Develop an Improvement Action Plan for Change
OLB 7006, Assignment 8
DuBose, Justin Z.
Dr. Marie Bakari
4 November 2018
The Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) is a global not-for-profit organization which operates in 81 countries (Christian and Missionary Alliance, 2018). While the organization is overseen by an elected board known as the Board of Directors, this board is chaired by an elected President (Christian and Missionary Alliance, 2018). The current President of the C&MA is Dr. John Stumbo, and as President his responsibilities include not only leadership of the National Office but also of staff and offices around the globe (Christian and Missionary Alliance, 2018).
China is one country in which the Christian & Missionary Alliance operates. It is well documented that China is one of the most difficult countries for Christian organizations to operate in and conduct business. Therefore, the organization is constantly forced to evaluate and re-evaluate business practices and structure in order to efficiently and effectively in a changing environment. This paper, then, will examine how the Christian & Missionary Alliance may operate in China and provide recommendations on implementing and communicating organizational change in this environment.
Implementing Change Domestically and Abroad
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.
Values and Ethics in Change
When considering organizational changes and which model is best suited for designing organizational change in a given operating environment, Dr. John Stumbo and the leaders of the Christian and Missionary Alliance must consider cultural values and ethical systems in the countries in which they operate. As value systems and ethical frameworks are different in various cultures, Dr. John Stumbo and the leaders of the Christian and Missionary Alliance must build this understanding into their change designs and the selection of organizational communication and change.
A values-based approach to leadership is discovered to influence organizational and cultural change. Research proves this true not only when operating in a single culture but, importantly for Dr. John Stumbo and the Christian & Missionary Alliance, across multiple cultures as well. It is, therefore, recommended that Dr. John Stumbo and the leaders of the Christian and Missionary Alliance put in place agreed upon barometers for gauging how your values-based leadership is impacting both the organization as well as the environments in which it operates.
Pertinent to this recommendation is the research of Werhane (2014) who concluded that even though certain operating environments are unethical, operating ethically in an unethical environment can produce good, ethical results. In other words, values-based ethical leadership can have a positive effect on the surrounding culture even when that culture is generally unethical. Additionally, and of equal importance, is a study undertaken by Alas (2006). The research of Alas (2006) demonstrated that, although there are various cultural conceptions of ethics, certain cross-cultural values do exist. Global leaders, like Dr. John Stumbo, would be prudent to nest their corporate goals within these global values. What might these barometers look like?
Such barometers may include a reduction in the frequency of certain crimes in and around areas where the Christian & Missionary Alliance operates. One specific example from research comes from (Cateora, Gilly, & Graham, 2011) who noted that bribery is common and accepted in many cultures. In fact, it was specifically concluded that global organizations are at a greater risk of bribery because of their cross-cultural operations. It is important to note the research of Lestrange (2013) who concluded that a strong ethical reputation is itself a deterrent for bribery, even in areas where bribery is common. This may serve as one barometer of whether a values-based approach to ethical leadership is positively impacting the area of operations. An additional barometer to consider would be the degree to which the organization is successfully retaining and attracting employees with similar value sets. If such retention is occurring, then such a values-based approach to leadership is resulting in positive cultural change.
More Cultural Differences in Change Management
Perhaps the most important and pertinent consideration for Dr. John Stumbo and the Christian & Missionary Alliance is the element of their simultaneous operating in numerous cultures. Not only do different cultures observe differing business practices, but research has demonstrated that cultures respond very differently to the same scenario and circumstances Lestrange (2013). Lestrange (2013) gave, as an example, organizations and their treatment of formal business practices and structures. While in some cultures, formal business practices and structures and normal and widely accepted, in other cultures the same formalized structure would be treated with suspicion and contempt. In fact, Lestrange (2013) specifically highlighted the issue of bribery, concluding that in certain cultures bribery is more frequent when formalized practices and structures are imposed. Consequently, leadership and management in the new millennium requires leaders to operate across multiple cultures and develop organizational targets which take unique cultural elements into consideration (Neera, et al, 2010). In other words, while certain values can sustain across cultures, practices cannot. Global leaders, such as Dr. John Stumbo, must then consider how these values translate into corporate objectives which are not limited by cultural boundaries. There are several examples of such practices to consider.
Sadri (2013) noted that conflict resolution is one of the most important skills that global organizational leaders can develop. This is primarily since different cultures resolve conflict very differently. The failure by global leaders, like Dr. John Stumbo, to take this important cultural distinction into account could have catastrophic results. Sadri (2013) gave the contrast of the Chinese culture of indirectness in conflict resolution and the American culture of directness in conflict resolution. A global leader and organization operating in these two environments needs to build in and allow flexibility for culturally appropriate methods for conflict resolution.
