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Integrative Paper: Discussing Leading Change

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The text for this course, Organizational Behavior and Management by John M. Ivanevich, Robert Konopaske and Michael T. Matteson, attempts to use the latest theories, research, and organizational applications while retaining the classic and long-standing work in organizational behavior as the basis for its discussion. It places a great deal of importance on management’s understanding of organizational situations and its ability to react by properly interpreting and predicting behavior. Managing organizational change is done by focusing on behavior (individual and group), organizational structure, and processes. On the other hand, Leading Change by John P. Kotter underscores the differences between management and leadership.

Strong and effective leadership is required for successful transformations of organizations. Kotter reasons that an unsuccessful transformation can be attributed to errors in the following stages: establishing a sense of urgency, creating the guiding coalition, developing a vision and strategy, communicating the change vision, empowering employees for broad-based action, generating short-term wins, consolidating gains and producing more change, and anchoring new approaches in the culture. This paper will discuss how the concepts presented in the text relate to the eight stages covered in Leading Change.

Establishing a Sense of Urgency No major organizational change can occur without first establishing a sense of urgency. This sense of urgency must be maintained throughout each of Kotter’s stages. A single individual cannot alone create organizational change. Cooperation from others is essential and establishing a sense of urgency is needed to gain that cooperation. With urgency low, it’s difficult to put together a group with enough power and credibility to guide the effort or to convince key individuals to spend the time necessary to create and communicate the change vision (Kotter 36). A critical element related to the sense of urgency is complacency. With complacency high, transformations usually go nowhere because few people are even interested in working on the change problem (Kotter 36). Hence, in order to raise the urgency level, the reduction or elimination of complacency is required. Some examples of complacency sources are the absence of a major and visible crisis, low performance standards, and organizational structures that focus employees on narrow functional goals.

Organizational Behavior and Management focuses on management’s understanding of employee perceptions, attributions and emotions and how to motivate employees to help achieve organizational objectives. The perceptual process involves an individual’s interpretation of different environmental stimuli and his corresponding response. These responses include attitudes, feelings and motivation. Each person makes his own choices and responds differently. Learning about perceptual interpretation helps managers understand why individual differences must be considered at work (Ivanevich 95). These perceptions directly influence a person’s attributions. The attribution theory is a process by which individuals attempt to explain the reasons for events. According to the attribution theory, it is the perceived causes of events, not the actual events themselves, that influence people’s behavior (Ivanevich 101). Along with an understanding of perceptions and attributions, managers must be cognizant of individual employee emotions. Often, an employee’s perceptions and attributions are conveyed through emotions. The concept of emotional intelligence emphasizes four cognitive components: a capacity to perceive emotion, to integrate emotion in thought, to understand emotion, and to manage emotion effectively (Ivanevich 111).

Managers that exhibit a high degree of emotional intelligence are more likely to be successful when it comes to motivating employees. Using principles of the expectancy theory of motivation, employees will be more motivated when the perceive their efforts will result in successful performance and, ultimately, desired rewards (Ivanevich 132). Managers understanding perceptions, attributions and emotions can offer rewards tailored for each individual. A distinct difference exists between Kotter’s viewpoint and that of Ivanevich. Kotter advocates that leadership must instill a feeling in the employee that the status quo is not acceptable and that for the organization to remain viable a major transformation is necessary. Ivanevich links the perception and resulting behavior of individuals with the success of the organization. Understand the employee’s perceptions and needs in order to effectively motivate him to perform as desired by the organization.

Creating the Guiding Coalition Major organizational transformations involve developing the right vision, communicating it to large numbers of people, eliminating all the key obstacles, generating short-term wins, leading and managing dozens of change projects, and anchoring new approaches in the organization’s culture. This cannot be done by one individual. A strong guiding coalition is always needed -one with the right composition, level of trust, and shared objective (Kotter 52). A decision making model that involves a committee making recommendations followed by managers rebutting then the group making more suggestions is no longer effective or appropriate. In today’s rapidly moving business environment, the weak committees of the past rarely have all the information needed to make good nonroutine decisions. Nor do they seem to have the credibility or the time required to convince others to make personal sacrifices called for in implementing changes (Kotter 55).

An effective guiding coalition must have a proper mix of members that possess essential characteristics such as position power, expertise, credibility and leadership. Management and leadership skills are both important to have on the guiding coalition. The former keeps the whole process under control, while the latter drives the change (Kotter 57). Ivanevich describes a group as two or more individuals interacting with each other to accomplish a common goal. Teams are mature groups with a degree of member interdependence and motivation to achieve a common goal. Each member of the team has skills that complement those of other team members (Ivanevich 277). Decisions made by groups are often much more effective than those made by individuals. Benefits from using teams include quality improvement, productivity gains from bringing individuals with complementary skills together and organizational restructuring efforts. Hence, the use of formal groups and teams to accomplish organizational objectives is commonplace in the majority of companies today. Both Kotter and Ivanevich stress the importance and effectiveness of groups. Reaching organizational objectives including a major transformation cannot be accomplished without a strong, well constructed group.

