Coping with change in Businesses

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Businesses today have to operate in rapidly changing markets and conditions. They can no longer rely on a constant stream of customers, the same production process or the same product over a long period of time. They must constantly be aware of, and be prepared to respond to, changes in a number of areas.

The introduction of new technology can affect a business in many ways. There have, for example, been rapid changes in communications technology, production techniques and electronic components in recent years.

Why manage change?

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The management of change in business has grown in importance in recent years. Under pressure from competitors, higher costs and economic conditions many firms developed company-wide change programmes.

Some have argued that, historically, the problems of business in managing change and increasing productivity have resulted from the ineffectiveness of management. It has been suggested that managers in the past have not

· Scored highly in their ability to plan and organize production effectively and efficiently.

· Invested in skilled workers

· Competently execute the process of change

· Taken into consideration the possible barriers encountered during the changing process

· Maintained effective communication with their sub-ordinates

· Been concerned with long-term growth generated by major investment, but only in short term profits.

However, today it could be argued that managers are far more aware of what is required for business to achieve success. The ways in which they manage change are dealt with in the sections that follow.

The role of the personnel department

Traditionally, personnel managers enforced rules and procedures, and were less concerned with change. It has been suggested that if they became human resource managers, and more concerned with the following, then change would take place more effectively in business.

· A move away from job evaluation and fixed grades towards appraisal and performance related pay.

· Pay and conditions negotiated with individuals rather than collectively.

· An emphasis on teamwork rather than individual job design.

· Sufficient training for employees

· Encouraging employees that are empowered and self-motivating rather than needing to be “controlledE

Resistance to change

Businesses are likely to face some resistance to change from parts of the workforce. Workers and certain levels of management sometimes fear the unknown. They feel safe with work practices, conditions and relationships that they have been used to for a period of time. Employees and managers may fear that they will be unable to carry out new tasks, may become unemployed or many face a fall in earnings. Individual workers might be concerned that they will no longer work with “friendsE or may be moved to a job, which they dislike. If change is to be carried out effectively, the business must make certain that these fears are taken into account. Only if employees feel that they can cope with change, will the business be operating to its potential.

Resistance may also be found in the culture of the organisation. Custom and practice are embedded in systems, which reflect the norms, values and beliefs of the organisation. While this may give stability, it presents problems of rigidity when a business needs to change. There are many theorists who suggest the need for a multi-step approach. Psychologist Kurt Lewin emphasized a three-step process.

· Introducing an innovation with innovation aimed to satisfy a need

· Overcoming resistance by group discussion and decision Emaking

· Establishing a new practice

· Involving employees in the change process

It is also just argued that those likely to be affected by change should be informed and have a stake in the process of shaping change.

Developing an Organizational Culture for Change

An organisational culture includes the beliefs, norms and values of a business. It is a generally held view about how people should behave, the nature of working attitudes and relationships. It has been suggested that a business that creates a culture of change is likely to manage it far more effectively. Management at the top level must have a clear idea of how they expect the business to change. Structures, methods of training, management styles etc. must then alter to reflect this. Finally a culture must be established where all employed are aware of the new relationship and methods of working. One model that has been used to implement change is Total Quality Management (TQM). A feature of TQM is that everyone in the business is responsible for maintaining and improving quality, including the quality of the product, production methods, operation methods and the supply to the customer. This culture develops a culture where all employers, managers etc are trying to achieve the same goal, which should motivate, develop teamwork and improve communication, accountability and rewards in responding positively to changes implemented in the organization.

Different Approaches to Managing Change

One approach to managing change is for people at the ‘topEof business to plan out major restructuring programmes with the consultation of workers or worker representatives. The main advantage of this method is that a company can have a vision of where it is going, involving all key persons affected. It can compare where it is now with where it was then. It is possible using this approach, to prepare departmental action plans, set timetables and measure how far change has been achieved.

Evaluating the Management of Change

Managers will have a clear idea of the improvements to performance that they want from change in business. They may want productivity gains as a result of the use of multi-skilled teams or improved response times to customer demands due to new communication and operational technologies. These are sometimes referred to as performance indicators. Performance indicators can be used to evaluate the management of change. Any evaluation strategy will have quantitative and qualitative methods of analysing changes in work practices.

The competence and abilities of a manager matches people, information, and technology to the purpose, vision, and strategy of the organization. Their style of management should be designed to enhance communication and information flow among people. Systems are designed to encourage individual responsibility and decision-making. Technology is used to enhance human capabilities to accomplish meaningful work. The end product is an integrated system of people and resources, tailored to the specific direction of the organization, allowing them to respond positively to changes within their organization.

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