Design Organizational Change
OLB 7006, Assignment 2
DuBose, Justin Z.
Dr. Marie Bakari
23 September 2018
A common colloquial expression explains the concept of change well: the only thing that stays the same is change. Scholars are discovering this to be true and applicable for organizations of all sizes across all industries. Researchers have described change as the “new normal” for organizations and employees (Jorgensen, Owen, and Neus, 2008). This “new normal” is true not only of organizations but of employees as well. Huevel et al. (2013) noted that the increasing demand for organizational change correlates to an increasing demand for adaptable, flexible employees. A demand for modern organizational leaders, then, is to design organizational change. This paper will explore different models for designing organizational change and examine Columbus Christian Academy to determine which model is most applicable and effective in their context.
Change design models
While organizational change has been recognized as an imperative, many various models exist for designing how change can be effectively implemented in organizations (Gobble, 2015). However, certain elements undergird all change models which must be considered during seasons of change. For example, Gobble (2015) noted that all change should be designed so that the energy poured into change efforts matches the strategic output and creates value for the organization. Therefore, organizations must consider which design best aligns with their desired output and creates desired value. In most change design models, existing organizational charts – which map structure, processes, relationships – must be examined and considered as possible barriers to desired change. Gobble (2015) highlights the shortfalls of organizational charts in relation to change initiatives. Organizational charts do not assume change; in fact, they imply an unchanging system which is designed to repeat the same process and produce the same outcome. Change initiatives will likely require a re-structuring or re-aligning of the organizational chart to the new strategy or vision. In fact, Gobble (2015) recommends the adoption of a structural diagram map in place of the traditional organizational chart. She highlighted that structural diagram maps are inherently more likely to inhibit innovation as they are built upon what functions must be performed and not on who or what is responsible for different functions (Gobble, 2015). With these elements and assumptions understood, several different change design models exist which address these organizational issues.
Two different approaches to designing change exist in current models: a top-down approach and a bottom-up approach (Senior, 1997). Within both systems, however, research has highlighted the importance of certain elements being present: organizational values and culture. Mazzei and Quarantino (2013) conducted a study in which they discovered that successful change often began with identifying values and extended these values into organizational culture. This conclusion is corroborated by McAleese and Hargie (2004) who noted that organizational leaders must genuinely share and embody the cultural values they are encouraging employees to inject into organizational culture if they are to see change initiatives succeed. These findings are applicable to both top-down and bottom-up approaches to designing change and must be embraced by leadership across all organizational levels.
One model for designing organizational change is the Star Model (Gobble, 2015). This model maps organizational interactions between five factors: strategy, policies, organizational processes, and human resource functions. This Star Model for change is generally a top-down approach to designing organizational change. Another model for designing organizational change discussed by Gobble (2015) is provided by the Bridgespan Group. This model considers organizational change from four elements and their interaction with organizational culture. These four elements are: leadership, decision-making processes, people, and systems. Like the Star model, this model for designing change by the Bridgespan Group is generally a top-down approach to designing organizational change.
A different approach to designing organizational change is what Gobble (2015) refers to as a Participatory Design. Participatory design is a bottom-up approach to designing organizational change. Within the framework of a participatory design to change, members of the organization across all levels are invited and encouraged to help shape and structure their own work environment and organizational structure. This more relational approach to organizational change is elsewhere referred to as a soft systems model approach to designing organizational change (Senior, 1997). In their study, Mazzei and Quarantino (2013) discovered that this soft systems model approach to change is often highly successful due to the soft systems model approach to and use of communication, relationships, and participation across all levels of the organization.
Participatory design/soft systems model
For Columbus Christian Academy, the “bottom-up” approach to designing organizational change is recommended and will be explored further. In describing the participatory design approach to organizational change, Mazzei and Quarantino (2013) noted that a listening, information-gathering phase at the outset of change enhances chances of success for organizations. This finding was supported by Erving (2006) who noted that a low level of support for change is a strong predictor for change success or failure. Gauging this level of support is often made possible by organizational leaders initiating a listening phase. Furthermore, Stroh (2007) noted that successful change depends greatly on employee involvement in the change process. Inviting and encouraging participation by all employees can be accomplished during this listening phase.
