PLANNED ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE AS CULTURAL REVOLUTION
Devon M. Taylor
Management tends to use change approaches that are consistent with the organizational culture of the “as-is” organization rather than the “to-be” organization. This article argues that change methodologies should reflect those of the future, or desired, culture. And it provides a grid with which to match organizational values with change methodologies.
Introduction -- with apologies to Robbie Burns
The best laid schemes o’ mice, men, and organizational change specialists gang aft a-gley. Organizational schemes “gang aft a-gley” during the implementation stage because the corporate culture does not change enough to allow the new ideas, procedures, and structures to take hold. There may not be the “cultural buy-in” necessary to sustain the current change effort. If planned change is to be successful, it must include, as an integral and critical part of the change process, the seeds of the new values, beliefs, and attitudes the organization is trying to grow. Unfortunately, change programs are often set up to fail because the change methods only perpetuate the old way of doing things.
Implementation Failures as Failures in Cultural Change
There are many reasons used to explain the failure of a change effort--improper implementation of a sound plan, not enough organizational commitment, and organizational politics are just some of the more popular explanations. Interestingly enough, even when these things are considered, failures continue. Although the changes envisioned at the beginning of the process are initiated, they do not take root. The changes end up being superficial and do not penetrate to the very core of the organization. The crux of the problem is actually very simple--there has not been a change in the culture of the organization. The values, beliefs, and attitudes of the members of the organization were not touched by the change efforts.
Planned organizational changes are often set up to fail by the very change methods used. The initial inputs to an organizational change effort are unconscious biases about what organizational effectiveness really means. These biases direct our choice of change methods to those that perpetuate the very values to be changed. For example, an organization wants to introduce process changes to improve effectiveness. Because of a strong belief in the importance of a proper structure, the change method chosen attacks the structure rather than the processes. Consequently, what starts as a process redesign ends as a structural redesign. The processes continue as ineffectively as before, although in new clothes.
Field and House (1995) identified nine approaches to organizational effectiveness. Eight of the approaches have a clear set of values concerning how organizations should grow and adapt to a dynamic environment. These values can be matched with eight ideal methods of planned organizational change that have a similar set of values concerning how organizations should be changed (Taylor, 1996).
The Field and House Nine Models of Organizational Effectiveness
(Adapted from Field and House, 1995)
The Matching of Organizational Effectiveness and Planned Change Values
|Accomplishing stated goals
|Planning; goal setting; evaluation
|Goals are clear, agreed to, time bound and measurable
|Developing the capacities of personnel
|Value of human resources
|Capable and cohesive staff that can meet the changing environmental conditions
|Absence of internal strain; smooth internal functioning
|Information management; communication
|Clear connection between organizational processes and performance
|Acquiring needed resources
|Resource acquisition; external support; growth
|Clear connection between inputs and performance
|Achieves appropriate balance in internal v. external focus, flexibility v. control orientation, people v. organization
|All previous methods
|All previous goals
|The organization is unclear about its own criteria or change in criteria over time
|Survives by acting in a manner seen by other organizations as following accepted organizational practices
|Acquire the systems and structures used by other legitimate organizations
|Survival; external support
|Organization’s survival is at stake, goals and accomplishments difficult to measure, and other organizations control resources needed for survival
|All individuals and organizations of importance are at least minimally satisfied
|Adapt to find at least a minimal fit with required ends
|Resource acquisition; external support
|Constituencies have powerful influences on the organization and it has to respond to their demands
|An absence of fault or traits of ineffectiveness
|Measurement; quality management
|Efficiency; error reduction
|Criteria of effectiveness are unclear or strategies for organization improvement are needed
|High Performing System
|Judged excellent relative to other similar organizations
|Adaptability; innovation; comparison to others in and outside industry
|Resource acquisition; external support; internal productivity and efficiency
|Favorable comparisons with other similar organizations are important
The Rational Goal approach to organizational effectiveness is the traditional view in which organizations are structures designed to accomplish specific goals. The values of the Rational Goal approach match those of the traditional Functional/Structural Redesign model of planned organizational change. Both approaches value a strategic view of organizations that operates on decisions based on “the numbers.” The strategic direction of the organization in the past is not as important as what is happening in the present. Changes to the structure of the organization or the functions within it are used to propel growth and development. The functions or structures that change are based on a strategic analysis of both internal and external environments. Consequently, changes required for organizational growth often have a revolutionary effect. For example, mergers and joint ventures, or the sale of a division with little profit potential can occur without warning.
