Successful organizational change strategies are the key to allowing organizations to utilize their resources in the most effective manner. Many different change strategy methodologies have been introduced over the years. Research into change strategies has advanced and many different models have been developed that will replace some of the earlier traditional models. The question then, that every change manager must ask themselves is which change model is best for their organization. This research will explore how change strategies differ and some considerations in how to choose the correct strategy for your organization.
Two basic approaches have developed to corporate change management. The universal and contingent approaches represent traditional views of change management. In a study conducted by Dunphy and Stace (1993), 13 service sector organizations were explored to investigate which organizational change strategies were most effective. Results of their study indicate that universal models of change management are inadequate to describe the diversity of approaches that were actually used in real organizations. What they found was that the traditional approach to organizational change strategies were not representative of how change occurs in modern organizations. According to these authors, the organizational development model is the one most commonly used to describe organizational change. This model prescribes slow, incremental change, combined with a management style that is prominent in the process. However, Dunphy and Stace found that most organizations achieve their change through rapid transformation using a more active leadership style. The strategies actually used by the organizations were very different than the prescribed models. The strategies that were actually used resulted in successful financial performance, therefore they could be considered a successful process.
Nadler and Tushman (1989) noted that there are many different types of organizational change. Some of them have been successful, and others are considered failures. These authors view organizations as complex systems that operate within a certain environment. All organizations have a set of resources, a corporate history, and they all produce some type of output. The authors developed a change model that consists of two key elements. The first of these elements a strategy, which is represented by a pattern of decisions that develops over time in response to environmental threats and opportunities. The second element of their change model is the mechanism that is put in place to turn their strategies into the desired output, or goal. According to the Nadler and Tushman model the organizations has four key competencies which are work, people, formal structures, and processes. All four of these competencies must be in balance in order for successful organizational change to occur.
Nadler and Tushman agree with Dunphy and Stace in that there are many different models for organizational change. Both of these models emphasize the idea that there is no best one way to achieve affective organizational change and no single best way to organize business processes. Both of these models suggest that the change model chosen should reflect the nature of the strategy, the work involved, and the individual characteristics of the people that are involved in the organization. It also depends on both the formal and the informal processes and structures that are developed over the years. Nadler and Tushman find that organizations that operate in turbulent environments are able to institute change more easily than those operating in stable comments. They also identified several activities that characterize effective organizational change. These activities include initiating change, change content, change leadership, and the achievement of change.
Sathe (1983) also developed in new way of thinking about corporate culture and its relationship to managerial problems. One of the most important contributions of Sathe's work is that a distinction was made between culture and behavior. Culture was found to be both an asset and a liability, depending on the organization, but it was always found to be a powerful influence in organizational life. Sathe found that not all organizational culture was equal and that they had different levels of power and influence on the organization. Sathe developed a way to diagnose the strengths and weaknesses of organizational culture that have implications for suggested managerial actions. Sathe explored the importance of finding a perfect cultural fit for the organization and how to manage those that are cultural misfits. The research found that deviation from organizational culture is sometimes necessary. Sathe examined how to accomplish this successfully as part of the change management strategy.
How change efforts differ
These three essential readings on change management all agree that many different factors have an effect on change efforts. When one considers the many different reasons why organizations need to make changes, it would seem reasonable that different change strategies would be needed. Dunphy and Stace's work highlights the different leadership styles that result in affective change. It was found the change in real organizations differs from that in the theoretical models. Nadler and Tushman emphasize the importance of the people within the organization as well as the internal structures and processes that are developed over the years. Sathe emphasizes the importance of corporate culture. Corporate culture is different in every organization and as Sathe pointed out, it has a significant effect on change management. Of course, the degree of the effect on change management depends on the degree of influence that corporate culture has on the daily operations of the organization.
Leadership styles can affect the role that corporate culture plays on the organization by setting the example. For instance, some leaders can enhance the corporate culture by molding it or by operating the organization such a manner that places an emphasis on processes and work, rather than on culture. The elements explored by the authors examined in the course readings are evidence that change management styles differ as much as organizations differ. The key defining element of all of the readings suggests that because there are so many different styles of organizations in so many different styles of change management that in order to choose a change management style that will be effective for the organization, one must be able to analyze the organization and the change management style that would be best suited for it.
The underlying theme of the case studies and research in change management indicates a paradigm shift that is a natural result of progress in this field of research. In the beginning, research focused on the development of theoretical models that would accomplish successful change management in the greatest number of organizations. The body of research in organizational change management began with only a few change management theories. These theoretical models worked part of the time and for some organizations. The fact that they did not work for all organizations equally, led to the logical development of different change strategies to meet different organizational needs.
However, although the number of choices in theoretical models had increased, and methods for choosing the correct theoretical model that was the closest match to the needs of the organization had improved, change management was still not successful all of the time for all organizations. What the readings suggest is that thinking in the area of change management has shifted from the idea that "one -- size -- fits -- all" approach does not work in every situation. The next step in change management research will be the development of a methodology to help organizations understand the characteristics of their organization that will affect their selection of change management style.
From the three course readings, several elements can be derived that will guide the direction of future research in change management. Dunphy and Stace examined case studies of several different change management styles in various organizations. Using these examples they were able to develop a "Scale of Change" depending on the degree of organizational change that was desired. The scale types developed in the study represent one consideration that would be helpful in the development of a system for determining what type of change would be the most successful for the organization. They also defined four types of leadership styles that have an impact on the choices of change management strategy and on the success of the strategy chosen.
Nadler and Tushman focused on people within the organization and their various roles. They took the structural approach that examined organizational structure and the strategies that were used in the decision-making process. This functional approach to defining the organization will be helpful in the development of a methodology for choosing the correct change management approach for a particular organization. This is a rather mechanical approach to defining an organization. However, many times, business processes are the key to achieving the new goals of the organization. Therefore, this mechanical functional approach to defining the existing organizational structure and strategies as well as the vision for what they need to be after the change will be a necessary step in choosing the correct change management strategy.
Sathe placed an emphasis on organizational culture. This topic has been a key interest in previous…