«MICHAIL MAVROMATIS JOHAN OLOFSSON Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Division of Construction Management CHALMERS UNIVERSITY OF ...»
This ‘journey’ as the CEO chose to call the organizational change had some critical points that determined its expected success. The first critical point was the message delivered by the board and the owners regarding the vision and the long-term goals of the company. The next milestone was the establishment of the new board after the CHALMERS, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Master’s Thesis 2013:120 47 talks on the new organizational structure. Another critical point was the first announcement of the event some time during the Christmas of 2012. This point was characterized as a mistake by some of the interviewees. The reason for that was that many employees were on vacation or in general out of the office routines. However, after a few weeks, namely at the 28th of January, the official launch came. It has to be noted that a strategic move in the day of the official launching was the meeting that the CEO had with the operations department, one hour before the meeting of the whole company. It was highly appreciated by the caretakers and the technical managers and is considered a milestone in the process. The following transition weeks, which were about four, were also very important for the outcome of the process. In these four weeks the company gathered for both a kick-off to discuss the new core values and a workshop of the newly created department where they discussed their way of working.
During the second round of interviews we discovered that things were not that utopic in the company. After the announcement of the change, there was a confusion regarding the roles and the areas of responsibility. On top of that, certain employees did not get a position that they expected that they would get after the change. Therefore a climate of discomfort began to rise. At this certain point the kick-off came and ‘saved the day’. The employees sat and discussed many issues aside of the core values. Apparently before the change many employees did not know what their colleagues are working with in the company and what was their work description. As one interviewee revealed, there were a few ‘skeletons in the closet’, which was revealed upon the change. Documents that no one knew that existed and positions that were very ambiguous are some examples.
In order to track and locate the various phases that the employees went through, the authors embedded the behavioural progress of the employees with the model of Austin and Currie (2003). Following the curve, the announcement came in the mid December 2012. The employees were not really shocked since they had heard about the change a few weeks before the information meeting, during informal meetings in the corridor. The interviews did not reveal any signs of denial or anger during these first weeks of implementation. However, some of the interviewees revealed that there was some uncertainty regarding the new distribution of the roles and the newly formed teams. Some employees were confused about to whom they should report to and which properties they should be responsible for. This period of turbulence lasted a few weeks, which is more than suggested time since they process were in one of these infamous lead times between critical change events. The same employees narrate that after these few weeks, when the process was resumed, the organization landed to its new structure. By the time the new organizational structure set steady foot in the company, the employees seemed to not only accept, but also really like the new way of working. So to sum up, the curve in the case of Platzer would look more like the curve shown in Figure 17.
CHALMERS, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Master’s Thesis 2013:120 Figure 17 Behaviour evolution throughout the process In comparison with the original curve, there is a much smoother progress of emotions and very few extremes. It has to be noted that the company is quite small in personnel and the employees know each other, therefore the extremes were absorbed in an informal manner. There was no real denial but there was uncertainty and anxiety since some employees did not know if there would be any lay-offs or dramatic personnel changes. These fears were quickly vanished by the intensive information by the side of the CEO and the board. When the management came in the picture, there was clear evidence of that the transition curve was smoothened and the organizational anxiety was minimized, as seen in Figure 18.
Figure 18 How management affected the evolution of behaviours
It can be understood that the curve without change management is much worse in terms of productivity. The role of the management and the leadership is to make the process as smooth as possible.
In order to keep momentum and gain all benefits from a change process, and not risk falling back into old habits, it is vital for an organization to sustain the made changes.
The best way is to institutionalize the changes into the organizations culture. In the case of Platzer, this change process had not proceeded that long yet, so we had no CHALMERS, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Master’s Thesis 2013:120 49 possibility to find how it was institutionalized. However, the interviews gave us by hand that they all know that changes have to be institutionalized. We also find that many of the changes are functioning as a foundation for further changes, for example is the implemented KPIs a way for the organization to implement the new organizational structure and the new core values. This is in line with the company's strategy towards reaching their vision. Also, we have found that the board was aware that some type of follow up should be conducted, in order to gain learnings from this process and bring them into the next one. Some of the leaders said that the possibility to conduct a follow up study is limited due to the art of it, as an not value adding activity. Nevertheless, we think that the organization can gain much learning from this process. Much of the sustaining of change aims to adapt a culture of continuous improvements, or continuous change. The CEO clearly stated that one of his aims is to incorporate this into the culture of the company. A clear evidence of this is to be found within how the CEO is working with the journey, setting goals, implementing them and then a follow up which is the basis for the new organizational goals. This results to an organization that is moving forward and not facing the risk of refreezing in a certain state that could lead to them losing against competitors that are much more capable of reaching their visions. All in all, we would like to say that the organization probably will manage to sustain these changes and adapt a culture of continuous improvements.
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ConclusionAn organization is on a constant journey, a journey between their current state and a future state, which is the realization of their vision. All organizations strive towards the fulfillment of their vision, which means that they have to identify and work with the link that is between the establishment and the realization of it.
This Master’s thesis has been exploring a specific event within a specific company, namely Platzer Fastigheter AB, which has undergone a change process in order to be better prepared for what the future has in store for them, and also to be one step closer to the fulfillment of their vision.
The authors of this thesis have, through a number of interviews and by being a part of the organization in their everyday life, tried to understand what happens in an organization during a change event. Also, they have been trying to understand what the link between establishing and realizing a vision is and which the most important leadership aspects are throughout an organizational change process.
So, what is the link between establishing and realizing a vision? We have found that one of the most important aspects for realizing the vision is that organizations can adapt to a constantly changing environment. By this, we mean that the organization must have an open mind towards organizational changes and an internal environment that has an embedded culture of continuous improvements. During these change programs, we have identified that one of the most important parts for a successful project outcome is commitment. We would say that the most vital component is that both the management and the employees are committed to the change. To create commitment, we have found that the CEO and the board have an important role as change agents, but we have also found that they must assign a project leader that has the overall responsibility for the change process. This will help the organization to keep up the momentum, gain commitment throughout the organization and to minimize the organizational anxiety through communication. Also, we have found that the establishment of way of working has an important role when sustaining the made changes. Clear descriptions of work roles, winning KPIs, a solid organizational structure and clear directions and plans before, during and after the process are components that must be put in place.
Another important aspect is leadership. We have identified a number of attributes that are important in a change process when it comes to a leader. Adaptability, which is the ability of a leader to change leadership styles depending on the context, is considered to be of high importance. A leader always needs to expect for the unexpected.
The leader needs to be calm and weather the storm. The communication with the subordinates is obviously important in general, but in cases of organizational change, even more. It is understood that throughout a change processes; employees go through anxiety and uncertainty since they feel that they do not possess all the information. A leader needs to face the employees with respect, understanding and multiple communication channels. When it comes to setting goals and handling everyday operations in the company, a leader needs to apply a hard management model. However, in times of change the leader needs to balance between the hard and the soft side of management.
Another key attribute is the minimization of ambiguity. Employees can be dragged into serious discomfort if their leaders or supervisors do not produce concrete and clear decisions. The final conclusion that can be drawn out of this journey is that leadership is very important for an organization to achieve their visions and goals in an ever-changing environment.
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