While there are many aspects of global leadership which present challenges for Dr. John Stumbo, research concludes that these are the best practices and worthy of consideration. Firstly, establishing organizational values which can be modeled by the individual and measured by the organization must take place. These values are those which transcend cultural boundaries and, thus, can be kept in place across the organization cross-culturally. This not only establishes organizational values but also disseminates decision-making to all levels and across all cultures throughout the organization. Secondly, these values must be translated into measurable objectives to ensure that they are influencing culture in a manner consistent with intent. This is accomplished by looking both inside and outside an organization. These objectives should be measurable and attainable, and regularly examined by those in leadership. Finally, Dr. Stumbo must consider how these inflexible values are applied in a flexible manner throughout the organization. Conflict resolution, for example, can be an organizational value, but the implementation of that values needs to be applied at the local level which fits the local context. The application and implementation of these values can and should be left up to the discretion of regional field directors. In observing these principles, which are consistent with the best practices recommended by research, Dr. John Stumbo and the Christian & Missionary Alliance should experience greater success in their leadership of their cross-cultural, global operation.
Examples of Effective & Ineffective Leadership
Aflac and Amazon, which are both international companies headquartered in the United States, have both been featured in national news for their ethical cultures as organizations. The primary difference is that one company, Aflac, is praised for their positive ethical culture while the other company, Amazon, is criticized for their negative ethical culture. Understanding what constitutes a positive or negative organizational culture is imperative for organizational leaders of all sizes, regardless of their field or sphere of influence. These companies are included in this analysis due to their ethical approach to organizational change, the stark contrast between their approach to organizational management, and a specific instance in China where Amazon failed to properly communicate and oversee organizational changes imposed by organizational leaders on a local factory.
The first major difference in the two organizations is their code of conduct for suppliers. In the case of Aflac, their code of conduct includes corporate values which guide their business practices (Aflac, 2016). Additionally, they provide a toll-free number for employees to call to report any suspected ethical violations by employees and suppliers (Aflac, 2016). In contrast, Amazon has been cited by multiple media sources for their failure to uphold such supplier codes of conduct at a factory in China which produces their Echo products (Chamberlain, 2018). These failures include mistreating employees – overworking and underpaying them – as well as failing to comply with labor laws in the countries in which they operate which, in the case of this supplier is China (Chamberlain, 2018).
Another major difference in these two organizations is their treatment of community service and investing in sustainability initiatives corporately. Aflac continues to be recognized by Ethisphere as one the world’s most ethical companies due to their sustainability initiatives (Ethisphere, 2018). Aflac retains as a corporate sustainability working to eradicate pediatric cancer (Aflac, 2015). Additionally, they work in their local companies with Habitat for Humanity to build homes for individuals and families in need (Aflac, 2015). Conversely, Amazon finds themselves under attack as an organization due to the lack of sustainability initiatives by one of their factories in China. In fact, the management at this factory was specifically cited for not only failing to give back to the community, but for taking from their own employees (Chamberlain, 2018). Foxconn, the company operating the Chinese factory for Amazon was noted for accepting insurance payments from employees without applying them toward their benefits (Chamberlain, 2018). In doing so, Foxconn was deceptively, and unethically, taking from their own employees who were already underpaid and overworked. This is more than a simple failure to invest in corporate sustainability initiatives in this instance, but highlights a deeply unethical view of workplace culture, employees of the company, as well as the community at large.
Conclusion and Recommendations
Dr. John Stumbo and the leadership of the Christian & Missionary Alliance can take practical steps to implementing organizational change in conducting business in China. Research has demonstrated the need to be aware of cultural understanding of ethics and values, as they may be drastically different from other areas. It is therefore recommended that Dr. John Stumbo and the leadership of the Christian & Missionary Alliance conduct an extensive study of cultural and ethical values in the local area in which they are seeking to implement organizational change. This can be accomplished by working alongside other organizations already operating in this environment. Once this research is concluded and analyzed by the leadership of the organization, three additional steps are recommended. These steps are only intended to be implemented after this thorough examination of ethics and values-based leadership. Additionally, these are intended to be implemented with the leadership framework of a soft systems model. This is due to the research of Mazzei and Quarantino (2013) who 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. With this soft systems model of leadership, it is also recommended that the adoption of a structural diagram map be implemented in place of the traditional organizational chart (Gobble, 2015). This will increase organizational flexibility for future changes.