The Human Relations approach to organizational effectiveness holds to the same values as the Organizational Development/Learning model of planned organizational change. Both approaches put the organization’s human resources first. Growth and change are expected to occur through the evolution of the knowledge, skills, and abilities of the organizational members so a strategic direction does not have to be chosen and analysis of the environment would be a waste of time.
Business Process Reengineering (BPR) is a natural outgrowth of the Internal Process approach to organizational effectiveness. Both concentrate on targeting internal processes for change. When these processes are analyzed for tactical inefficiencies there is little consideration given to strategic directions. When internal processes are changed to increase efficiency, old systems are suddenly dropped and replaced with new systems rather than evolving the old systems into new processes. So, as each process change compounds on past ones the total effect is revolutionary. It is no wonder that leadership of organizations undergoing BPR are often surprised by the unforeseen changes to the strategic direction of the organization.
Both the Action Research Model and the Open System approach value evolution, tactics, and data-based decision making. The Action Research Model (ARM) approach to planned organizational change is very similar to BPR except that it is evolutionary rather than revolutionary--a step-by-step approach is used. The ARM approach sets aside parts of the organization as experiments where changes are made. If these experimental changes are successful, they are rolled out to the rest of the organization. Also unlike BPR, ARM tends to concentrate more on the social, rather than technical, processes.
The Competing Values approach combines the values of the four previous approaches so it is not a true ideal approach to organizational effectiveness. It cannot have its own set of values since the underlying belief is that the values of the organization must change to adapt to both the internal and external environment. It does not concentrate on either strategic or tactical directions nor does it favor data analysis or common managerial values. Because of this, growth or change could occur in either a revolutionary or evolutionary manner.
The strategic, normative, evolutionary values of the Legitimacy approach to organizational effectiveness are also held by the Management Development approach to planned organizational change. The most common basis for management development is formal education. Students pick up the management practices legitimized through the universities and transfer them to their organizations. By having those management practices picked up by practitioners, the universities legitimize their teachings. The changes have a cumulative effect on the organizations, forcing them to evolve. While Management Development is often equated with Organizational Development/Learning, it takes a more strategic perspective. The training is focused, not general in nature, and concentrates on those areas important to the organization. As the managers change, they influence those over whom they have stewardship, perpetuating the evolutionary change.
The Strategic Constituencies approach to organizational effectiveness holds values similar to those of the Organizational/Cultural Transformation approach to planned organizational change. Organizational/Cultural Transformations are often carried out by dynamic, charismatic leaders concerned with getting support from both inside and outside stakeholders for their personal vision of the future “To-Be” organization. By doing so, they create a strategic revolution based upon their normative view of the organization.
While Fault-Driven approaches are most often associated with Total Quality Management, Quality Circles, and Statistical Process Control, it is the lack of understanding about what are the most important criteria for effectiveness that point to the tactical values. The Fault-Driven approach tends to use the “whatever is most apparent” approach to organizational growth, concentrating on the most obvious faults at the time. External consultants are often used to identify which of the more obvious faults should be the ones on which to focus. The planned change approach associated with these organizations could, therefore, be labeled the External Consultant Model. A cynic might define this approach as “doing whatever the external consultant recommends.” At worst, the organization’s leadership has sacrificed their decision-making capacity to the external consultant, thereby sacrificing strategy. At best, the consultants have brought in the best systems, procedures, and practices based on the normative beliefs of management and consultants. The norms of the key decision makers replace the analysis of data and organization self-diagnosis in the choices made. Because these norms do not rely on the existing conditions in the organization, drastic changes based on the External Consultant Model often create a revolution within the organization.
The goals of the High Performing Systems are identical to the goals of the Strategic Redesign approach to planned organizational change: resource acquisition, external support, and internal productivity and efficiency. Adaptability, innovation, and comparison to others in and outside the industry are techniques used by both approaches to achieve these goals. The values are also similar. Both approaches value strategic development, evolutionary change, and strong data-based decision making.
Eight Models of Organizational Effectiveness versus Organizational Change
|Organizational Effectiveness Model
|Organizational Change Approach
Revolutionary Change Values
|Business Process Reengineering
|Action Research Method
|External Consultation Method
|High Performing Systems
The matching of planned organizational approaches to the views on organizational effectiveness shows that management’s ideas of how organizations should operate affect the values, beliefs, and attitudes that form the foundation of the organizational culture. This means that management tends to use the change approaches that are consistent with the organizational culture of the existing “As-Is” organization. Unfortunately, it is this very tendency that will cause failures in the implementation of change. By using the change approach that matches the As-Is effectiveness approach, management will simply reinforce the existing culture. If the values, beliefs and attitudes of the members do not change, the organization will not change. For example, a Legitimacy-based organization that wants to become more data-based in its decision making will likely try to create change through Management Development. By doing so, management only reinforces the normative aspects of the organization. A Fault-Driven organization that wants to become more strategic will likely hire an external consultant to recommend how it can get away from the tactical approach to decision making because it is unclear about how it can make effective strategic decisions. Such a move will only reinforce the importance of external consultants to the organization and strategy is thrown out with the decision. The very values that define the organization set it up for implementation failures in planned organizational change. Without changing the fundamental culture of the organization, planned organizational change will not be possible, let alone, effective.