Developing a Vision and Strategy A major part of all great leadership is vision. As it relates to organizational change, a good vision serves three important purposes: it clarifies the general direction for change, motivates people to take action in the right direction and it helps coordinate the actions of different people (Kotter 68,69). An effective vision paints a picture of the organization’s future state. It is perceived as desirable to stakeholder who have long-term interests in mind. An effective vision is feasible. The vision must be grounded in a clear and rational understanding of the organization. Strategy plays an important role here. It provides both a logic and a first level of detail to show how the vision can be accomplished (Kotter 75). Finally, an effective vision is also focused, flexible and easily explained. A vision is often born of an individual’s aspirations or needs.

From there, creating an effective vision involves the teamwork of a strong guiding coalition partaking in an often lengthy process that incorporates both analytical thinking and dreaming (Kotter 81). Organizational Behavior and Management defines a process for rational decision making. As a part of that process, managers must establish specific, measurable goals and objectives, identify problems, establish priorities, determine causes, develop alternative solutions and select a solution (Ivanevich 410-415). Managers often turn to group decision making to assist especially with nonprogrammed problems. The complexity of many nonprogrammed decisions requires the specialized knowledge of many different people, and groups provide this. Kotter and Ivanevich both outline a path involving rational decision making. Both explain that problem/goal identification is important. Priorities must be established. Groups/coalitions are used to research and determine causes so that alternative solutions can be developed. Ultimately, a proper solution to can be selected and the organization can move forward with greater certainty.

Communicating the Change Vision Stalled organizational transformation is often the result of a failure to communicate the change vision. The basic reason for this is underestimating the magnitude of the task. The guiding coalition is simply overwhelmed with the amount of effort required. Kotter specifies several key elements in the effective communication of vision. He believes the communication should be simple to understand, develop a verbal picture of the vision, use multiple communication forums, repeat the ideas, exhibit leadership by example, address any inconsistencies, and allow for two way communication (Kotter 90). Ivanevich points out the direct correlation that communication has to organizational effectiveness. Less effective communication results in a less effective organization. According to Ivanevich, the communication process involves five elements: the communicator, the message, the medium, the receiver, and feedback (Ivanevich 373). A breakdown anywhere in this process may result in miscommunication.

Different types of organizational communication methods are covered in the text. The most common is downward communication which flows from individuals in higher levels of the organization to those in lower levels (Ivanevich 377). When high-level decisions associated with downward communication are developed and implemented, employees experience four stages. They speculate what’s going to happen, digest the news, discuss the announcement with peers and finally make a conclusion. This last step will lead the employees to embrace, accept, endure, reject or passively resist the decision (Ivanevich 378). In both Leading Change and Organizational Behavior and Management, ineffective communication provided by management can create unnecessary stress and result in organizational members rejecting any initiative or vision management desires to implement.

Empowering Employees for Broad-Based Action For employees to assist with an organizational transformation, they must feel like they have the power to do so. The purpose of this stage in Kotter’s process is to empower a broad base of people to take action by removing as many barriers to the implementation of the change vision as possible at this point in the process (Kotter 102). The four biggest obstacles that need to be addressed are structures, skills, systems and supervisors. Kotter introduces ways related to these obstacles for empowering people to effect change. He believes that if employees have a shared sense of purpose, it will be easier to initiate actions to achieve that purpose. People can be empowered by making structures compatible with the vision.

Organizations should provide the training employees need, align information and personnel systems to the vision, and confront any supervisors who undercut the needed change. Empowerment is defined in the text as encouraging and/or assisting individuals and groups to make decisions that affect their work environments. Job designs are the result of job analysis. One characteristic of jobs is job depth. This is the amount of discretion an individual has to decide job activities and job outcomes (Ivanevich 158). Job depth is reflective of the autonomy an employee has in his job. The greater the job depth the more empowered an employee will feel. Job depth leads directly to job enrichment which is the concept of meeting individual’s need for psychological growth (especially responsibility, job challenge, and achievement) (Ivanevich 163).

For both Kotter and Ivanevich, a supportive organizational environment is required to support the empowerment of employees. Kotter addresses this by concentrating his efforts more at a higher organizational level. Ivanevich associates empowerment with the specific job an individual performs.

