Organizational Behavior Organization Change: Theory and Practice Research Paper

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Organizational Behavior

Organization Change: Theory and Practice

W. Warner Burke

Foundations for Organizational Science

Sage Production series, 2002

Evaluating the book Organization Change: Theory and Practice (Burke, 2002) from first a practical and secondarily from a theoretical standpoint is the intent of this review. The author's contention that the majority of efforts and strategies organizations put into place hoping to change end in failure is honest and refreshing. This also sets a more pragmatic tone to the entire book as the author quickly gets to the realistic aspects of what makes organizational change effective. The greatest crucible organizational change initiatives must pass through is the test of how permanent they become. This book provides a glimpse into both best and worst practices in managing change, and in so doing sets a realistic baseline by which organizations can evaluate themselves. For academicians and theorists studying organizational change, this book needs to be in their libraries as it succinctly and insightfully integrates the pragmatic and practical with the theoretical model-based analysis the author uses to further support his points. The book progresses through an assessment of organizational change, putting the excellent book the Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell to good use throughout. In fact this thread of nonlinear change permeates the entire books' structure. The author challenges himself to integrate the nature of organizational change in the context of research in the core chapters of the book, and does an excellent job with the research provided and analysis. The book concluded with an outstanding assessment of how transformational leadership strategies can motivate for the long-term yet the author also discusses how using transactional leadership can be effective.

Assessment of Organization Change: Theory and Practice

Permeating this book's perspective of organizational change is a healthy dose of reality and the nonlinearity that borders on chaos when managers and leaders attempt to introduce too much change too fast in organizations. The author successfully weaves the core concepts of the Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell throughout the book, illustrating from examples in that book how the slighting variation in perspective and action on the part of a leader can have exceptional consequences. Refreshing in its honesty, the book shows this can be a very good or very bad attribute for any leader. In illustrating these best and worst practices of organizational change strategies the author delivers some excellent cautionary tales of how not to manage change, and in so doing illuminates for the reader key areas of concern. The progression of the book through the history of organizational change and its key theorists including Frederick Taylor's contribution to the field to the concepts of Lawler and Worley in creating change-capable organizations provide the reader with a progression of key concepts that the author draws on for the models presented in Chapters 7 and 8 where the discussion turns to models and their applicability to making change last in organizations.

Throughout the book the author's command of the theoretical landscape is shown to be exceptional. In addition to the pragmatic voice the book is written in countless academic references and citations are interwoven into the narrative to support the analyses made. This is especially evident in Chapter 5, the Nature of Organizational Change. The differentiation between evolutionary and revolutionary change is exceptional and provides guidelines on how to make change last in any organization. What are most useful out of this chapter are the two main case studies that illustrate the differences between revolutionary and evolutionary change. The case of British Aerospace (BA) and the revolutionary change that occurred from the 20,000 layoffs that was termed "bloody awful" to being transformed to "bloody awesome" is inspiring in providing insights into how organizational strategies for change can be highly effective. The key take-away from the BA case study is the fact that no organizational change scenario will be identical to the next. There is no single set of best practices for managing organizational change to the magnitude that BA went through. Further, the BA example shows how the British government realized that to save the company they could either take drastic legislative action or attempt to coddle the company. British PM Margaret Thatcher made the right call and the company is alive today, albeit drastically different than it would have ever been before. In retrospect their survival in 2009 is a testament to the analyses the author provides as how revolutionary change is not necessarily a "big bang" change but shorter, more significant spurts of changes. What is also insightful about the BA case study of revolutionary change is the shift from the militaristic, bureaucratic culture that was suffocating the company out of existence to one that was more centered on the customers and delivering service. Clearly Dr. Burke has many case studies to choose from in completing this book, and the decision to use BA in the chapter on revolutionary change is an interesting one. Instead of going into the transactional aspects of management that were needed to coerce and in fact order employees to change, Dr. Burke instead shows how transformational leadership approaches to showing how the broader economic conditions in the UK were going to eventually force the company out of business, as it had lost its ability to complete globally. The fact that the transformation from being inward-centric and bureaucratic to being market driven took the span of just seven years (pg. 73) is exceptional. The remainder of this chapter discusses an evolutionary change of a consultancy that the author does not specifically mention yet does say it is relative small with 50 members. The issue is one of having employees take more of a leadership position and create the capacity for change more effectively as a result. What's fascinating about this case study is the use of measurement instruments the company relies on. Mentioned are the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) (pg. 78) and the NEO-Personality Inventory (NEO-PI) (Pg. 79) and also the Leadership Assessment Inventory (LAI) (Pg. 79), all combined to provide the consultancy with greater insights and perspectives on how to create a more transformational and change-capable culture and climate. The author closes the chapter by successfully integrating these measurement instruments into an assessment of how the organizational culture can make lasting change. The entire chapter is one of the best in the book because the author navigates the extremes of organizational cultures and how it is critically important to align the best possible theories, frameworks, structures and measurement tools into the organizational change strategy. What is also insightful from this chapters' analysis is the fact that change is never as linear as it is planned to be. This is a theme the author introduces in the first chapters, and then continues to illustrate it in the examples of best and worst practices. The best practices in revolutionary change seen in the BA example also shows how market dynamics and global competition can also be included in as a motivator, yet the loss of 20,000 jobs and the stark reality of BA going out of business because it lost touch with its customers and reason for existence is excellently analyzed from the vantage point of organizational change.

Resistance to change within organizations is the culprit for the failure of everything from reorganizations, mergers and acquisitions, even the failure to make full use of and reject Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and enterprise software systems. This is also an area where leadership thought leaders have been tempted to distill down to just the most salient factors insights of how to overcome it. Yet none of these checklists are as prescriptive in all situations as the authors of them contend. Dr. Burke contends that resistance to change is even more situational than the worst and best practices of en masse organizational change provided in chapter 5. He presents pragmatic and theoretical evidence that for lasting change to be adopted within an organization it must be aligned to the situational needs of the organization. This has to be accomplished for the next and most critical aspect of lasting change to occur, and that is the identification of the need for change on the part of those employees most impacted. Dr. Burke is a pragmatist in this regard and sees the need for identification and internalization of the need for change for any initiative to be adopted and made permanent. He presents in Figure 7-2 the model called the change-based organizational framework (pg. 125). There are several constructs within this model which are the counterbalancing aspects of the organization work settings, the environment and the organizations' focus on balancing organizational performance and individual development. These are all counterbalanced by the on-the-job behaviors of associates. What is useful about this framework is the concentration on how all the intangible and unquantifiable factors contribute to the broader context and meaning of a person's role. All of these work together to also define the context and propensity to change as well. The author implies in the description of this… [END OF PREVIEW]

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