Leadership and the Art of Change by Lee Roy Beach is a text that focuses on how to be a leader and implement change within an organization successfully. The reading begins with an example of a young executive by the name of Wayne getting his first chance at enacting change in a struggling organization. In this example the author outlined Wayne’s process to implement change in the organization and the responses/results that arose from his decision making and leadership style. After some time and much opposition, Wayne decided to leave the company despite his feeling of failure and lack of understanding to the cause of his failure.
Following this example, the author begins to highlight the six prime responsibilities that he feels are necessary for leaders with the goal of implementing change within an organization. The six responsibilities are as follows: Assessment; the leader’s ability to work with others in the organization to assess the environment and identify areas where change is necessary. Culture; the leader’s ability to work with others in the organization to understand the organizational culture and determine if change in that area is necessary; if so, working with others to act accordingly.
Vision; the leader’s ability to work with others in the organization to create a vision for the future, while also promoting organization-wide acceptance of that vision. Plans; the leader’s ability to work with others in the organization to design a plan for the organization moving forward towards its envisioned future. The leader is also responsible for articulating how the plan will accomplish the goals in place to reaching their vision. Implementation; the leader’s ability to work with others to maintain momentum and discover weaknesses in the plan that needs to be corrected.
Follow-through; the leader’s ability to work with others to institutionalize changes made and promote change as a normal characteristic of the organization. (Beach, 2006; pg. xvii) In the author’s conclusion he addresses the subtle but significant differences in organizations size, organizational focus (For-profit or Not-for-profit), or the leader’s role within the organization, and how these differences can adjust the leader’s approach to implement change within the organization.
In order to determine the appropriate approach Beach created a matrix system for generalizing the analysis of change leadership for individuals other than Executives of large organizations. Within his matrix are eight cells that identify the type of organization, size of organization, and role of leader trying to enact change in the organization. Each cell contains a detailed description of how the leaders should approach change within their organization. Beach followed this matrix with a cautionary warning to leaders that change within an organization is not cut and dried.
There’s nothing cut-and-dried about leadership at any time, least of all during major organizational change” (Beach, 2006; pg. 138). Beach recommends that leaders take heed to his words while also incorporating “your own good sense” to help navigate through change within an organization. The Metaphor of Poor Wayne As mentioned earlier, Wayne was in the top spot at a new organization with the hopes of implementing major change in an organization that was struggling. Wayne had all of the classic intangibles that he believed would lead him to success in his efforts to implement change and improve the organization.
Despite the advantages and momentum that Wayne had in his corner upon starting his position, there were major flaws in his approach that led to his downfall and feeling of failure. None being more detrimental than his failure to include others in the organization in his decision making process. Upon entering the position Wayne had a classic view of what leadership looks like and the leader that he had to be in order to incorporate the changes necessary for the organizations improvement.
Wayne believed that it was his sole responsibility to identify the areas where change was necessary and create the plan for implementing those changes in the organization. Rather than incorporating the managers and tenured employees in on the decision making process, Wayne chose to isolate himself in his office throughout his planning process. The consequences of this decision proved to be dire as Wayne chose to create his proposed changes based on comparing his current organization with previous organizations that he had previously been employed with.
The problem with this was that the culture of every organization varies and placing another organizations values and beliefs on another could result in negative behaviors by the employees. Nonetheless, after completing his proposal, Wayne presented his findings to the managers. Both the verbal and non-verbal feedback that Wayne received should have been cause for concern; however, with the leadership style that Wayne was mimicking there was no room for open feedback and reevaluation. Instead, Wayne ignored their concerns and threatened them with his authority.
Another issue that should have raised some red flags for Wayne was the manner in which the proposals were returned to him. During the meeting with the managers he told them that to have their department’s proposal back to him by the end of the week with no exceptions; however, it took nearly two months for all of the proposals to be submitted. This showed that the managers weren’t all on-board with this plan which spelled disaster, as the managers when charged with getting their employees on-board with the plan.
Along with the managers not buying in to the plan that Wayne created, some of the most tenured staff members began to leave the company. Their rationale for leaving was that the direction the organization was going in was completely opposite of how they built the organization years ago. With these warning signs Wayne should have begun reevaluating his process; however, he took a different course of action. In order to provide a spark to his movement and improve employee moral Wayne decided to be more “opportunistic”.
