Thesis: Several forces for change are evident at the Oconomo plant and they are powerful enough to lead to organizational changes. The plant needs changing of people and culture, because this is the only change which can save it; the resistance to this change can be overcome through explaining to union leaders which consequences the rejecting of changes will entail.
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The case under consideration concerns Oconomo plant and Jim Malesckowski, the president of the Wisconsin Speciality Products Division. Jim submitted an analysis regarding the performance of the plant in question to his boss and the latter found that closing the plant would cost less then trying to save it. Jim, who understands that dismantling of the plant will involve depriving 520 people of jobs and possibilities to earn their living, tried to implement several strategies to reduce the plant’s costs, but his tries were unsuccessful. Several forces for change are evident at the Oconomo plant and they are powerful enough to lead to organizational changes.
The plant needs changing of people and culture, because this is the only change which can save it; the resistance to this change can be overcome through explaining to union leaders which consequences the rejecting of changes will entail.
Firstly, it is absolutely evident that the Oconomo plant needs changes in order to redefine its business, change its strategic direction, as well as implement and initiate some strategic programs (Bacon, 1999). At this, the forces for change are both internal and external. Internally, the workers are not satisfied with their payments which, by the way, are ten time less that they should be (according to the data presented in the case, the Mexican workers get $1.6 per hour, whereas the average wage paid at Oconomo plant is $16 per hour).
Externally, the plant needs innovations and changing of the product orientation, because its “competitors had already edged past lamprey in terms of price and were dangerously close to overtaking it in product quality” (Daft, 2008). Changing of the product orientation alone will not result in better performance of the plant (McCalley, 1996); it is likely to entail further changes in management and personnel; in addition, there may exist myriad of other internal organizational factors influencing the company’s performance (Hardcastle, Powers, & Wenocur, 2004). Other forces for change regarding this company are the top management and the environment (Huber & Glick, 1995).
The nature of the plant’s organizational changes greatly depends on the organizational environment. Environmental changes may include changing information or transportation technologies, both of which develop rather quickly. Top managers are also a powerful force for the organizational change and they may influence the change through their belief systems (Huber & Glick, 1995). This is absolutely applicable in case with Oconomo plant where the management is set against saving the plant from dismantling believing that it would be more beneficial to close the plant and get money from the bank investments. Therefore, the main forces for the organizational change at Oconomo plant are low wages, product orientation, top management, and organizational environment.
In addition, the plant needs changing of the “people and culture” because the unwillingness of the workers to accept changes seems to be the main reason why no other ways were found to save the plant. The case mentions that “on one occasion when Jim and the plant manager tried to discuss a cell manufacturing approach, which would cross-train employees to perform three different jobs, local union leaders could barely restrain their anger” (Daft, 2008).
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This means that it is namely people who hinder the implementation of changes in the organization this is why changing of people and culture should take place. Dealing with each worker individually may help to improve the current attitude of people towards their work, but cultural change is likely to be more efficient because this is what any effective organizational change usually implies (Bush & Middlewood, 2005).
Organizational culture “can be considered as the normative glue that holds the organization together” (Drenth, Thierry, & Wolf, 1998) this is why changing it would bring some results for sure. Perhaps, if the organizational culture of the Wisconsin plant is changed, it can be saved from dismantling. A cell manufacturing approach which has been utilized by Jim and the plant manager seems to be reasonable in case with this plant; however, preliminary changes have to be introduced before cross-training the employees. Thus, the Wisconsin plant can indeed be saved by changing people and culture; the only remark here is to thoroughly explore the organizational culture and to choose the right methods for introducing changes, because the management risks facing strong resistance otherwise.
Finally, there exist a number of causes of resistance to change; they are the same in case with the union leaders of the plant in question. The changes in any organization are unavoidable and resisting to them can only add sufferings to the employees (Bodian & Ornish, 2006); despite this, resistance is a common reaction to changes on the part of personnel. One of the most widespread causes of resistance to change is the “failure to understand the problem” (Dawson, 2003).
This can be the main reason of Oconomo’s union leaders’ resistance to Jim’s cell manufacturing approach. It is doubtful that the union leaders understood how serious the problem was for the plant because nobody explained this to them. These people had their own goal, namely, to ensure that the workers continued fulfilling their duties for the payment they have contracted. The fact that there will not be any contracts and any jobs to do if they reject the changes was not brought to their attention. If the union leaders were given an option to choose between diversifying the workers’ jobs and depriving them of the jobs in general, they would not resist the change so strongly.
If I were Jim Malesckowski, I would, first of all, conduct a survey among the union leaders as to which changes they would like to see in the company; then I would try to establish a correlation between their respond and what I can offer to the plant. Further, I would disclose all the truth about the plant’s being dismantled in case the changes I would like to introduce are not implemented. I think then the union leaders would choose to agree to my conditions, rather than to lose jobs for 520 employees of the plant.
In conclusion, it is only through cooperation and usage of proper approaches that the Wisconsin plant can be saved. The forces for changes at this plant are evident; they are dissatisfaction of people with their wages, product orientation, the organization’s management, and the organizational environment. Using these forces as a driving power, the plant can change its people and culture, which would help it to improve the current situation. The management of the plant is advised to change its approach to changes, which is likely to weaken the union leaders’ resistance and, correspondingly, to save the plant.
Bacon, T.R. (1999). Selling to Major Accounts: Tools, Techniques, and Practical Solutions for the Sales Manager. New York: AMACOM Div American Mgmt Assn.
Bodian, S. & Ornish, D. (2006). Organizational Performance. New York: Routledge.
Bush, T. & Middlewood, D. (2005). Leading and Managing People in Education. London: SAGE.
Daft, R.L. (2008). Management. USA: Thomson South-Western.
Dawson, P. (2003). Understanding Organizational Change: the Contemporary Experience of People at Work. London: SAGE.
Drenth, P.J.D., Thierry, H., and Wolff, C,H. (1998). Handbook of Work and Organizational Psychology. London: Psychology Press.
Hardcastle, D.A., Powers, P.R., & Wenocur, S. (2004). Community practice: Theories and Skills for Social Workers. New York: Oxford University Press US.
Huber, G.P. & Glick, W.H. (1995). Organizational Change and Redesign: Ideas and Insights for Improving Performance. New York: Oxford University Press US.
McCalley, R. (1996). Marketing Channel Management: People, Products, Programs, and Markets. New York: Greenwood Publishing Group.
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