Organizational Change and the Consequences of Ambiguity Essay

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Organizational Change and the Consequences of Ambiguity

Organizational change can carry a wide range of implications for the personnel both at the leadership and membership level. As a firm endures a transition toward the adoption of new technologies, the assumption of new procedural terms or even the alignment with new ownership, it is important to help redefine roles, expectations and cultural characteristics in order to achieve consistency. A failure to do so can produce the types of ambiguities in job functions, in employee expectations, in ways of advancing with the company and even in ways of behaving within the company's offices that can lead to reduced efficiency, diminished competency and eroding company-wide morale. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the leadership core to pursue a high level of involvement and control in helping personnel navigate through change and achieve consistency as a resolution of this process. This is especially true when smaller regional operations experience a change in ownership. In such contexts, while internal dynamics may remain constant in many ways, there is also a need to adjust from some of the broader changes in a company's hierarchy. The case scenario here below, which reflects my own personal experience in undergoing a process of change within my employing firm, describes a situation in which a small regional paper products dealer called Cutting Edge Papers was sold by its parent company, Cutting Edge Products, to a larger firm called The Paper Giant.

Overview:

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The buyout out Cutting Edge Papers was a necessary step and one that had been coming for some time. Cutting Edge Products was under scrutiny for financial mismanagement and over the period of several years, the parent company was increasingly unable to provide local operations such as Cutting Edge Paper with the resources and support necessary to grow. The change is consistent with the terms described by McNamara (2010), who asserts that "in order for organizations to develop, they often must undergo significant change at various points in their development. That's why the topic of organizational change and development has become widespread in communications about business, organizations, leadership and management." (McNamara, p. 1)

Essay on Organizational Change and the Consequences of Ambiguity Assignment

That said, the success of Cutting Edge Papers has long been based on a highly functional internal staff and a strong sense of cultural identity. The buyout would impose the adoption of new procedures, and particularly, of a new Information Technology system. The closely coordinated but functionally divided departments of Sales, Accounting and Shipping would all be forced to work within the framework of a new computer system which called for significantly more work time spent entering information into the system than interacting with fellow workers. As the discussion will show, a shortcoming in the process of knowledge development would leave procedural ambiguity where the balance between technology-coordination and interpersonal coordination were concerned. The consequences would be largely negative for the changing firm, as the examination here below reports.

Impact of Uncertainty:

Individuals

For individuals attempting to adjust at the personnel-level to macrolevel changes in the corporate structure, the greatest uncertainty would be produced in the attempts to adopt the new information technologies imposed by new ownership. Indeed, this transformation would be one of the major pitfalls leading to ambiguity for indivdiual personnel at Cutting Edge. As the impetus grew stronger for personnel to learn and rely on the entry of data into computerized inventory and resource systems, communication at the interpersonal level declined significantly. The disconnect between the different departments of the company would not only lead to a poor coordination of activities even in spite of the newly automated processes but would also have a deleterious impact on the sense of community and the company-wide morale which had otherwise been historically strong. This denotes the need to make structural adjustments to ensure a proper balance between technology adoption and interpersonal coordination. Indeed, according to the text by Wojtecki & Peters (2000), technology-adoption resistance is one of the most common causes of transformational ambiguities in modern business. The article by Wojtecki & Peters reports that "while IT capabilities have evolved exponentially, psychologists question whether the human brain has kept pace. In fact, research suggests that our minds remain hard-wired essentially as they were in the Stone Age and we cope with the world and its threats much as our early ancestors did. (Nicholson, 1998) It is in this 'human' dimension that the efficiencies of IT applications become mired and fall short of meeting the workforce's crucial communication needs during change." (Wojtecki & Peters, p. 2)

Groups

The research finds that the type of uncertainty produced by ambiguity in roles or expectations can be utterly destructive to the achievement of any functional group dynamics. This is because, according to the research conducted by Randall & Proctor (2008), there is a tendency for employees to respond to uncertainty by individualizing the evidence before them in order to develop individually pertinent ways of coping. To this point, Randall & Proctor add the finding that "each group either comes to terms with ambiguity by interpreting the meaning of change to fit in with their expectancies of change, or, in one case, do not reconcile the change which then becomes a point of resistance." (Randall & Proctor, p. 2008) The result is that internal groups within the transforming company rarely are able to form the type of cohesion that allows for optimization of individual efforts. Within the scope of the firm that provides us with the present case study, this ambiguity would impact the functionality of individual departments in the firm. Coordination between sales, accounting and shipping would experience lapses as each group adapted to the new resource planning technologies at its own pace. The result where various lags in service and productivity, some of which even led to shipping errors and lost clients.

Organization

The transition to a more IT-driven approach to coordination would also call for changes in organization-wide structures. Unfortunately, the failure to do so would lead to a considerable ambiguity with respect to how departments and personnel were expected to interact. According to the text by Malhotra (1993), technological transformation requires system-wide adaptations. Malhotra indicates that "Benjamin and Levinson (1993) emphasized that for IT-based change to be effective, technology, business processes, and organization need to be adapted to each other. Comparing the present information revolution with the Industrial Revolution, Malone and Rockart (1993) indicated that the latest changes in IT would lead to the evolution of new technology-intensive organizational structures." (Malhotra, p. 2)

Role of Leadership:

One of the more abstract roles imposed upon leadership at the local level in the Cutting Edge Paper company would be the preservation of a sense of community and collectivity even as broader features of the corporation shifted around us. This leadership role is articulated in the text by Eisenberg (1984), which points out that "organizational values are often implicit in myths, sagas, and stories which are used as points of symbolic convergence. Values are expressed in this form because their equivocal expression allows for multiple interpretations while at the same time promoting a sense of unity." (Eisenberg, p. 8) This indicates that leadership must take the initiative in reinforcing those values which will remain constant during transition.

And in even more practical terms, leadership must help to justify and produce a sense of embrace amongst personnel for the coming changes. According to Kotter's 8-Step Change Model, it is necessary for leadership to 'create a powerful coalition' of support among natural leaders in the company's different groups and departments as a way of establishing the above-noted sense of collectivity. According to Kotter's model, an effective change leader must "convince people that change is necessary. This often takes strong leadership and visible support from key people within your organization. Managing change isn't enough -- you have to lead it." (MindTools, p. 1)

Personal Role:

As one with a role of leadership within my particular sales team, I considered it important to find ways of identifying and assuaging the concerns in my team members which came from this ambiguity. I would do so by encouraging interpersonal interaction as a supplemental action following IT data-entry. This would be part of my strategy to correspond with the recommendation found in the text by Teram (2010), which indicates that "ethical organizational leadership entails the facilitation of such dialogue rather than ignoring the connectivity between internal and external ambiguities and enforcing the managerial rationale for organizational change." (Teram, p. 38) While I remained respectful of and attentive to the need for my superiors to push for the greater adoption of the technology, I viewed it as my duty to ensure that interpersonal processes of interaction were not lost in the transition.

Recommendations:

A recommendation which emerges directly from my experiences during this transformation process and from the research evaluated here throughout is the clear need for effective methods of employee training. In the case of Cutting Edge Papers, there was a failure on the part of the Paper Giant to create a course for employee training… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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