He tried several things to try and gain momentum for his change movement, one of which was to offer two major ustomers discounts for purchasing exclusively through them. This was a bold move by Wayne that was recognized by the employees but did nothing to change the bad attitudes of the employees. Another “opportunistic” move that Wayne made to try and offset the negative attitudes of the employees was his purchase of a new technology that would revolutionize the industry. The technology was effective; however, it wasn’t in sync with the remainder of the production line which caused issues. Again, employees took notice and were dissatisfied with the results.
Following the introduction of the new technology Wayne then closed a deal with a high-profile company to co-market a product together, this too failed after about six months. The final last stitch effort that Wayne considered was a proposal to merge with one of their competitors. This final attempt to improve moral did the complete opposite, leaving employees and board members furious with him. The employees were now concerned about their job security and board members were furious that the information about the proposal was disclosed to the employees before the board had a chance to discuss it.
At this moment Wayne was released of his blinders and began to realize that his efforts weren’t effective. In the end, Wayne began to look for other job opportunities where he felt his talents and efforts would be better appreciated. Wayne made many mistakes throughout this process that led to his abrupt failure. Wayne did many things incorrectly, that if he would have simply followed the six prime responsibilities of leaders incorporating change he would have had a better chance at being successful in his endeavors to create change.
Primary Responsibilities in Leading Change Assessment: Specifying Change The text states that with this responsibility “Leaders must work with others in the organization to assess the organization’s external and internal environments and specify needed changes in each” (Beach, 2006; pg. 1). Beach mentions that change is very hard for an organization to overcome. There are changes in learned routines, reductions in productivity, etc. “If nothing else, the organization is almost always less efficient while it undergoes change.
Unless it has sufficient excess capacity to compensate, this inefficiency can adversely affect production of goods or services with a resulting loss of customers and compromised relations with suppliers and other stakeholders” (Beach, 2006; pg. 1). Assessment could possibly be the most important responsibility mentioned in this text because without assessment the necessary changes will be hard to identify and individuals could happen to follow a similar path as “Poor Wayne”.
Upon beginning an assessment of an organization the text states that the leader should consider both the internal and external environment. The internal environment “consists of its purpose, its efforts to differentiate itself from competitors, its component functions, the organizational structure within which these functions operate, how authority and power are distributed and exercised, and the values and beliefs that constitute the organization’s culture” (Beach, 2006; pg. 15).
On the other hand, assessing the external environment “is the process of acquiring information about the presence and nature of external demands and constraints on the organization’s actions” (Beach, 2006; pg. 2). Despite their differences, both play very critical roles in an organization and can affect the process of change. Culture: Constraining Change The second responsibility of management when implementing change is to constrain change by understanding the culture of the organization.
Leaders must work with others in the organization to understand the organization’s culture: the core beliefs and values that are shared by the organization’s members that guide their actions in its behalf and define their expectations about the actions of those around them” (Beach, 2006; pg. 29). The text highlights five threats/opportunities that instigate cultural change within an organization; economic crisis, laws and regulations, social change, demographics, and internal crises (Beach, 2006; pg. 38-39).
Beach mentions two forms of cultural change within an organization; evolutionary change and revolutionary change. Though both are very different approaches to changing culture, have a similar key to success. “For both evolutionary and revolutionary change, the key lies in changing activities first and then allowing the culture to adapt…the focus, rather than being on the culture itself, must be on getting the organization’s members to accept changes in their routine activities and the immediate goals of these activities” (Beach, 2006; pg. 43).
Vision: Motivating Change Vision as a responsibility for management in change entails that “Leaders must work with others in the organization to create a vision, a reasonable story about the organization’s future in light of the constraints imposed by its environment and culture, and to articulate the goal agenda that follows from that vision. Then they must promote acceptance of the vision throughout the organization” (Beach, 2006; pg. 49). There are four key elements that form an organizations vision; goals, priorities, requirements, and implications.
