Change management is both a necessary component to organizational success, and, at the same time, it is cause for confusion and tension among employees. This paper reviews the issues and problems presented in the Spice-Trail Oriental Condiments and Relishes paper -- from the perspective of change management theories and practices. Hired by Kim as a consultant to help smooth out the rough edges and provide strategies for success, this paper reflects the need for leadership changes, cultural adjustments, and other organizational transitions in order to become profitable as well as an enjoyable place to work.
Spice Trail Issues and Problems
When it comes to the difficulties inherent in launching a new company or enterprise, Machiavelli said it very well in 1513: "There is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage than the creation of new systems." Machiavelli went on to explain that the "…initiator [of the new system] has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old institution." This line doesn't precisely fit the quandary that Spice-Trail finds itself in several years after becoming a bona fide company, because at first the only change was in "aroma" that told people in the warehouse that new spices were being processed. Quality as well as quantity was the "by-word" and within seven years, the company was profitable and growing.
It is a bit disturbing that at the outset so many friends and relatives were brought on board; that said, it makes sense to launch a company with proven individuals whose talent and expertise are proven commodities, but it can backfire. Kim's father got involved with information management; Pritpal and Mehwish had "family connections in the export/import trade…"; but notwithstanding the hiring of family and friends, by 2010 the company had 1,750 employees, and had two operations that were both successfully marketing their products. The first sign of trouble came when the two plants -- relish and spiced -- had directors that operated as "functional heads although the two plants also had their own operations managers" and basically ran the plants as separate entities. Functional specialists favored one plant or the other, and very few people felt equally comfortable or competent "in both environments."
What major events contributed to the growing stress and tension? And moreover, why did the leadership of Spice-Trail allow both production places to remain independent of each other? In many organizations today, workers are asked to learn every position in the house; at major supermarkets, an employee will be a checker one week, an inventory person the next week, a bakery worker the following week and a produce employee the week after that. The "friendly rivalry" that existed between the two Spice-Trail entities was actually building into something more than "friendly," the report explains. When it is "us" versus "them" management has a problem. Kim was correct to bring in a consultant to work on group dynamics, as the competition became "barbed" and relationships were "strained."
And how did the organization deal with these events? Kim realized there had been a "slow, but perceptible drift" from harmony to "covert hostility" hence the need to bring in expertise. There were those who did not know why they were meeting with the consultant, or the background of this conundrum. This was obviously due to a lack of communication on Kim's part. In her book, Interactive Behavior at Work, Maureen Guirdham asserted that a key part of leadership is "…the ability of an individual to influence, motivate and enable others to contribute towards the effectiveness and success" of any organization (Guirdham, 2002, p. 539).
"Leaders need to be highly competent communicators," Guirdham continues, and the effective "conversational forms by leaders are positive, coherent" and they "facilitate work-related and personal goals"; moreover, Guirdham goes on, good communication helps to "…increase members' identification with the group and decrease their need for legitimation" (348-49). Clearly, as competent as a person as Kim was, she did not have the great communication skills that are needed.
How have internal factors been dealt with? When Billy, a handsome and popular employee decided to do an impersonation at the buffet -- basically ridiculing Janice -- it should have sent up a warning flag to Kim. Especially since it was a "cruel caricature" and in fact divided the staff. And when Kim learned that Janice was thinking that she wasn't so young anymore and was getting discouraged, Kim should have shown more leadership. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Theory (reflected in Thinkers, 1991, p. 1) posits that leaders that determine something is wrong should be "…looking at what employees need, and discovering if those needs are being met by management." The needs that Maslow brought to the fore include: survival (or physiological) needs; safety and security needs; social needs; ego-status needs; and self-actualization needs.
One of the key needs that was going unmet at Spice-Trail would seem to be ego-status, as everyone needed to be held in high esteem but because the company was basically two separate divisions, there was competition, jealousy, even envy, and Kim wasn't doing anything about it. Billy certainly needed his ego massaged often, and others likely felt Billy's ego was out of line and that he got far too much attention. Others were motivated to be an important part of the organization, but felt left out. Maslow also believed that motivation is generated "…by the unsatisfied needs in the hierarchy" and clearly there were those at Spice-Trail.
The major employee crisis that occurred -- after it was obvious that employees were taking time off for phony reasons ("flu," "head-ache," "backache") -- was when Mo Travis approached Joel with a list of grievances. Mo said the employees in the spice plane were "appalled by the insensitivity with which they were being treated." Joel being mystified just shows how out of touch he was with the feelings and attitudes of the employees. The spice group was relegated to the past and the relish group was being launched into the future, according to Mo, in his list of grievances to Mo.
The contingency theory comes into play here; according to a report from Babson College, the contingency theory is guided by "…the general orienting hypothesis that organizations whose internal features best match the demands of their environments will achieve the best adaptation" (Babson College). The contingency theory expresses the notion that "there is no one best way to organize" and when there are difficulties due to conflict within "different subunits within an organization" -- which there certainly were between spice and relish -- the company copes with these "various environments" by creating "specialized subunits with differing structural features" (Scott, p. 89). This is what Spice-Trail has not done, create subunits within both divisions, to keep morale up and interact more fully with both divisions. "Those organizations that can best adapt to the environment will survive," the Babson College report concludes.
Moreover, the Spice-Trail group had become more complex problems; they were constantly moving into new growth areas and moving away from the more simplistic production concept they first launched their endeavor with. In the peer-reviewed Academy of Management Review, the authors argue that "extant management theories are too simplistic and static to fully capture the dynamic changes in the size and complexity of modern organizations" (Suddaby, et al., 2011, p. 238). In fact when companies become complex, such complexity "…increasingly generates tensions, dualities, paradoxes, or contradictions in organizations" (Suddaby, 238). Certainly it is obvious that at Spice-Trail there has been tension, dualities, paradoxes and plenty of contradictions.
When Mo ran through the list of grievances, he mentioned that "the spice staff felt that their contribution to the company was equal to, if not greater than, the contribution of the relish staff" but notwithstanding their efforts, they were made to feel like "second-class citizens." Moreover, Kim read through the list of grievances and on point 5 (spice staff not getting the recognition it felt it was due) she could see "…how lack of recognition could be interpreted as a lack of regard." And furthermore, the editor of Relish was "bombarded" with "all sorts of information," so since the spice team wasn't bombarding the editor with enough information, spice wasn't getting the recognition it wanted and needed.
Billy meanwhile was being his pesky self, stirring up discord and not being called to account for his behavior by management. Kim hears him say to Fay that she should put in for a transfer to relish because of "how much better things were than in spice." Fay was getting "quite angry" as she listened to the litany of complaints that Billy was spewing forth with.
In the identity theory of management (identity management theory) all people in social situations -- including of course at work -- "play characters in a performance" and are greatly concerned about the "coherence" that is projected along with the "manner" and "appearance" of what is said and projected (West, et al., 2010, p. 65). Individuals such…