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31 Jul
2020

Organizational Change and Development:

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ABSTRACTThis chapter first discusses the complexities of change in organizations and why so many OCD programsfail and makes the case for change agents to become evidence-based in their change agency practice.The author then offers a definition of evidence-based organizational change and development (EBOCD)and outlines the types of “best evidence” that can be used to inform and shape the formulation andimplementation of OCD strategies and to critically evaluate the associated processes and change agencypractices. Various distinctive evidence-based initiatives for OCD are discussed and several case examplesfrom the United Kingdom are presented. The chapter closes with a discussion of the specific merits of“design science,” “professional partnership” research, and “replication” research.INTRODUCTIONSince the 1980s, organizations in all organizational sectors have had to react to huge environmental pressuresfor change, the main drivers of which have been: Technology, particularly IT; Governments, which inall parts of the globe have until recent times increasingly embraced notions of deregulation, privatizationand free trade; and Globalization, where private sector companies have had to compete more aggressively,and public sector organizations have had to deliver more value for money services and products(see Barkema, Baum, & Mannix, 2002; Champy & Nohria, 1996; Dess & Picken, 2000; Smith, Lewis& Tushman, 2016; Yukl, 2006). These pressures have resulted in mergers, acquisitions, amalgamations,decentralization, flatter structures, downsizing, multidimensional restructuring, increased flexible workpractices, drives on quality and value, greater emphasis on customer/client/consumer orientation and care,and increasing stress levels at work (see, for example, Hamlin, 2001a; Gunnigle, Lavelle & Monaghan,2013; Shook & Roth, 2011). Furthermore, since the early 2000s most organizations have been operatingOrganizational Changeand Development:The Case for Evidence-Based PracticeRobert G. HamlinUniversity of Wolverhampton, UK2Organizational Change and Developmentincreasingly in VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) environments where: Volatile refers tothe pace of change which is rapid and unrelenting, and the associated challenges which are unexpectedor unstable; Uncertainty refers to the difficulty in getting clarity and certainty about what is going onin business contexts through incomplete or insufficient information, which is complicated by opposingviews and opinions; Complexity refers to the many interconnected parts and variables that can have a‘cause-effect’ impact in a given situation, and to the volume or nature of the available information thatcan be overwhelming to process thus making diagnosis difficult; and Ambiguity refers to causal relationshipswhich are completely unclear because no precedents exist and leaders/managers are faced with‘unknown unknowns’ (see Bennett & James Lemoine, 2014; Mack, Khare, Kramer & Burgatz, 2016).In response to these trends of change, most executives in the 21st century recognize that their respectiveorganizations need to adapt continuously to constantly changing environments. However, they tend tostruggle with the transformational changes that are necessary for ensuring the survival of their respectiveorganizations, or they fail to raise their game to the higher levels of performance that are required(Rogers, Shannon, & Gent, 2003). Therefore, when they initiate programs of organizational change anddevelopment (OCD) they tend to rely on lower level managers to facilitate and implement the changeprocesses. Thus, in a very real sense, most managers in most organizations are agents of change (Axley,2000). Furthermore, in some organizations where the modern-day conceptualization of human resourcedevelopment (HRD) is well embedded into the fabric of managerial thinking and management practice,managers proactively use the services of HRD colleagues possessing strong change agency capabilitiesto help them formulate and implement OCD plans, strategies and interventions. In so doing they treatthem as ‘strategic partners’, just as they do with external OD specialists and management consultantswhose change agency services they use.However, as I have discussed elsewhere, “one of the major challenges facing contemporary managersand HRD professionals is how best to help people through the transitions of change, and to surviveor thrive in working environments that are in a constant state of flux.” (Hamlin, 2016a, p.121). Hence,this chapter is concerned with: (a) the challenges that confront managers and the various ‘strategic partners’they turn to for help in bringing about effective and beneficial organizational change, and (b) thepractical contribution that management research and specific OCD-related research can make towardimproving the efficacy of their respective change agency endeavors. The specific purpose can be summarizedas follows:
To outline the extent to which organizational change programs fail and why they fail.
To argue that managers and their strategic partners should adopt an ‘evidence-based practice’ (EBP)approach to organizational change agency.
