Organizations must be able to quickly adapt to the changing environment if they are to retain their competitive advantage in a world where globalization is increasingly taking the center stage (Kotter & Cohen 2002, p. 24). Organizations that have incessantly failed to make provisions for change have been hardest hit by the multiplicity of factors that drives the change process, including economic, political, socio-cultural and environmental factors as well as business trends.
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However, assiduous and conscientious managers use the change process as a strategic resource to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of organizations. Indeed, the ability and capacity to adapt to change hugely determine the performance of organizations in the 21st century. In a 2007 Change Management Survey, 82% of HR managers in the selected sample reported that their organizations had either implemented or were in the process of implementing major organizational changes (Marchington & Wilkinson 2005, p. 379). It is the purpose of this paper to critically evaluate how change affects organizations by performing a case analysis on Agronegocio Asistencia.
The key issues dividing the views of the Agroforestry team from those held by the business development team seems to emanate from the fact that Agronegocio is in the process of changing its mission and operational engagements in Panama. According to the case study, the organization’s previous mission in Panama was focussed on enhancing the economic and social welfare of the low-income masses in rural Panama through the provision of technical assistance.
However, the new mission seeks to move away from agriculturally oriented assistance to business support within the agricultural context to keep with the trends of globalization. The forces that are triggering the change emanate more from external forces than the internal environment. Although the process of change is mostly intended to bring long-term success in any enterprise, it is important to note that change involving the realignment and re-organization of organization’s philosophy and mission as is the case in the case study is very challenging to introduce and implement (Kotter & Cohen 2002, p. 28).
In this perspective, the impending change in the organization has ignited feelings of resenting among employees as some workers feel short-changed by the whole process. Accordingly, the agroforestry team views the proposed change as occasioning a deviation from the organization’s chief role of providing social assistance to poor people. On its part, the business development teams feel that it is time the organization moved with international business trends through providing business opportunities to farmers to penetrate the global economy.
The new strategic plan to be adopted by Agronegocio entails the development of business opportunities for the rural poor who largely depend on the agricultural sector of the economy for their sustenance. In the new plan, agricultural training is to complement business development albeit in a supporting role. According to the head office, this is meant to give the farmers an international exposure to be able to reap the full benefits of globalization. Organizational changes must be seen to benefit the organization especially in its performance and efficiency (Marchington & Wilkinson 2005, p. 381).
In this perspective, this strategic plan makes sense for both the organization and the low-income farmers as it is intended to boost the farmers’ income through empowering them economically as well as enhancing their entry to global markets. According to Marchington and Wilkinson, organizations are increasingly operating in a global economic setup that is characterized by intense competition. Organizations such as Agronegocio have no alternative other than to adopt new strategic plans that will enhance their strategic competitiveness in the global economic map. According to globalization trends, there exists a massive international market for goods and services. As such, any strategic plan that will enhance the poor farmers’ ability and capacity to access international markets by helping them identify the right crops, proper farming methods and instilling the necessary business acumen is in order.
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There are various change management techniques that organizations can use to negotiate their way through the change process. Some of the change management techniques include persuasion, coercion, and activation. Each technique has its own advantages and disadvantages, and understanding the pros and cons of each of the techniques is critically important as it enables the managers to make a decision on the proper method to utilize (Burke 2002, p. 39).
According to the case scenario, both persuasion and activation techniques can be used to bring about the desired change of strategy in the organization. However, the persuasion technique, which is relatively faster and easier to use, can only be used on a limited level since various employees of the organization, including the country director, holds some reservations on the new strategic plan to be adopted by the organization. This notwithstanding, organizational leaders can utilize the technique to reassure the doubters and the resistors that the plan can be used to further organizational performance and goals. Although such reassurances may not be able to change the attitudes and perceptions of all the stakeholders, it will definitely curtail the overall level of fear held by the employees. Persuasion technique works best when the proposed position or plan is inside the employees latitudes of acceptance (Burke 2002, p. 42).
The systematic reduction in negative attitudes and emotions is extremely helpful when the persuasion technique is used in conjunction with the activation technique. In the activation technique, the attitudes, feelings, perceptions, and behavior of the employees need to be streamlined to conform to the new strategic plan. This is the most unique advantage of the activation techniques – it is capable of conforming employees’ thought systems, values, perceptions and attitudes to match organizational objectives.
Kotler & Cohen (2002) argues that the process of effecting organizational change is fundamentally important since it determines its success or failure. The management may be in a position to have prior information about an impending organizational change and the ramifications that will arise. However, employees may not be in a position to know the inner details of an impending change and may carry strong feelings of resentment based on misunderstanding and misconception (Burke 2002, p. 45). In the case discussion, this is portrayed by incessant complaints and heated arguments coming from the employees during the meeting called to discuss the strategic plan. The process of change needs to be clearly understood and handled in a way that individuals, especially employees, can cope effectively with (Burke 2002, p. 47).
