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Catalyzing Systematic Change In Organization– An Approach

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The mission statement of PM’s newly announced program “Make in India”focuses on product innovation for our growing economy.  The critical elements of this program Emphasize the importance of a multi-disciplinary, systems oriented approach to engineering & manufacturing practice with a special focus on customer-driven design.  While the goals are to provide value-added products & services for global clients that go well beyond the scope of a traditional manufacturing, an additional benefit of the program lies in its ability to transform the perspectives of the entrepreneurs’ leadership in regards to the vital role that multidisciplinary, team-based approach will play for manufacturing units who strive to add value to our economy. 

Real economic growth occurs through the development of innovative, value added products that uniquely meet customer needs and desires.  The conceptualization, development and manufacture of these products are in the purview of entrepreneurs.  As articulated by the Council on Competitiveness, “Innovation will be the single most important factor in determining India’s success. While today’s research results provide the technical foundation for new product development, the nation needs entrepreneurs, who are experts in utilizing the latest research results to create new, value-added products.  

“Technology has shifted the societal framework by lengthening our life spans, enabling people to communicate in ways unimaginable in the past, and creating wealth and economic growth by bringing the virtues of innovation and enhanced functionality to the economy in ever-shorter product development cycles.  Even more remarkable opportunities are fast approaching through new developments.”

The technological challenges are shifting as well, and entrepreneurs need to understand the context of these societal problems in order to develop optimal solutions, hopefully before these challenges become crises.  Challenges include the physical infrastructure of our nation; the need for alternative sources of energy, renewable and clean; the ever-increasing stress on the environment due to population growth and the non-uniform distribution of key resources around the globe; the need to provide a high quality of life for an aging population; and the need to develop technologies that are sustainable, minimizing their environmental footprint.  Understanding the social framework for technological innovation will be a key asset of leaders in the future.

With the body of knowledge doubling every ten years, it is impossible for an individual to be an expert in everything.  Without a doubt, an education that focuses exclusively on the mastery of a body of knowledge runs the risk of developing specialists who know a great deal about an evernarrower subject area in relative terms.  At the same time, the technological challenges are becoming ever-more complex.  Indeed, real-life problems do not respect discipline-specific boundaries. 
Consequently, the entrepreneur of tomorrow will need to be more effective than ever before at working within multidisciplinary teams, and exploiting the unique and diverse capabilities of each individual on the team to develop the most effective solutions to whatever problem is being addressed. 
It is also critical to realize and take advantage of the unique capabilities of the human brain.  Thinking is an integrative activity, synthesizing information enhanced by inference, analogy and extrapolation.  

To summarize, entrepreneurs must be effective integrators of technology, with a talent for leveraging the diverse assets of individuals on multidisciplinary teams.  They must also understand the social context of the problems that they are solving.  To engineer a sustainable world, society needs these social engineers who understand the social context of their work, and who are willing to embrace a leadership role to shape public opinion in favor of technically sound, socially responsible decisions for the greater good.  Finally, it is clear that we live in a global society with a global economy dominated by global industries.  To succeed in the mission of “Make in India”, entrepreneurs will require a full understanding of the implications of this observation.  They need to understand issues such as the factors affecting global competitiveness; the importance of green, as well as lean manufacturing; cultural influences on manufacturing methodologies, management structures and decision-making processes. 


A major challenge in achieving this idealistic goal, I believe, is the tension that inevitably exists between the “big picture” themes and the natural disposition of the typical entrepreneur and the associated desire to commit to an in-depth exploration of the intellectual richness.

Catalyzing Systemic Change

The greatest long term benefit of the “Change Management” programmay be the ways in which the entrepreneursplay role in society.  The implementation strategy is the key to optimizing the potential for achieving such collateral benefits.  The relevant elements of the implementation strategy and the ways in which each element contributes to catalyzing a paradigm shift in the SME sector are as follows:

Managing the kinds of changes encountered by and instituted within organizations requires an unusually broad and finely honed set of skills, chief among which are the following.