To highlight certain obstacles to ‘evidence-based’ OCD, and to describe and illustrate how thesemay be overcome through ‘professional partnership’ research and empirical generalization ‘replication’research respectively.
To highlight and discuss other ‘evidence-based’ initiatives for facilitating effective and beneficialOCD programs.3Organizational Change and DevelopmentBACKGROUNDAlthough it may be widely recognized that most managers in most organizations are to a greater or lesserextent agents of change, this cannot be assumed to be the case for most HRD practitioners. However, asStewart (2015) claims, modern-day HRD professional practitioners are change-agents skilled in advisingand helping managers with the facilitation of OCD programs, either in their capacity as a colleague or asan external consultant. Indeed, Stewart and others have argued that HRD is of itself a strategic functionwhich, when fully utilized, can have a significant impact on the survival and long-term business successof organizations (see Fredericks & Stewart, 1996; Stewart & McGoldrick, 1996). This view is reflected inan ‘all-embracing’, ‘catch-all’, ‘composite’ but ‘non-definitive’ statement of HRD offered by Hamlin andStewart (2011) which asserts that, in essence, “HRD encompasses processes, activities or interventions”which “enhance organizational and individual learning, develop human potential, improve or maximizeeffectiveness and performance at either the individual, group/team and/or organizational level, and/orbring about effective, beneficial personal or organizational behaviour change and improvement” (p.213) within, across, and/or beyond the boundaries of private, public and third sector organizations, entities,and other types of host system. This understanding of HRD is consistent with Phillips and Shaw’s(1989) ‘consultancy approach for trainers’ which involves HRD practitioners increasingly operating notonly as ‘training consultants’ and ‘learning consultants’ but also as ‘organizational change consultants’.Thus, both in theory and practice, the contribution of appropriate HRD consultancy type practices canbe a major influence on the interplay of culture, leadership, and commitment of employees through:a) shaping organizational culture; b) developing current and future leaders; c) building commitmentamong organization members; and d) anticipating and managing responses to changed conditions (Gold,Holden, Iles, Stewart, & Beardwell, 2009). This view accords with McKenzie, Garavan and Carbery’s(2012) observation that “the shift from operational and tactical HRD to strategic HRD has witnesseda metamorphosis for HRD practitioners increasingly becoming partners in the business tasked withaligning people, strategy, and performance rather than simply promoting learning and development”(p. 354). It also chimes with Kohut and Roth’s (2015) view that “HRD practitioners and scholars need[increasingly] to enter the fray of the discussion on change management” (p. 231).As happened during the last three decades of the 20th century, the need for managers to initiate andfacilitate ‘organizational change’ (OC) and ‘organization development’ (OD) programs effectively andbeneficially in the 21st century is increasing in frequency, pace, and complexity (see Hamlin, Keep& Ash, 2001). In this context, a major challenge facing modern day managers and HRD professionalpractitioners is how best to help staff cope effectively within working environments that are in a state ofconstant flux and with the transitions of major change programs. Unfortunately, many OCD programsfail because managers and their HRD colleagues, as well as many external professional change-agents(e.g. OD specialists, management consultants, executive coaches, etc.) whose services are used in supportroles, find themselves unable to rise to the challenge. However, for those organizations that do facilitateOCD programs effectively and beneficially, change initiatives become welcomed as opportunities forincreasing efficiency and for building new organizational success.4Organizational Change and DevelopmentMAIN FOCUS OF THE CHAPTERThis section explores the reasons for the failure of so many OCD programs, and then discusses the casefor EBP approaches to OCD change agency.Past and Current Failure Rates of OCD ProgramsIt is of crucial importance to all those who have a stake in the success of an organization that OCD processesare managed effectively and beneficially. Sadly, the success rates of planned OC strategies havebeen poor with over two thirds or more of OC and OD programs having failed to achieve their intendedaims (Beer & Nohria, 2000; Burnes, 2004; Choi & Ruona, 2011; Stanford, 2016; Szabla, 2007). As Ihave claimed elsewhere, based on a comprehensive review and synthesis of OCD context and practicethat I conducted in 2001, “the majority of ‘downsizing’ and ‘delayering’ initiatives were unsuccessful,with few ever reaching the aimed for goals of increased competitiveness and profitability, and with manyending up with lower profit margins and poorer returns on assets and equity than achieved by equivalentfirms that had not downsized” (Hamlin, 2016a, p.122). Furthermore, based on a review of morerecent literature “downsizing (now more