Within this model and organizational framework, the first recommended step in implementing organizational changes that will result in ongoing improvement is recognizing the existing threats to change. This can be both internal and external, but internal threats can often be both the hardest to identify and the most difficult to overcome. Existing organizational culture, control mechanisms, and infrastructure can all sabotage change and limit change capacity (Edmondson, 2008). Edmondson (2008) called these obstacles “self-sabotaging traps” (p. 63). Lerner (2014) noted that John Kotter, who serves as the director of research for Kotter International, concurred with Edmondson’s findings. Kotter noted that potential hurdles to organizational change include the compensation structure, appraisal process, and even existing management (Lerner, 2014). These can all be used to “reinforce the status quo” (Lerner, 2014, p. 70).
The benefit for Dr. John Stumbo and the organizational leaders of the Christian & Missionary Alliance is that there is little existing history of operating in China. Therefore, less deconstruction of existing threats needs to be accomplished. However, like all organizations, any existing personnel, organizational strategy, lingering culture, and leadership could be a potential internal threat. As Lerner (2014) noted, the danger of status quo reinforcement can sabotage any change initiative. More importantly, however, is that the operating environment of China demands constant change and quick adaption to evolving outside. The demand for internal solidarity, then, is even more important for the operations of the Christian and Missionary Alliance in China.
Identifying and addressing internal threats is one of the first steps in bringing about positive change and increasing the ability of an organization to change effectively. Researchers have coined the term “change capacity” in identifying the ability of organizations to change effectively (Buono and Kerber, 2010). Lerner (2014) noted that while change is essential for organizations, changing effectively and adapting to change is the battleground for organizational leaders. Change capacity has been defined as “the ability of an organization to change not just once, but as a normal course of events in response to and in anticipation of internal and external shifts, constantly adapting to and anticipating changes in its environment” (Buono and Kerber, 2010, p. 10).
While internal solidarity is the first necessary step in bringing about successful organizational change, increasing the capacity for change is a necessary subsequent step in continuing to change well. This could be accomplished effectively by implementing an incentive program for existing employees as well as the implementation of a stringent hiring program for new employees. The longer an organization goes without being forced to be flexible, the greater will be the difficulty in injecting flexibility by the leadership. As employees become more flexible, so will the structure and processes of the organization itself. This process may be facilitated by rewarding existing employees based on their adaptation to and encouragement of new cultural standards as well as hiring employees who value flexibility and already possess a more flexible nature.
Buono and Kerber (2010) suggested that communication during times of organizational change should be honest and transparent. This allows for all voices and viewpoints to be expressed, increases organizational learning, and creates opportunities to express a shared purpose and common change language. In addition to these benefits, communication initiates the process of “meaning-making” for employees effected by change (Huevel et al., 2013, p. 15). The process of meaning-making facilitates “integrating challenging/ambiguous events into a framework of personal meaning using value-based reflection” (Park, 2010, p. 265). This allows meaning-making to increase an individual’s willingness to adapt to change (Huevel et al., 2013). Huevel et al. (2013) concluded that the process of meaning-making also translates to successful adaptation for employees when it allows them to reflect on organizational changes and link or align their own personal values to the changes.
Thus, the final recommendation for Dr. John Stumbo and the organizational leaders of the Christian and Missionary Alliance in China is to focus on communication with employees. Fitting with the recommendation of Buono and Kerber (2010) is the recommendation that communication from organizational leaders to those within the organization be honest and transparent. Without pro-active communication on the part of the leadership, resistance to change will persist and grow, ambiguity will turn to distrust and, ultimately, hostility will develop toward the leader. Communication will not only positively impact the employees, but other stakeholders (national office personnel, local domestic churches, etc.) who can also contribute to healthy growth through change.
This communication should include a few important elements. Firstly, all communication should include addressing the underlying fears associated with the changes. These fears are best discovered through an initial listening phase on the part of organizational leaders prior to implementing the necessary changes. 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. Communication, then, should include addressing information gathered during this initial listening phase. Secondly, communication should include specifics on the timeline of change initiatives. This will also address these underlying fears of uncertainty with specific dates and times in which the looming changes will take effect. Included in the communication of timeline should be incremental steps that employees can take to ease the transition into the new organizational norms and processes. Finally, communication should include how these changes are beneficial to the individual as well as the organization. While resistance to change is normal and should be expected by organizational leaders, employees are more likely to receive organizational changes favorably when they are able to process the changes and understand how these new changes will positively impact them and the organization to which they are committed. With these action steps, Dr. John Stumbo and the organizational leaders of the Christian and Missionary Alliance should be in a better position to change and adapt well in their operations in China.
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