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Organizational Change Defined

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ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE DEFINED

Organizational change occurs when a company makes a transition from its current state to some desired future state. Today's business environment requires companies to undergo changes almost constantly if they are to remain competitive. Factors such as globalization of markets and rapidly evolving technology force businesses to respond in order to survive. Such changes may be relatively minor--as in the case of installing a new software program--or quite major--as in the case of refocusing an overall marketing strategy, fighting off a hostile takeover, or transforming a company in the face of persistent foreign competition.

Organizational change initiatives often arise out of problems faced by a company. In some cases, however, companies change under the impetus of enlightened leaders who first recognize and then exploit new potentials dormant in the organization or its circumstances. Some observers, more soberly, label this a "performance gap" which able management is inspired to close.

But organizational change is also resisted and--in the opinion of its promoters--fails. The failure may be due to the manner in which change has been visualized, announced, and implemented or because internal resistance to it builds. Employees, in other words, sabotage those changes they view as antithetical to their own interests.

AREAS OF ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE

Students of organizational change identify areas of change in order to analyze them. Daniel Wischnevsky and Fariborz Daman, for example, writing in Journal of Managerial Issues, single out strategy, structure, and organizational power. Others add technology or the corporate population ("people"). All of these areas, of course, are related; companies often must institute changes in all areas when they attempt to make changes in one. The first area, strategic change, can take place on a large scale--for example, when a company shifts its resources to enter a new line of business--or on a small scale--for example, when a company makes productivity improvements in order to reduce costs. There are three basic stages for a company making a strategic change: 1) realizing that the current strategy is no longer suitable for the company's situation; 2) establishing a vision for the company's future direction; and 3) implementing the change and setting up new systems to support it.

Technological changes are often introduced as components of larger strategic changes, although they sometimes take place on their own. An important aspect of changing technology is determining who in the organization will be threatened by the change. To be successful, a technology change must be incorporated into the company's overall systems, and a management structure must be created to support it.

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