frequently referred to as ‘right sizing’) brings with it largelynegative outcomes that adversely affect the entire workforce in a profound manner” which include, forexample, “the destruction of morale and organizational commitment; decreased levels of productivity,efficiency, job performance, innovation, employee effort and quality of work, and increased levels ofstaff absenteeism, staff turnover, sabotage, fraud, embezzlement and theft (see Fong & Kleiner, 2004;Gandolfi, 2006; Nutt, 2004; Thornhill, Lewis, Millmore, & Saunders, 2000)” (In Hamlin, 2016a, p. 122).Similarly, during the 1980s and 1990s, over 50% of Business Process Re-engineering (BPR) and TotalQuality Management (TQM) programs were reported as having failed, with a further 20% or more failingto produce the full benefits (Hamlin, 2001a). As will be discussed later, there is little contemporaryevidence to indicate there has been any substantial increase in the success rate of OCD programs duringthe first two decades of the 21st century. However, although the historical success rate of IT-relatedchange programs has been dismal with less than 30% of new project investments succeeding in meetingtheir performance goals (see Hamlin, 2001a; Sirkin, Keenan, & Jackson, 2005), in the USA the successrates have increased somewhat over time-from 27% in 1996 to 39% in 2012 (Standish Group, 2013).According to Pfeffer and Sutton (2006), most organizational mergers fail to deliver the expectedbenefits; instead, the ways they are facilitated tend toward a destruction of the combined economic valueof the merged businesses. Walker and Price (2000) had earlier suggested that such failures are causednot so much by financial issues but rather by the incompatibility of the merging cultures, the clashingof management styles, and the lack of skill of those managers implementing the change. Furthermore,they argue that these problematic issues are not addressed early enough or effectively enough in themerger process.Recent literature also reports that overall 70% or more of rightsizing, mergers acquisitions, and othertypes of organizational change programs, either fail or are just partially successful, and that the workplacechallenges posed by OCD initiatives typically have a negative impact on employees (Carnall & TodnemBy, 2014; Shook & Roth, 2011; ten Have, ten Have, Huijsmans, & Otto, 2017). However, the volumeof empirical evidence supporting such reports has been questioned by Hughes (2011) who claims thatthe 70% OC failure rate rhetoric has been informed more by magazine articles and practitioner books5Organizational Change and Developmentthan by academic studies. Indeed, as Candido and Santos (2015) revealed from their comprehensivereview of the literature, recorded failure rates of OC programs have spanned from as low as 7% to oneas high as 90%, with some rates having been derived from outdated or fragmentary empirical evidencelacking in scientific rigor, or based solely on subjective opinion. Nevertheless, they argue that strategyimplementation failure is a persistent problem which remains an important and ongoing concern forresearchers and practitioners.However, as Stanford (2016) observes, although leaders, talent management professionals and otherswithin organizations may realize that change is needed, they often fail to grasp the complexity of whatchange management entails. Furthermore, they tend not to recognize that their expectations are notaligned with what is feasible within the organization, particularly when the change leaders fail to takethe time necessary to understand the scope of the change, the involved stakeholders, the environmentalcomplexity, and the impact of the change from a systems perspective. Unfortunately, many OCD programsfail badly with unintended and damaging consequences which increasingly take a psychological toll onboth the ‘victims’ and the ‘survivors’, not least the surviving managers (see Hamlin, 2001a; Hareli &Tzafrir, 2004; Worrall & Cooper, 1997-2001, 2007).From the foregoing it is unarguably the case that too many organizational change initiatives fail and/or lead to outcomes that are largely negative. As I have claimed elsewhere, the “weight of evidencesuggests that the process issues associated with formulating and implementing organizational changeinitiatives are far more complex and difficult than is often supposed, and that both managers and HRDpractitioners [and those other OCD-related strategic partners] are generally insufficiently skilled in thepractice of organizational change agency” (Hamlin, 2016a, p.123).Reasons for OCD Program FailureBearing in mind the plethora of books on ‘organizational change management’ authored by managementconsultants and high-profile academics who offer ‘how to’ advice and guidance, it is surprising that somany OCD programs fail. Some of the books can be criticized for being too pragmatic, prescriptive,or simplistic, whilst others for being too theoretical and philosophical. All can be of some help whenchange agents are thinking through the issues that need to be considered, and/or when they are developingand implementing an OCD intervention strategy. Many of these books describe ‘planned changemanagement’ approaches based on Lewin’s ‘unfreeze-move-refreeze’ model and incorporate a processual‘stage by stage’ procedure for managing the change. Drawing upon the various models offered inthe 1990s, Hamlin (2001a) created a composite ‘generic model for managing planned organizationalchange’ comprised of six phases, adapted versions of which are as follows:Phase 1: Diagnose/explore the current organizational state and define what the future organizationalstate should bePhase 2: Create a strategic vision that gives focus to the intended direction of travelPhase 3: Plan the change management strategyPhase 4: Secure ownership, commitment and involvement from all stakeholders affected by the change,and ensure there is support from top managementPhase 5: Project manage the implementation of the strategy and sustain the momentumPhase 6: Stabilize, integrate and consolidate to prevent regression and perpetuate the change6Organizational Change and DevelopmentThe implicit assumption when managers and their strategic partners utilize any change managementmodel is that they have the knowledge and expertise to apply it effectively. However, the rates ofOCD program failure discussed in the previous section suggest they do not, and that most managersare perhaps deficient in the requisite change agency skills. Although most if not all offered models arebasically sound with high face validity, in many cases their simplified diagrammatic/summary formatscan appear overly simplistic and just plain common sense. Regrettably, this can lead to important phasesbeing ‘skipped’ or to a lax application of the model; and this can be made worse by the manager’s andhis or her strategic partner’s lack of change agency expertise. Based on a review of organizational changemanagement studies from various researchers in the USA, the UK, and from various other Europeancountries I have identified six root ‘failings’ of managers and HRD practitioners which help explain whyOCD programs fail (Hamlin, 2001a). Five of these ‘failings’ relate to managers and the sixth to HRDpractitioners, as follows:Failing 1: Managers not knowing the fundamental principles of change management.Managerial ‘complacency’ and ‘ignorance’ are two of the most significant factors which can contributeto the failure of OCD programs; yet this should not be the case when professionally qualified managersare acting in the role of a change agent. A significant reason for their failings can be attributed to insufficientattention having been given during their professional education and training to the ‘soft stuff’of management, to the ‘behavioral aspects’ of change management, to the training and development oftheir people, and to the interpersonal communication skills required for managing change effectively. Asvarious writers have claimed, much of what is taught and delivered in university business schools is notperceived to be part of the manager’s real world, or of practical relevance (Bones, 2007; Mintzberg, 2004).Failing 2: Managers succumbing to the temptations of the ‘quick fix’ or ‘simple solution’.Going through all six phases of the change process normally requires a substantial amount of timeif the change strategy is to be implemented successfully. However, driven by ‘short termism’, manymanagers are tempted to adopt ‘simple’ or ‘quick-fix’ solutions that skip through the phases. Such approachesrarely deliver the results required, but instead lead to failure. As Kotter (1996) argues, althoughthe skipping of phases can create the illusion of speed it never produces satisfying results; and omissionsor critical mistakes in any of the phases can devastatingly impede or even negate further progress.Failing 3: Managers not fully appreciating the significance of the leadership and cultural aspects ofchange.The three factors that many expert commentators regard as most important in a fully functioningorganization are ‘the leadership’, ‘the culture’ and ‘the management of change’. In the absence ofstrong strategic/organizational leadership, and managers who lead effectively using the right style ofsupervisory leadership, OCD related initiatives and interventions designed to change and improve theorganization will underachieve the desired outcomes and will most likely make things worse. To bringabout significant organizational change requires the commitment of top management; but this needs tobe clearly in evidence, consistent, and sustained throughout the change process. Additionally, managersneed to recognize that if they pay insufficient attention to the cultural issues of change, the organization7Organizational Change and Developmentcould risk suffering from ‘cultural lag’- a term coined by Bate (1996) to describe the condition when aculture becomes ‘out-of-fit’ with the needs of the changing organization and thus impedes the changeprocess. For OCD programs to succeed, adequate attention must be given to the ‘cultural’ issues and tothe style and quality of the ‘leadership’ manifested by managers.Failing 4: Managers not appreciating sufficiently the significance of the people issues.In many OCD programs insufficient attention to the associated people issues is given by thosewho develop the change strategy and those who implement it. These issues include the psychologicalprocesses that