A.    Political Skills
Organizations are first and foremost social systems. Without people there can be no organization. Lose sight of this fact and any would-be change agent will likely lose his or her head. Organizations are hotly and intensely political. And, as one wag pointed out, the lower the stakes, the more intense the politics. Change agents dare not join in this game but they had better understand it. This is one area where you must make your own judgments and keep your own counsel; no one can do it for you.

B.    Analytical Skills
Make no mistake about it, those who would be change agents had better be very good at something, and that something better be analysis. Guessing won’t do. Insight is nice, even useful, and sometimes shines with brilliance, but it is darned difficult to sell and almost impossible to defend. A lucid, rational, well-argued analysis can be ignored and even suppressed, but not successfully contested and, in most cases, will carry the day. If not, then the political issues haven’t been adequately addressed.

Two particular sets of skills are very important here:
(1) workflow operations or systems analysis, and
(2) financial analysis.
Change agents must learn to take apart and reassemble operations and systems in novel ways, and then determine the financial and political impacts of what they have done. Conversely, they must be able to start with some financial measure or indicator or goal, and make their way quickly to those operations and systems that, if reconfigured a certain way, would have the desired financial impact. Those who master these two techniques have learned a trade that will be in demand for the foreseeable future. (This trade, by the way, has a name. It is called ―Solution Engineering.‖)

C.    People Skills
As stated earlier, people are the sine qua non of organization. Moreover, they come characterized by all manner of sizes, shapes, colors, intelligence and ability levels, gender, sexual preferences, national origins, first and second languages, religious beliefs, attitudes toward life and work, personalities, and priorities — and these are just a few of the dimensions along which people vary. We have to deal with them all.

The skills most needed in this area are those that typically fall under the heading of communication or interpersonal skills. To be effective, we must be able to listen and listen actively, to restate, to reflect, to clarify without interrogating, to draw out the speaker, to lead or channel a discussion, to plant ideas, and to develop them. All these and more are needed. Not all of us will have to learn Russian, French, or Spanish, but most of us will have to learn to speak Systems, Marketing, Manufacturing, Finance, Personnel, Legal, and a host of other organizational dialects. More important, we have to learn to see things through the eyes of these other inhabitants of the organizational world. A situation viewed from a marketing frame of reference is an entirely different situation when seen through the eyes of a systems person. Part of the job of a change agent is to reconcile and resolve the conflict between and among disparate (and sometimes desperate) points of view. Charm is great if you have it. Courtesy is even better. A well-paid compliment can buy gratitude. A sincere ―Thank you‖ can earn respect.

D.    System Skills
There’s much more to this than learning about computers, although most people employed in today’s world of work do need to learn about computer-based information systems. For now, let’s just say that a system is an arrangement of resources and routines intended to produce specified results. To organize is to arrange. A system reflects organization and, by the same token, an organization is a system.

A word processing operator and the word processing equipment operated form a system. So do computers and the larger, information processing systems in which computers are so often embedded. These are generally known as ―hard systems. There are ―soft systems as well: compensation systems, appraisal systems, promotion systems, and reward and incentive systems.

E.    Business Skills
Simply put, you’d better understand how a business works. In particular, you’d better understand how the business in which and on which you’re working works. This entails an understanding of money — where it comes from, where it goes, how to get it, and how to keep it. It also calls into play knowledge of markets and marketing, products and product development, customers, sales, selling, buying, hiring, firing, and just about anything else you might think of.
Four Basic Change Management Strategies

Strategy     Description

Empirical-Rational     People are rational and will follow their self-interest — once it is revealed to them. Change is based on the communication of information and the proffering of incentives.

Normative-Re-educative     People are social beings and will adhere to cultural norms and values. Change is based on redefining and reinterpreting existing norms and values, and developing commitments to new ones.

Power-Coercive     People are basically compliant and will generally do what they are told or can be made to do. Change is based on the exercise of authority and the imposition of sanctions.