Generating Short-Term Wins In Leading Change, Kotter stresses that running a transformation effort without serious attention to short-term wins is extremely risky (Kotter 119). He offers six ways that short-term wins help transformations. They provide evidence that sacrifices are worth it and even rewards change agents thus building morale and motivation. Short-term wins help the guiding coalition fine-tune vision and strategies. They also make it difficult for cynics to block needed change. By providing evidence that the transformation is on track, it keeps management on board with the change. Finally, short-term wins build momentum by turning previously neutral parties into supporters (Kotter 123). Rewards affect employee perceptions, attitudes, and behavior in a variety of ways. In turn, organizational efficiency and effectiveness are affected (Ivanevich 197). Organizational Behavior and Management defines commitment as a sense of identification, involvement, and loyalty expressed by an employee toward the company.

Employee commitment is essential for any successful change to take place. A committed employee perceives the value and importance of integrating individual and organizational goals (Ivanevich 198). A properly implemented reward program will help to motivate employees to achieve high levels of performance. For instance, managers often administer a positive reinforcement program where the emphasis is on the desired behavior that leads to job performance rather than peformance alone (Ivanevich 195). Kotter’s beliefs about short-term wins exhibits many similarities with Ivanevich’s description of a positive reinforcement rewards system. Kotter believes that by drawing attention to short-term wins reinforces the actions driven by the guiding coalition. Change is occurring therefore the change strategy is working. This keeps employees motivated the same as a reward system intended to do as cited on the text.

Modern organizations are made up of many highly interdependent systems. Changing highly interdependent settings is extremely difficult because, ultimately, you have to change nearly everything (Kotter 136). The previous stage stated the importance of recognizing short-term wins which is important for keeping momentum going. However, too much celebration can be a death blow if it results in lost urgency and resistance reasserts itself. To be successful at this stage of Kotter’s process, the guiding coalition uses the credibility afforded by short-term wins to tackle additional and bigger change projects. More help is brought in to help with all the changes. Senior management focuses on maintaining clarity of shared purpose for the overall effort and keeps the urgency level up. Lower ranks in the hierarchy both provide leadership for specific projects and manage those projects. Finally, managers identify unnecessary interdependencies and eliminate the (Kotter 143). The change projects launched in this stage play a critical role in the final stage of the change process.

The text discusses several different ways of approaching change management. An important part of any major organizational transformation is an effective change agent. A change agent is a person who acts as the initiator for change activities. A successful change program rests heavily on the quality and workability of the relationship between the change agent and the key decision makers within the organization (Ivanevich 518). Managers must pay close attention to the importance of providing motivation, reinforcement, and feedback to employees when designing a change approach. The most effective change approaches involve unfreezing old learning, instill new learning, and refreeze that new learning (Ivanevich 517). Kotter’s methods in this stage coincide with the principles of change management discussed in the text. Unfreezing old learning deals directly with resistance to change which Kotter states is important to avoid to keep the change momentum going. Taking on bigger change projects during this stage of Kotter’s process is equivalent to instilling new learning while eliminating unnecessary interdependencies contributes towards refreezing the new learning.

Anchoring New Approaches in the Culture Culture refers to norms of behavior and shared values among a group of people. Norms of behavior involve the typical actions of group members. They persist because new members are taught these ways. If they don’t fit in, they will be pushed out of the group. Shared values are beliefs shared by most of the group that influences the group behavior. Culture is important because it can be difficult to change, and because its near invisibility makes it hard to address directly (Kotter 148). For new practices to be effective, they must be anchored firmly in the group norms and values. In order to anchor change in a culture, alterations in norms and shared values must come at the end of the transformation process. New approaches successfully take root when it’s clear that they work and are superior to old methods.

Anchoring change requires a lot of talk because without verbal instruction and support, people are reluctant to admit the validity of the new practices. It may involve turnover. Sometimes the only way to change a culture is to change key people. Finally, promotion processes must be changed to be compatible with the new practices (Kotter 157). Organizational Behavior and Management defines culture in a similar way to Kotter. Ivanevich describes points at which a manager seeking to create culture change must intervene. In this process, behavior change does not occur without justification. Communication is used to motivate and justify new behaviors. Also, an important part of sustaining organizational culture is socialization.

This is the process by which organizations bring new employees into their culture. Managers are well served to pay attention to the person-organization fit which measures the extent to which a person’s values and personality are perceived to fit the culture of the organization. Those that deviate from the culture are removed (Ivanevich 47). Kotter and Ivanevich’s methods for anchoring change in the culture are consistent with each other. Changing behavior requires justification. Effectively doing that will result in the change of group norms and shared values. Over time, individuals that don’t match up with these norms and shared values will be removed. The result is a permanent organizational change.

In conclusion, many of the theories and practices covered in Organizational Behavior and Management are evident in Kotter’s process for organizational change. Kotter stresses the heavy responsibility leadership has in the transformation process. Ivanevich focuses on understanding the individual and managing his traits effectively to achieve organizational change. In either case, every level of the hierarchy plays a crucial part in any organizational transformation initiative.

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