employees experience in dealing with change and in coping with the change transition.Employees need to be enabled: a) to let go of the past ways of working and their memories of the oldculture (endings) whilst holding on to certain still relevant aspects; b) to engage with the required newways of working (in-between time), and c) to fully embrace the new direction and organizational culture(new beginning). This means managers need to understand the distinction between ‘change’ and ‘transition’and recognize the critical importance of paying sufficient attention to the ‘soft’ human aspects inthe change management process.Failing 5: Managers not knowing the critical contribution that the HRD function can make to the managementof change.When managers strive to address the ‘soft’ human aspects of change management they tend not touse to best effect the services of HRD practitioners. This is despite the acknowledged critical importanceof preparing employees adequately for change by giving sufficient time to training them (Cornell HRReview, 2013). The reason for the omission is because too many managers and HR professionals viewHRD as one of many sub-sets of administrative activities that constitute the HR function, with the trainingspecialism responsive only to immediate knowledge and skill deficits. Indeed, for many if not mostorganizational leaders, HRD does not register very much on their radar screens and is very much a thirdor fourth order consideration (Gold, Rogers, & Smith, 2003). Furthermore, this is exacerbated by thefact that although HR has long been claimed to be strategic in focus, evidence suggests it remains morerhetoric than reality (Hamlin, 2001a; Power, 2011). As Power observes, it is hard to find leaders of theHR function who are active in helping their organization improve the way it works, and this is because:a) top management often view HR as an expense with a transaction focus rather than an adding valuecontribution with a strategic focus; b) historically HR has been mainly engaged in personnel, compliance,and transactions, and c) HR professionals without operational experience have less credibility andare not comfortable giving operational advice.However, as discussed briefly above, and in considerable depth elsewhere (Hamlin, 2001a, 2002),it has long been the case that various HRD professional practitioners have practiced at a strategic level,have made pivotal contributions towards the achievement of organizational effectiveness and success,and have helped create the critical capabilities and competencies required for the organization to changeand develop. Unfortunately, “many managers have ‘blind spots’ regarding HRD, seeing it only in termsof high-cost external training courses, or long-term development/qualification programmes for youngand new employees” (Hamlin, 2001a, p. 27). Furthermore, managers remain largely ignorant of modernday conceptualizations of strategic HRD. Yet there are HRD implications implicit in all organizationalchange whether at the individual, group, or organization level. As Hamlin also argues:8Organizational Change and DevelopmentFor every change, both large and small, either ‘new’ knowledge, attitudes, skills and habits (KASH)have to be acquired, as in the case, for example, when new products, services, technologies, structuresor systems are introduced; or alternatively ‘existing’ knowledge, attitudes, skills and habits must be redistributed,as in the case of downsizing or when mergers or acquisitions take place. Unless the KASHgaps flowing inevitably from organizational change initiatives are bridged efficiently and effectively,whether at the organizational, group or individual level, the organization will not develop the criticalcapabilities [and competencies] required to make a successful transition from an [undesired] presentstate to the new [desired] future state. (Hamlin, 2001a, p. 27)The extent to which appropriate HRD effort is incorporated into OCD programs will critically determinewhether a planned change program succeeds or fails. Hence, for managers to be in control of OCDinitiatives they must be ‘learning focused’, which means being in control of the KASH issues associatedwith change itself. Thus, sufficient time and attention needs to be given to the ‘soft’ HRD aspects ofmanaging the change process (Hamlin, 2001a, 2002; Ning & Jing, 2012; Thornhill et al., 2000). Formanagers to manage change effectively and beneficially they need consciously to incorporate HRD intothe very ‘fabric’ of their everyday management practice, and to use it as a tool for managing change.However, if they have not already done so, they need to stop thinking of HRD merely as traditional‘training and development’, and instead recognize the 21st century understanding of the whole HRDdomain of study and practice, as reflected in the following definition:Contemporary HRD is: the study or practice concerned with the diagnosis of performance-related behaviourchange requirements at the individual, group and organizational level within any host entity, andthe design, delivery and evaluation of formal and/or informal learning activities to meet the identifiedneeds. (Copyright © r.g.hamlin, 2017)
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