Environmental-Adaptive     People oppose loss and disruption but they adapt readily to new circumstances. Change is based on building a new organization and gradually transferring people from the old one to the new one.

Generally speaking, there is no single Change Management strategy.  One can adopt a general or what is called a "grand strategy" but, for any given initiative, you are best served by some mix of strategies. Which of the preceding strategies to use in your mix of strategies is a decision affected by a number of factors.  Some of the more important ones follow.

  • Scope and Scale.  This can vary from the minor ―tweaking‖ of a process within a unit to the complete transformation of the entire organization.  The larger the scope and scale, the more likely a broad mix of strategies will be required with Power-Coercive playing a central role.
  • Degree of Resistance. Strong resistance argues for a coupling of Power-Coercive and Environmental-Adaptive strategies. Weak resistance or concurrence argues for a combination of Empirical-Rational and NormativeRe-educative strategies.
  • Target Population. Large populations argue for a mix of all four strategies, something for everyone so to speak.
  • The Stakes. High stakes argue for a mix of all four strategies. When the stakes are high, nothing can be left to chance.
  • The Time Frame. Short time frames argue for a Power-Coercive strategy. Longer time frames argue for a mix of Empirical-Rational, Normative-Re-educative, and Environmental-Adaptive strategies.
  • Expertise. Having available adequate expertise at making change argues for some mix of the strategies outlined above. Not having it available argues for reliance on the power-coercive strategy.
  • Dependency.  This is a classic double-edged sword.  If the organization is dependent on its people, management's ability to command or demand is limited.  Conversely, if people are dependent upon the organization, their ability to oppose or resist is limited.  (Mutual dependency almost always signals a requirement for some level of negotiation.)
  • How do you manage change? 

The honest answer is that you manage it pretty much the same way you’d manage anything else of a turbulent, messy, chaotic nature, that is, you don’t really manage it, you grapple with it. It’s as much a matter of leadership ability as it is one of management skill.

1.    The first thing to do is jump in. You can’t do anything about it from the outside. 
2.    A clear sense of mission or purpose is essential. The simpler the mission statement the better. ―Kick ass in the marketplace‖ is a whole lot more meaningful than ―Respond to market needs with a range of products and services that have been carefully designed and developed to compare so favorably in our customers’ eyes with the products and services offered by our competitors that the majority of buying decisions will be made in our favor.‖ 
3.    Build a team. ―Lone wolves‖ have their uses, but managing change isn’t one of them. On the other hand, the right kind of lone wolf makes an excellent temporary team leader. 
4.    Maintain a flat organizational team structure and rely on minimal and informal reporting requirements. 
5.    Pick people with relevant skills and high energy levels. You’ll need both. 
6.    Toss out the rulebook. Change, by definition, calls for a configured response, not adherence to prefigured routines. 
7.    Shift to an action-feedback model. Plan and act in short intervals. Do your analysis on the fly. No lengthy upfront studies, please. Remember the hare and the tortoise. 
8.    Set flexible priorities. You must have the ability to drop what you’re doing and tend to something more important. 
9.    Treat everything as a temporary measure. Don’t ―lock in‖ until the last minute, and then insist on the right to change your mind. 
10.    Ask for volunteers. You’ll be surprised at who shows up. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by what they can do. 
11.    Find a good ―straw boss‖ or team leader and stay out of his or her way. 
12.    Give the team members whatever they ask for — except authority. They’ll generally ask only for what they really need in the way of resources. If they start asking for authority, that’s a signal they’re headed toward some kind of power-based confrontation and that spells trouble. Nip it in the bud! 
13.    Concentrate dispersed knowledge. Start and maintain an issues logbook. Let anyone go anywhere and talk to anyone about anything. Keep the communications barriers low, widely spaced, and easily hurdled. Initially, if things look chaotic, relax — they are.

Remember, the task of change management is to bring order to a messy situation, not pretend that it’s already well organized and disciplined. 

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