People and Technological Change

People in organisations today often experience efforts to achieve change:

Today’s managers are usually expected to achieve change that will improve the performance of their organisations but this has not always been the case:

The following video provides a short introduction to change management:

In this week of the course we look at people’s motivation at work and the different approaches that might be taken to their management based on beliefs about their motivation. We will look at the two major theories of the management of change: organisational development and emergent theory. Leadership is often argued to be a critical element in successful change management and we will explore the concept of transformational leadership. Finally we will examine how people’s working lives are impacted by information technology with an interview with Caroline Axtell from the University of Sheffield.

Theory X and Theory Y

Douglas McGregor developed Theory X and Theory Y in 1960. It is a theory of approaches to managing people.

In the early 20th century the theory of scientific management was developed. Henry Ford and Frederick Taylor were key exponents of the theory which emphasised the division of planning and execution of work and the specialisation of jobs. In this model organisations featured a small number of people with a high level of skill and a large number of people with a small amount of skill. The role of managers was more clearly defined in this model and work methods were carefully studied and developed to maximise their effieciency. The following video explains scientific management:

By the second half of the 20th century scientific management was being questioned. Hackman and Lawler, writing in 1971, described it as:

“The general expectation of the scientific management approach was that by simplifying jobs, work could be carried out more efficiently, less skilled employees would be required; the control of management over production would be increased; and, ultimately, organisational profits would be increased.”

The Human Relations school argued that scientific management led to sub optimal performance, that it was not the best way to organise work. They argued that jobs should be designed to improve employee motivation, satisfaction and performance. McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y is part of that approach. Now often seen as overly simplified, its value is in questioning the beleifs about human motivation that lie behind different approaches to work organisation and management. Theory X managers beleive that most people are lazy while Theory Y managers take a more positive view:

Why Does Change Fail and What Can We Do About It?

Statistics suggest that change fails on a regular basis – some studies suggest that as many as 90 % of change initiatives fail. Studies of reasons for change failure are weak and generally say that failure is due to weaknesses in planning or execution or due to lack of competence or commitment.

A recent study by the McKinsey consulting organisation of 3199 global executives found that only one third had achieved a significant improvement in their corporate performance. Those that did set high and clear expectations for their subordinates, engaged the company as whole in the change activity. were highly visible and involved their Chief Executive Officer, engaged in more communication and had good accountability methods. They built on success rather than focused on problems. The following video looks at why change often failes:

Many authors have written about approaches that might be taken to successful change – arguing that they have the one best way. Kanter et al (2009) described 10 commandments for successful change, Pugh (1993) proposed four principles of change while Kotter developed an eight step model in 1996. Many organisations have adopted one of these approaches.

Theory of change has two main themes, organisation development and emergent change. Organisation development approaches seek to carefully plan change in an organisation. They view organisations as integrated systems and plan to change in the system as a whole. They see change as being managed by senior management and requiring support throughout the organisation and being designed to impact organisational performance by aligning organisational systems and people. Organisational development is based on behavioural science knowledge – research that seeks to understand the behaviour of people and organisations.

The following video describes the problems with old approaches to change management:

While this video describes the benefits of a new participative approach:

Emergent theories of change argue that change in organisations does not usually happen in an organised way – it is often less formally controlled, It argues that everyone in the organisation can potentially cause change and good communications can make change easier. Change, it argues, is based on interactions inside the organisation. While leadership still exists in organisations it does not control everything. McGill University’s Henry Mintzberg is strongly identified with this approach:

Types of Change

Three types of organisational change are usually discussed: developmental, transitional and transformational.

Developmental change is focused on the improvement of existing aspects of an organisation. It is typically smaller scale change.

Transitional change  is designed to move the organisation from on state to another. It is usually planned and large scale and most organisational change literature is focused on this type of change.

Transformational change is fundamental – it transforms the organisation so that processes, culture, strategy etc. may be radically different from what they were before the change.

Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership that can have a radical impact on an organisation is said to require four elements from leaders:

1. Be a role model and respected in the organisation.

2. Inspire and motivate others

3. Have genuine concern for the needs and feelings of followers

4. Challenge followers to be innovative and creative

The literature argues that transformational leadership results in organisations with higher levels of performance and employee satisfaction than other groups. They hold positive expectations of their followers and inspire and empower people to perform at a higher level.

This article further explains transformational leadership and provides a test to assess your transformational leadership capabilities.

Interview With Caroline Axtell

The following interview is with Dr. Caroline Axtell, who researches the impact of technology on people at work.

Part One:

Part Two

Part Three

This post has looked at people and change in organisations.. It considered the approach that managers take to thepeople they manage ith McGregor’s theory X and theory Y. It looked at approaches to managing change and how change happens in organisations with organisation development and emergent theory. We discussed transformational leadership and looked at people and information technology with Caroline Axtell.

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