It is common understanding in business that to stay ahead of the competition, change is necessary. Employees are consistently told they must continue to find new ways to achieve better results. The direction is clear improve productivity, become more effective, get more done with less, get it right the first time. When groups in the middle or the bottom of an organization begin to change how they do their work, does the rest of the organization give them unqualified support?
"Top-Down" vs. "Bottom-Up" Change
While much of senior management at large corporations today might claim to want "self-empowered" employees, the opposite would seem to be the rule. Rarely is change initiated from somewhere other than at or from the "top" allowed to significantly alter an organization, unless the higher levels of authority within the organization have envisioned the change or, at a minimum, fully sanctioned the proposal for change. One finding in a recent study surveying 4,300 U.S. companies with 100 or more employees seems to support this perspective as forty percent of hourly employees, versus only sixteen percent of managers, cited a lack of management visibility and support as a major impediment to change. (Zoglio, 1998) Organizational politics, which inevitably makes managers fear losing control more than reaching for success, inevitably lead to the demise of changes originating in other ways within the organization. This move to control people often occurs when these changes are near or at the point of creating significant benefits for the organization.
Organizational Creative Thinking
In order to have sustainable, ongoing change, the work must be done with full ownership and accountability of those producing the results. The typical scenario, however, is that employees are given direction and complete work as they are told to do so by those in authority. A dependence on authority to create new ideas gets perpetuated. Perhaps those in corporate...
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Zoglio, Suzanne Willis Ph.D. "Teams Ride the Waves of Change." Quality Digest, February 1998.
Zuidema, Kevin R. and Kleiner, Brian H. "Self-Directed Work Groups Gain Popularity." Business Credit, October 1994.
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