Change Leadership: Case Study of a Global Energy Company

Topics: Leadership, Change management, Strategic management Pages: 24 (6962 words) Published: April 18, 2011
Strat. Change 18: 45–58 (2009) Published online in Wiley InterScience ( DOI: 10.1002/jsc.838

Strategic Change

Change leadership: case study of a global energy company
Malcolm Higgs* and Deborah Rowland
Southampton University School of Management, UK

Organizations operating on a global basis have wrestled with the dilemma of achieving a balance between global standardization and local differentiation. Similar dilemmas arise from a review of the literature around the challenges of implementing change successfully. There is, however, agreement that leaders play a significant role in resolving these dilemmas in the process of implementing strategic change within global organizations. This paper explores the literature on global organizations and change leadership. Building from this review, the paper presents the findings from a case study which explores the implementation of a global strategy within a large energy corporation. Based on a review of nine interviews, internal communication documents, and employee attitude survey data we found that change approaches which recognize the complexity of change combined with an involving and engaging leadership style tend to result in successful change implementation. In addition, the balancing of the global/local dilemma by leaders contributed notably to change success. We conclude with suggestions for further research and a brief discussion of the implications of the findings for the development of leaders capable of working effectively in a global organization. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

For many years organizations operating on a global basis have struggled with achieving an effective balance between global standardization and local differentiation in terms of implementing strategies and related policies and processes (e.g. Malnight, 1995; Ghoshal and Bartlett, 1999). In broad terms there appear to be both assertions and evidence to support the view that achieving effective globalization

* Correspondence to: Malcolm Higgs. Southampton University School of Management, Highfield, Southampton, SO17 1BJ, UK. E-mail:

requires the implementation of a range of ‘loose/tight’ couplings which allow for centralization around core values/principles/ products/routes to market whilst simultaneously allowing for extensive decentralization to promote local innovation (e.g. Pettigrew, 1979; Schein, 1985; Colville et al., 1999; Ghoshal and Bartlett, 1999). Within a global context there is an apparent general view that local innovation provides a key to the development of competitive advantage (e.g. Malnight, 1995; Dickmann and Müller-Camen, 2006). However, realizing this advantage requires facing dilemmas around the balance between innovation and bureaucratic control (Ghoshal and Bartlett, 1999;

Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Strategic Change


Malcolm Higgs and Deborah Rowland

Within a global context there is an apparent general view that local innovation provides a key to the development of competitive advantage

Manlight, 1995) and being able to balance domestic and international tensions (Perlmutter, 1969; Dickmann and Müller-Camen, 2006). In an international study, Dickmann and Müller-Camen (2006) identified that the core values of an organization tend to determine the nature of global/local balance. For example, organizations which place a high value on innovation tend to place greater emphasis on the achievement of local autonomy within a global framework. On the other hand, in a strategic implementation, Geppert and Williams (2006) pointed out that the power of local managers to make strategic choices is as much a function of the strategic position and performance of the local unit as of the overall approach of the organization. These tensions appear to create dilemmas to be faced by local leaders and conditions of ambiguity (Waldrop, 1992; Grobman, 2005). Furthermore, in...
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