Critically evaluate how organizations may approach change in the 21st century.
The aim of this paper is critically evaluate the models used by organisations to manage change in the 21st century. Hard model systems and soft model systems will be assessed in order to ascertain which model is applicable to a 21st century business environment.
In the 21st century the pace and scale of the change demanded of organisations and those who work within them are enormous. Global competition and the advent of the information age, where knowledge is the key resource, have thrown working practices into disarray. Many organisations have had to abandon the processes, skills and systems of the agricultural era to meet the demands of the industrial era, so we now have to shed ways of working honed for the industrial era to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the information age Jones (1996)
Change has always been a feature of organisational life; however the frequency and magnitude of change are greater in the 21st century than ever before Burns (2004). The Hard Systems Model of Change (HSMC) is a method for designing and implementing change in situations that have the characteristics of ‘hard complexity’, i.e. situations where the presenting problems are understood and agreed by most people in the situation. Hard model system may also be used in situations where quantitative criteria can be used to test options for change and they are useful in environments where unitarist ideology of relationships prevail Senior (2002).
There are some drawbacks to Hard Systems Model of change as it does not take into account the fact that, all the information that decisions makers ideally would like to have is not always easily and quickly available. Testing out options can be a time-consuming process, particularly if models have to be built and tested.
The planned approach to organisational change developed by Kurt Lewin comprises of four elements which are group dynamics, action research and the three step model. Lewin (1947a) argued that a successful change project involved three steps which are unfreezing, moving and the final stage being refreezing. Lewin supported that unfreezing was necessary as he believed that that the stability of human behaviour was based on a quasi-stationary equilibrium supported by a complex field of driving and restraining forces. He argued that the equilibrium needs to be destabilized (unfrozen) before old behaviour can be discarded (unlearnt) and new behaviour successfully adopted.
The next step in the three step model is the moving stage; Lewin (1947a) describes it as the learning approach promoted Action Research. The repetitive approach of research action is what enables groups and individuals to move from a less acceptable to a more acceptable set of behaviours.
The final step in three step model is the Refreezing stage. The purpose behind refreezing is to stabilise the group at a new quasi-stationary equilibrium. Schein (1996) supported that it is important to attain stability to keep the new behaviours safe from regression. He argued that an essential aspect of refreezing is that the new behaviour must, to a great extent correlate with the rest of the behaviour, personality and environment of the learner or it will simply lead to a new round of disconfirmation.
In the 21st century newer perspectives have emerged on organizational life and change hence, Lewin’s planned approach has faced increasing levels of criticisms. Wooten and White (1999) argued that the planned approach which was primarily based on organisation development technology was designed specifically for organisations with a top –down, autocratic, rigid rule based organisations operating in a predictable and controlled environment. The planned approach is based on the assumption that social or organizational groups are fixed, stable change viewed as being linear and uni-dimensional....