Every organisation is subject to a constant process of change, insofar as it could be agreed with Watson and Gallagher (2005) that “organisations are in a perpetual state of change.” Looking back on how things were managed within an organization 10, 5 or just a very few years ago, everyone would surely realise that things works fairly differently now and that many things have actually changed. It is indeed very likely that things will be different again in the not-too-distant future, too.
There are indeed a whole range of reasons prompting employers to introduce changes within their firms. More in particular, change can be implemented for:
- The planned or emerging need to innovate, which requires the introduction within the organisation of new technologies;
- The changing demand and circumstances which could in turn imply the need to develop new products and services;
- The need to change working procedures and systems, which could be in part also linked to the introduction of new technologies;
- The expansion/contraction of an organisation activity, which could mainly be linked to the good or bad health of the global or local market where the organisation operates (adapted from Watson and Gallagher, 2005).
The pressure and influence exerted by the external environment on organisations is remarkable so that in order to avoid the dire consequences of dropping behind, businesses are constantly involved in a sort of adaptation and evolutionary process. What matters in terms of change is the business ability and capability to promptly respond and adapt to change and not to simply resist and avert it. The definition provided by Charles Darwin is self-explanatory: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but rather the one most responsive to change.”
Before planning and implementing a change, business leaders and HR Professionals have to first and foremost become aware that a change is actually needed in their organisation. In order to initiate a change process, hence, a need for it has to clearly arise and be identified.
The Roffey Park study also revealed the existence of a clear relationship between change management and performance, which further suggests that employers should avoid developing and implementing strategies aiming at achieving short-term cost containment objectives or just battening down the hatches. That, also in the event organizations are actually experiencing financial hardships. Business can in fact achieve far better results by innovating and looking for new market opportunities, rather than limiting their development and activity.
The model proposed by Boddy is particularly interesting in that it emphasises the circumstance that a change process is likely to generate somewhat of a knock-on effect. The change process, causing “practical issues of design and implementation”, will in turn produce the conditions for further, future changes.
As mentioned earlier, the objective of simultaneously achieving both flexibility and stability could appear contradictory, but it is actually intended to stress the importance that assumes for businesses their capability to react promptly and effectively to the external pressures whilst maintaining efficiency, which is also a very important component of organisational development.
The need for change, nonetheless, is not invariably perceived in the same way and with the same degree of urgency by the different individuals concerned. The petrol company BP, for instance, was subject to a particular competitive pressure in the 1980s, but it was only in the early 1990s that its business leaders considered the issue worth of careful attention and initiated a rapid process of change.
Organisational change is not a matter of showing who is the more influential person within an organisation, nor is it concerned with showing to the others how powerful one is. These processes require many resources and the full involvement of many people, if not that of the entire workforce. Change management is in general very expensive, is likely to produce remarkable effects and to meet the opposition of those contrary to its implementation: change hardly is a matter of plain sailing. It is important and even crucial develop and implement change processes when required, but not just as a mere exercise. Change has to be planned and implemented only to concretely help an organisation to stay competitive in the market and employees have all to be made aware of its real purpose.
This model, starting from the identification of the need for change imposed by the external environment, considers an interesting intermediate stage where the management has to carry out a useful diagnose in order to assess the current situation and identify the likely future state that, with reference to the object of change, will be reached by the organisation.
a) The need for change has to be real and well determined,b) The information provided to support this need have to be clear and objective,
c) Change, enabling the organisation to better meet its customer needs, is aimed at achieving competitive advantage and not at merely reducing overheads.