always seen as a good thing. It is often thought that organizational change would not have been necessary had organizations done their job correctly, thus change occurs in the context of some sort of failure as Czarniawska and Joerges (1996, quoted by Weick & Quinn, 1999) put it: "First there were losses, then there was a plan of change, and then there was an implementation, which led to unexpected results" (365). Occurrence following failure is one metaphor of change, but by employing other metaphors of change, one can perceive change in varying manners. "Change," declaims Ford and Ford (1994), "is a phenomenon of time. It is the way people talk about the event in which something appears to become, or turn into, something else where the 'something else' is seen as a result or outcome."

Change can be seen from various perspectives. From the reference of the organization, change can be termed as differences in "how an organization functions, who its members and leaders are, what form it takes, or how it allocates its resources" ((Weick & Quinn, 1999, 373). When seen from the leader's perspective, or from employees of that organization who are involved in or planning the change, change can be referenced as "a set of behavioral science-based theories, values, strategies, and techniques aimed at the planned change of the organizational work setting for the purpose of enhancing individual development and improving organizational performance through the alteration of organizational members' on the job behaviors" (ibid.).

Change is generally thought of as a three step linear process namely unfreeze, change, and refreeze where: (a) difficulties occur to the organization (or individual) that disturbs it from its torpor, (b) revolutionary change occurs and, (c) after a period of time the change has settled and the organization returns to its previous torpid situation.

Benefit of change for company

This entire discussion of change reminds me of Habermas' theory. It seems to me that transferring Habermas' little known theses of enlightenment as an unfinished product can help us see change in a more positive light and can also provide an organization with insights about how to achieve effective and welcomed change.

Weber had seen society as moving towards greater meaninglessness and irrationality as it becomes more capitalist and technologically oriented. Habermas disagreed; adopting a Hegelian dialectical perspective, he was more enthused about social destiny seeing it as one based on change and therefore still able to arouse something of the spunky, courageous spirit that had, for instance, characterized the ancient Greeks. Distinguishing between the 'logic' and the 'development' of progression within society, he perceived society as representing a dialectical wrestle between two opposing forces which he variously termed the Lifeworld and the System. Each benefited the other and consequented in a mutual spurt towards growth.

The Lifeworld stand for the social dimension which is intrinsically moderated by language and communicative action, and which is free-wheeling, unstructured, and unpredictable. This, according to Habermas, represents the 'symbolic' reproduction of society. The 'material' reproduction, on the other hand -- the System -- is comprised of the rationalized format of capitalized market and state entities. These two forces - Lifeworld and Systems -- pit one against the other in an unending thrust to, on the one hand the world or organization that tends to remain in a rationalized situation, and on the other desacralization that occurs through Lifeworld impinging on System. It is this dialectical twist -- the unceasing conflict between Lifeworld and System -- that prompts Habermas to perceived enlightenment as being an unfinished project, for it is in this way that change occurs and that Lifeworld prevents human reality from becoming too stagnant and unfulfilled.

Transferring this to the organizational level (and it can be easily transferred to the individual level too), it is the tendency of organizations to resist change. Becoming increasingly rationalized, unpredictably and the tension of uncertainty (or the chaos and 'messiness' of the Lifeworld is disturbing and frightening. However, with the Lifeworld is change and change can mean growth. Without the 'messiness' of the Lifeworld, the organization can sink into stagnation and, consequently, decline. It needs the openness of communication, the existence of unpredictably, the chaos of the social world that disregards rules -- in other words it thrives (even though it may not want it) on surprise and non-structure, for only in this way can an organization move to 'enlightenment' and grow as it changes.

The Change Process

Change can be dealt with in various ways, depending on metaphor and then again depending on perspective. Employing Dunphy's (1996) five properties of change can, I suggest, best teach an organization how to perceive and direct its change. The five properties of change according to Dunphy are the following:

1. A basic metaphor of the nature of the organization, where one perceives the organization in some manner of speaking and applies a name to its activity.

2. An analytical framework to understand the organizational change process -- again depending on how one perceives it, whether as threatening element, as necessary element, or as hopeful, beneficial element to growth of the organization;

3. One forms an ideal model of an effectively functioning organization and then structures the change situation to reflect that ideal model so that one creates and specifies both a direction for the change (optimistic and positive of course) and rules (and values) to enable the change and consequences of that change to chart that positive trajectory

4. An intervention theory that, best created with members of the organization, specifies when, where and how to move organization as a unit and members of organization as individuals closer to the ideal and;

5. A definition of the role of the change agent -- what the change will ideally achieve in the life of the organization and how it will ideally affect individual of that organization.

In all of this, the leader plays a major role in charting this course.

The Leader

The leader is the prime mover who creates and directs the change. Macy and Izumi (1993) list 60 ways in which a leader can effect organizational change. 60 ways will exceed the length of this essay. They can be encapsulated in Rorty's (1989) observation in that "a talent for speaking differently rather than for arguing well, is the chief instrument of cultural change" (Weick & Quinn, 1999, 370), and this is what the leader has to essentially possess in more ways than one. One way that this manifest itself is by the leader gently but persistently presenting the change as just that: a change that will occur to and for the good of the organization (Bartunek (1993). What is also important, as Schein mentions, is the ability of a good leader to look outside and beyond the corporate culture and to understand the other from within their… [END OF PREVIEW]

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