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Evaluation of Two Approaches to Organizational Change for Small and Medium Sized Businesses

Evaluation of Two Approaches to Organizational Change for Small and Medium Sized Businesses

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Published by Sunway University
Written by John Mackness
Written by John Mackness

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Published by: Sunway University on Jan 14, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Lancaster University Management SchoolBailriggLancasterLA1 4YX, UKTel: +44 (0) 1524 592703Fax: +44 (0)1524 381454 j.mackness@lancaster.ac.uk 
 This study examines two different approaches to organizational change: one focusing on solving specificproblems and the other focusing on changing the organizational culture. The opportunity for the author toevaluate the different approaches came about because a government-financed development agency working todevelop a specific region of the UK, wanted to know how best to allocate its scarce resources to initiate changeto improve productivity in assembly and manufacturing industries. Both approaches had been used recently butthe agency wanted an objective assessment of their strengths and weaknesses before deciding to promote one orthe other. The evaluation showed that both models could produce good results. However, the scope, scale andimpact of the problem solving approach was much less than the culture change approach. This was primarily dueto the changes in values and commitment of staff and their willingness to initiate change projects and be part of the change process.Key words: management, change, culture, productivity, motivation, impact
The evaluation was set up by a regional development agency responsible for supporting theeconomic development of industry in the North of England. Part of the agency’s role was toimprove productivity amongst small and medium sized companies in the region. It wantedto use its scarce resources wisely and therefore it initiated the study in order to receiveguidance about two possible approaches to improve productivity especially in small andmedium sized companies. If the approaches were found to be valuable, the likely outcomewas that the agency would support their wider use with funds and other forms of support.The first approach, the ‘Problem Solving Approach’, focused on identifying changechampions within the companies, providing them with training about problem identificationand problem solving and supporting them with access to advisors who acted as mentors orcoaches. It was called the ‘Problem Solving Approach’ (illustrated in Figure 1) because itsprimary purpose was to demonstrate how champions of change with good coaching supportcan become leaders of change teams and resolve specific problems resulting in increasedproductivity. The origin of the approach was a change program which had been designedand used successfully in a medium sized engineering plant that the development agency hadgood relationships with. This approach had also been evaluated by a local university as an
Sunway Academic Journal 5
32example of good practice in managing change. An interesting feature of the approach wasthe use of coaches from the engineering company to support the job of change champions inthe companies which were selected to take part in this evaluation. The engineering companywas willing to provide this support because it helped to develop the capability of its ownstaff to manage change. The selected companies taking part in the evaluation with thisapproach were small volunteer engineering companies which met criteria associated withwillingness and interest to be involved.
Figure 1. Outline of the ‘Problem Solving Approach’
The second approach, the Culture Change Approach, focused less on specific problemsand more on the organization culture. It did this by first assessing the health of the existingculture through a number of data collection techniques such as surveys, interviews andobservations about how the staff felt about working in the organization. This assessmentwas then fed back to senior managers who were charged with thinking through how theirvalues, attitudes and behaviours were contributing to the culture that staff was experiencing.This caused a re-appraisal of how senior and middle managers carried out their roles andhow this affected the staff working in the organization. The outcome of the reappraisal was
Sunway Academic Journal 5
33a move to change the culture through the initiation of workforce-led activities and changeprojects. Effectively this involved a transfer of power from staff at the top and middle of thecompanies to people on the shop floor who were invited to propose and lead changeprojects themselves, effectively taking ownership of the change process. This is illustratedin Figure 2.
Figure 2. Outline of the ‘Culture Change’ Approach
Contract with organization
Carry out cultural audit withstaff about attitudes,behaviors in the company
Negotiate changing roles andbehaviors with seniormanagers and middle managers
Initiate multi
functionalfocus/action groupsEncourage staff to initiate andmanage change projects toimprove productivity
Monitor the impact of theprojects
Provide support/training
Convince and educate thesenior management team
Convince and educatemiddle management andother key influencers

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