Creating Cultural Change
Success in planned organizational change means creating a vision of the future organization and its culture. The values, beliefs, and attitudes of the To-Be organization must be clearly defined. The To-Be culture must be clearly differentiated from the As-Is culture to effectively identify the cultural gap. The organizational change method chosen to bridge the gap must match the values of the desired culture, not the present one. For example, if a Legitimacy-based organization wants to become data-based, it should choose either a Functional/Structural Redesign, Business Process Reengineering, the Action Research Model, or a Strategic Redesign. On the other hand, a Fault-Driven organization that wants to become more strategic would need to choose either a Functional/Structural Redesign, Managerial Development, an Organization/Cultural Transformation, or Strategic Redesign.
Which of the possible methodologies is chosen should depend upon the managerial effectiveness culture wanted in the To-Be organization. In this way, it can guarantee that the values, beliefs, and attitudes of the change approach match those of the future culture. The Legitimacy-based organization that wants to become data-based could choose a Rational Goal, Internal Process, Open System, or High Performing System type of culture. If the management feels that the key to organizational improvement is in smooth internal processes and process rationalization, the Internal Process approach to organizational effectiveness must be the final outcome. Therefore, the appropriate change method would be Business Process Reengineering. If the organization wants to become goal-driven, with goals of productivity and efficiency being paramount, the Functional/Structural approach would be most appropriate. Structures would need to be redesigned or reconfigured to allow such processes as departmental goal setting, superordinate goals, and Management By Objectives. These changes would likely require corresponding functional restructuring as new departments are created and new responsibilities allocated.
A Fault-Driven organization that wants to be more strategic may also find that key stakeholders in their environment will only accept well-known approaches to management--that experimentation is frowned upon. If these stakeholders control the purse strings, the organization must adopt a Legitimacy approach to managerial effectiveness. To achieve this, a strong, dynamic, charismatic leader using the Organizational/Transformation approach to change would be required.
It becomes obvious that the cultural goal must be determined before any steps are taken in a planned organizational change. The values, beliefs, and attitudes wanted in the To-Be organization should be the criteria for deciding which organizational method is used. For planned organizational change to be effective, it must be viewed as a cultural revolution carried out through behavioral modeling. The change approach that matches the desired organizational effectiveness culture prepares the membership to accept the new culture. In implementation, organizational members begin to behave in the desired To-Be way. Decisions are made in the change process using a value and belief system similar to the desired culture. Success criteria are the same in both the change process and the desired culture.
Human resources personnel responsible for implementing planned organizational change must keep track of the organizational culture and where that culture is headed. The Field and House typology of Organizational Effectiveness can be used to assess the As-Is and To-Be cultural gap. Once the To-Be culture is identified, the appropriate change method can be identified. If the appropriate organizational change method is used, the organization will be prepared to accept the new culture, making change easier to institutionalize. This procedure may not guarantee successful implementation and institutionalization of the changes but it will certainly improve the chances of success. If the cultural gap and change method are not matched, implementation will surely fail. An apple pie cannot be created using oranges.
Field, R.H.G. and House, R.J. (1995). Human Behavior in Organizations: A Canadian Perspective
, Scarborough, Ont.: Prentice-Hall Canada.
Dr. Hiroaki Izumi is an Assistant Professor of Organizational Change and Development at the University of Regina and the Program Director of the Police Management Program. He has a background in change consulting to Fortune 500 companies with the Texas Center for Productivity and Quality of Work Life as well as teaching, research, consulting, and business experience in Asia. His present research concentrates in the area of change cultures and the changing organizational cultures.
Mr. Devon Taylor is a CPA with an MBA from the University of Regina, and is presently working as a Human Resource Advisor for Wascana Energy, Inc. His research efforts have focused on corporate change and are moving into corporate cultural integration. He has served as Wascana’s Process Improvement Advisor and Audit Manager where he helped operating units to identify their own weaknesses and propose viable solutions for their own particular circumstances--a “participatory” approach to internal auditing.