Aldrich (1999) defines organisations as “goal directed, boundary maintaining and socially constructed systems of human activity. ” Even though the nature of organisational goals and their pursuit can be problematic, people act as though they have goals and organisations exist to obtain these goals. Organisations however can have one or many goals and it is argued by many that these goals arise from a bartering process by various stakeholders with a vested interest in the success of the organisation.
Not all these stakeholders hold the same amount of power but their support is vital if organisational goals are to be achieved. (Burnes, 1992) Therefore when changes in goals are proposed these stakeholders need to be persuaded to give support to the change. In addition as organisations are social activity systems where people are involved in deciding how to achieve the goals, any proposed change in the way in which goals are to be achieved will have a major impact on the behaviour of the people in the organisation.
As Paton and McCalman (1992) have stated “The implementation of strategic change is likely to be problematic. This is especially likely to be the case in situations where this type of change involves people and in which personal relationships and emotional responses are predominant. ” (McCalman and Paton, 1992:18) Furthermore, as social activity systems the means for achieving goals in organisations are more times than not pre-planned.
Tasks, resources, controls, co-ordination and timings are only some of the parts that are required for organisations to produce something of use, and these do not come together in a haphazard way. The structure of the organisation plays a vital role in the smooth running of these activities as it strongly influences how people behave in them. Indeed because structure has such a powerful and important impact on behaviour managers frequently resort to structural changes as a means of changing behaviour.
New work groups, teams, reporting structures, pay and reward systems normally result in new behaviours and managers will therefore plan their structural changes to align new behaviours with the new direction for the organisation. Goodstein and Burke (1989) view organisations as a “nested set of open, living systems and subsystems dependant upon the environment for survival. ” This view of organisations as open systems is supported by many including Robbins et al (2003) and Senior (2002) who argues that a system perspective provides a useful insight into the management of change.
Senior presents her argument in Figure 1. This perspective gives rise to the “concept of an organisation as a system of interacting subsystems and components set within the wider systems and environments which provide inputs to the system and which receive its outputs. ” (Senior, 2002) According to Senior the formal systems depicts how things are done and the informal systems determine how things are actually done. According to Robbins et al (2003) as open systems, organisations are affected by the environment as well as impacting upon it.
From uncertainty over competitors and customers to changes in economic conditions, laws and regulations and socio-cultural expectations, managers have to be aware of what is happening in the external environment. Furthermore he argues, “If it weren’t for organisational change, that is any alterations in people, structure or technology, the manager’s job would be relatively easy. ” (Robbins et al, 2003, p338) But that’s not the way it is. Change is an organisational reality.
External forces that create the need for change come from various sources such as the marketplace, government and regulations, technology, economy and the labour markets. In addition there are factors internally to the organisation that create triggers for change, such as Strategies, employees, equipment and culture. (Saka,2003) Senior (2002) uses the PETS idea to consider some key environmental triggers for change and their strength. These are the political, environmental, technological and socio-cultural forces that impact upon the organisation that provides it with the main reasons for change.
Organisations tend to change primarily because of external pressure rather than an internal desire or need to change. However managers should be aware of all the potential forces for change and whether they come from the internal, external or temporal environment, which is often very difficult to do. Furthermore it is essential that we do not overlook how managers interpret their environments as Day (2001) points out; managers interpret these forces in ways that reflect the history and culture of the organisation.
What are the real issues that must be addressed if managers are to implement change effectively? On the broadest level there are two basic issues: – What the change should be and how the change should be implemented. The process of organisational change according to Nadler and Tushman, (1997) is quite often a complex and dynamic process with many conflicting viewpoints on how to proceed. Paton and McCalman (2000) argue adapting to change is not a simple process but that it can be managed. They interpret the management of change as a complex journey with many twists, challenges, turns and hold-ups.