Based on the above, it is critically important to have the necessary information before effecting any change as the process can prove to be unsettling. First, the information about the organization’s readiness and capacity to effect the proposed change is fundamentally important to enabling the organization to move in the right direction once the change process begins. Secondly, the information about the employees’ perceptions of the impending change should have been considered first before communicating the change plans to the members of staff. It should be noted that incorporating employees in any change process is a sure way of guaranteeing success (Kanter 1992, p. 57).
Third, the information about how the farmers will be affected by the impending change, including their input and their understanding of the need to make necessary changes should be made available. Forth, the information about the metrics that have been designed to measure and evaluate the progress of the change initiative should also be considered. It is always important to have some set benchmarks through which organizations measure success or failure of the change process (Burke 2002, p. 102). In this perspective, information about other peer organizations that have undertaken similar changes in the recent past needs to be made available. This information can be generated from employees, the workers in the fields, documents and fact sheets, and careful analysis of the organization’s performance ratings in relation to the set goals and mission statements.
Several recommendations can be given to Agronegrocio’s management on the way forward. First, the management has to deal with dissenting voices of some employees who feel that the new strategy will work against the very poor farmers in Panama since they may never have the capacity to utilize the funds given in a sustainable manner. However, this fear arises from the fact that employees have not properly understood the details of the proposed strategy. In short, there exist a certain level of disparity between what the employees understand the strategy to entail and the management’s version of the strategy.
This kind of disconnect and information variation may prove costly to the organization in the long-term as employees may vigorously resist the proposed changes or implement them without the much-needed motivation and will power to engage the changes (Kotler & Cohen 2002, p. 56).
Such kind of situation will have negative effects on the program beneficiaries, in this case, the farmers. To avoid this situation, the management should hold meetings and workshops with the employees to give them a chance to air their contributions and vent their reservations on the new strategy. This is critically important as it enables the employees to comprehensively understand the ramifications of the proposed changes in their work. Through the open forums with the management, the employees and other stakeholders will get to know how the proposed changes will also benefit them, not mentioning the fact that they will get answers to their questions and misconceptions. Consequently, such a meeting will ensure that all stakeholders share the knowledge needed to push the change agenda forward.
For the organization to be effective in implementing the new strategy, it is imperative that the management spends some time and resources to develop its capacity to achieve the desired change. This is essential as it will enable the organization to execute the change process in systematic phases that will be easily quantifiable in terms of successes and failures. Not only will this assist the organization to know its position in the change process in relation to its mission and objectives but it will also assist in enhancing the confidence levels of all stakeholders concerned. Consecutive studies show that the level of success largely depends on how an entity develops its ability and capacity to achieve change.
To be able to implement and manage change, recommendations should also be given to the organization’s management to develop benchmarks and evaluation criteria so that the successes or failures of the introduced change are recorded in a quantifiable manner. It should be noted that not all organizational changes result in success (Burke 2002, p. 34). In this perspective, it is fundamental to develop benchmarks that will enable the organizational managers to remain firmly in control of the change process.
It is also imperative for the managers or agents of change to realize that any coercion of the employees with the aim of making them embrace the proposed change of strategy in the organization may fail to produce the desired results. It is true that coercion is one of the techniques that are used to implement and manage the change process in organizations. But it is highly recommended that this technique is not used due to the nature of the problem. According to the case analysis, the problem entails a misunderstanding of the organizational philosophy. Under such circumstances, coercing the employees to follow the new strategy without first discussing with them the need to change the organizational philosophy may present some challenges, ultimately heralding a wave of opposition and disdain to the new strategy (Nickol 2003, p. 4).
In such circumstances, it is strongly recommended that members of staff are fully involved in the change process. It is also highly recommended that the organization develop strategies to effectively communicate the intentions of the proposed change to the farmers, who will be directly affected by the change process.
All in all, the fact that change is an essential component of any organization is vehemently undeniable. Organizations must actively and systematically change their ways of doing things to keep up with the demands of the changing environment. The decisions on how organizations embrace the change process may be a preserve of the top management. However, consecutive research reveals that all stakeholders must be incorporated and involved in the process to achieve the desired benefits.
As it has been discussed in this paper, change must be seen to benefit the organization (Kanter 1992, p. 68). However, this is totally dependent on how the change process is carried out. The ramifications of mishandling the change process are many and wide-ranging. Organizations have lost their productive acumen while employee turnover has been noted in organizations that mishandle the change process. In this perspective, organizational change must always be carried out in ways that will enhance organizational performance and employee motivation.
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List of References
Burke, W.W 2002. Organizational Change: Theory and Practice. SAGE. Web.
Kanter, R.M 1992. The challenge of organizational change. Free Press. Web.
Kotler, J.P., & Cohen, D.S 2002. The Heart of Change: Real-life Stories of How People Change their Organizations. Harvard Business Press. Web.
Marchington, M., & Wilkinson, A 2005. Human Resource Management at Work: People Management and Development. CIPD Publishing. Web.
Nickol, F 2003. Four Change Management Strategies. Web.