A distinction is made between hard systems models and soft systems models to organizational change. The difference is that a hard systems model is a top-down approach, where communication coming from the “top” does not require a listening phase on the part of organizational leadership (Senior, 1997). A soft systems model approach, however, encourages a listening phase as it offers a more relational approach to change than does a hard systems model (Senior, 1997). In their study, Mazzei and Quarantino (2013) discovered that this soft systems model approach to change is often highly successful due to the soft systems model approach to and use of communication, relationships, and participation across all levels of the organization.
Columbus Christian Academy
For Columbus Christian Academy to successfully implement desired changes, the participatory design, or soft system model, is recommended. Several organizational factors exist which support this recommendation. Firstly, the existing organizational structure and employee base are resistant to “top-down” initiatives. Due to the combination of poor leadership and management in the past, and a general sense of not feeling communicated with or trusted by leadership, existing employees have formed an organizational culture which is resistant to top-down initiatives. There exists a general divide between “us” (the employees” and “them” (management and leadership). Secondly, and equally important, is that existing organizational structure is designed to resist top-down initiatives. Several levels of bureaucracy and management exist which only provide more opportunities for resistance to top-down initiatives. Recent change initiatives have failed because one board of advisors was allowed to “overrule” the efforts and initiatives of another board seeking to facilitate organizational change. Thirdly, certain upper-level leadership needs to be removed, and a top-down approach to designing change would fail so long as these individuals are included in the conversation and plans for designing needed changes.
In this participatory design to organizational change, a three-tiered listening phase is recommended to encourage participation and engagements at different organizational levels. Initially, an Academy-wide forum should be initiated by organizational leaders. This would address all employees and other members of the organization and encourage their feedback and input on the proposed changes. Secondly, a subsequent listening phase should be held with each department. Middle and high school teachers should have their own forum, as should elementary staff and administrative and support staff. This will allow organizational leaders to learn and absorb how proposed changes will impact departments differently and how resistant various groups are to organizational change. Thirdly, each individual within the organization should be afforded the opportunity to engage with organizational leaders. This will allow individual opinions and perspectives to be expressed directly to the change agents in a way which may not surface in group-level conversations. This initial three-tiered listening phase will provide organizational leaders with a well-rounded assessment of organizational values and culture.
Following this listening phase, organizational leaders can begin the process of design change initiatives and planning for implementation. This crucial first step of listening, inviting and encouraging employee engagement will communicate with organizational members that these change initiatives are designed with their best interests in mind. It will address the underlying divide between “us” and “them” and will also allow toxic organizational leaders to hear from those whom they lead. This phase also affords organizational leaders the opportunity to gauge support for change initiatives amongst existing employees, which has proven to be a strong predictor for change success or failure (Erving, 2006). This approach to designing organizational change will provide Columbus Christian Academy with the highest degree of success in facilitating the desired organizational changes and bringing about the desired end states.
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Gobble, M.M. (2015). Designing for change. Research-Technology Management, 58(3), 64-66. doi:10.5437/08956308X5803005
Heuvel, M. V., Demerouti, E., Bakker, A. B., & Schaufeli, W. B. (2013). Adapting to change: The value of change information and meaning-making. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 83(1), 11-21. doi:10.1016/j.jvb.2013.02.004
Jorgensen, H. H., Owen, L. and Neus, A. (2008). Making change work. IBM Corporation. Accessed at http://www.ibm.com/gbs/makingchangework on September 23, 2018.
Mazzei, A., & Quaratino, L. (2013). Designing organizational change: Learning from a grounded research project. Journal of Management and Change, 30(1), 166-179. Accessed at http://emeraldinsight.com/journal/jocm on September 23, 2018.
McAleese, D., and Hargie, O. (2004). Five guiding principles of culture management: A synthesis of best practice. Journal of Communication Management, 9(2), 155-170. doi:10.1108/13632540510621399
Senior, B. (1997). Organizational Change. London: Pittman Publishing.
Stroh, U. (2007). Relationships and participation: A complexity science approach to change communication. International Journal of Strategic Communication, 1(2), 123-137. doi:10.1080/15531180701298916
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