With a focus on these four key elements along with the inclusion of the leaders’ vision, members’ vision, and a consensus of the two improves the chances of and organization-wide acceptance of the vision. Plans: Mapping Change Within the “Plans” responsibility for management “Leaders must work with others in the organization to design a plan for moving the organization toward the envisioned future and promote understanding throughout the organization of how the plan will address the goal agenda in pursuit of the vision” (Beach, 2006; pg. 9). In order to build a successful plan there must be three layers of the plan; a strategic plan, the operating plan, and a task plan.
The strategic plan is created to address issues surround threats and opportunities, the operating plan focuses on the organization’s structure and functions, and the task plan is meant to collaborate with the operating plan to make changes to procedures for production and distribution purposes (Beach, 2006; pg. 1). The text identifies four critical areas of planning; the task plans itself, monitoring the process of change in accordance with the plan, measuring the progress of the plan, and properly coordinating the time of events within the change process. Along with these four areas of planning communication of the vision and plan across the organization is essential to building consensus.
There are six rules that are identified for effectively communicating visions and plans; correctness, understanding, credibility, small steps when possible, reasonableness, and repetition (Beach, 2006; pg. 79-81). Adhering to these requirements does not guarantee success of a plan; however, they do increase the chances of success. Implementation: Producing Change When producing change “Leaders must work with others to maintain momentum during plan implementation and to monitor progress in order to discover and correct weaknesses within the plan” (Beach, 2006; pg. 3).
Monitoring plays a major role in the implementation responsibility of management. When monitoring change there are several things that management must consider, the thoroughness of the monitoring system, the frequency of the evaluation periods, the amount of effort/time spent for monitoring, and an understanding of the tradeoff between thoroughness and frequency (Beach, 2006; pg. 100-101). When monitoring a plan or vision, there are three forms of information that are relied on.
The forms of information include information provided by the monitor reporting on the implementation progress, the second batch of information is provided by the mechanism providing the ongoing assessment of the organization’s environments, and the information provided by the organization based on performance (Beach, 2006; pg. 102). Follow-Through: Institutionalizing Change While institutionalizing change “Leaders must work with others to institutionalize achieved changes and to help members accept ongoing change as a normal aspect of the organization and its activities” (Beach, 2006; pg. 113).
With this responsibility, it is the one that promotes sustainability of the changes created and future changes that may occur. When institutionalizing change management is charged with communicating success of the process, updating documentation to reflect the changes, realigning rewards to coincide with the changes that have been made, and with the success of the previous three task changed culture will be the output (Beach, 2006; pg. 114-122). New Strategies Learned Throughout this process there has been many foreign concepts and strategies that have been learned, none more important than the process of institutionalizing change.
Follow-through is an area where I struggle in my leadership. Creating and implementing the plan/vision has always come easy for me; however, focusing on monitoring and sustaining the changes has always been a difficult task. It’s interesting that the area where I struggle professionally is also an area where I struggle personally. For instance, when building new relationships I always seem to fall short of building a “real” connection with the individual because I place little focus on the follow-up aspect of relationship building.
I may be able to garner a connection between myself and the other individual; however, the connection isn’t sustainable unless I am consistent with the efforts to follow-up on the connection that was made. Something that I will take with me from this section of the text is the four tasks involved in institutionalizing change; communication, document updating, realigning rewards, and culture changing. Professionally, I believe that as long as I am intentional about focusing on these four tasks I will be able to drastically improve on my skills to create sustainable change.
I believe that sustainability of change is monumental to truly creating change in an organization. If the change that was once created isn’t sustainable then it will never be able to withstand the opposition that it may face within the organization. Personal Insight I believe that in reading this text, I have truly been given some of the most valuable information I can use for my future professional endeavors. Eventually, I would like to create my own non-profit organization/social entrepreneurship that has a business structure unlike any other non-profit organization, but still provides necessary services to the people of Cincinnati.
I believe that the non-profit culture that I currently work in uses more resources than needed which could be used for affecting greater change in the city. With that being said, I would like to spark a new culture within the non-profit network that promotes change while also maximizing the use of the resources received. The information learned through this text has truly been an asset in my leadership development and will be a highly referenced source for my aspirations in the future.
January 9, 2018
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