Alpha Plantation is an oil palm growing and processing company situated in Malaysia. The company is owned by a British international company with an aim of producing and serving its detergent companies with unrefined palm oil. Since its establishment, the company has been managed by staffs from Britain. Since its establishment, the company has embraced a culture where staffs depend on their superiors for all decisions.
However, in 1999, the company experience tremendous loss compelling the headquarter to implement changes within the company to see if they will help it regain its profitability. These changes comprised introduction of new technology, employee empowerment and establishment of self managed operation groups and restructuring of operations. Failure by the management to consider some of the factors such as the culture and practices within the company and the country led to staffs resisting these changes. The changes resulted to Mr. Ang one of the senior supervisor and very experienced staff losing his powers.
He eventually objected the changes. Staffs were used to depending on their staffs thus were not readily willing to be empowered. The management did not take the initiative of training staffs and helping them change their negative perceptions towards the changes. This eventually led to the changes not meeting their intended objectives.
Alpha Plantation is an oil palm growing and processing company situated in Malaysia. The company is owned by a British international company with an aim of producing and serving its detergent companies with unrefined palm oil. Since its establishment, the company has been managed by staffs from Britain. Most of those who have been in control of the company were once military officials. Mr. Ang is one of the staffs within the company who have seen him promoted from a mere laborer to a senior non-managerial staff. Above him is the manager to the office and he has two junior supervisors to help him in management of the organization.
Most of the operations within the company are managed by Mr. Ang with the manager not being involved in daily operations of the company. Ang organizes the daily activities within the organization with the help of the two junior supervisors and also addresses minor issues affecting the organization such as employee performance management and punishing those found to show insubordination
Before a staff sees the manager, he or she has to go through Ang. Once the problem appears to be more complicated, then the staff is referred to the manager for assistance. This has led to Ang effectively being able to consolidate operations within the organization with every staff being submissive to his orders. In 1999, prices for palm oil around the world went down leading to Alpha mill recording a high magnitude of loss. This has not been ever witnessed within the company. Captain Chubb was the incumbent manager at the time. He could not tell the reason why the company recorded losses yet it was operating normally. This led to the shareholders opting for a new manager.
Diagnosis of the major problem
It is from this move that the problems within the company intensified. Mr. Ian Davison was elected the new manager to the company. He had previously worked with a detergent company in Egypt and managed to improve its performance and raise its profitability. This made the shareholders believe that he was the right manager for the company (Abdullah 1996, p. 65).
In his move to improve the company, Davison came up with numerous changes within the company which included introduction of new technology, change of culture where staffs were allowed to directly present their problems to the manager without going through the senior supervisor, reduction of number of staffs as well as empowering staffs to make decisions affecting their areas of operations within the company. This has led to a lot of resistance within the company as most of the staffs have not been able to adapt to the new changes implemented by Davison.
Cultural practices vary from one country to another. It calls for managers to ensure that they have clear knowledge of a cultural practice in specific country before making changes to an organization. It is a cultural norm among the people in Malaysia to depend on their superiors for directions. Staffs are found to be cooperative and embrace culture of teamwork when they receive directions from their superiors. Most of the staffs in the country are also in need of power for them to work effectively (Adler 1986, p. 143).
These cultural practices have been the main reason why Alpha mill has not been able to improve despite the new manager coming up with viable changes. The staffs for many years were not used to making independent decisions on matters affecting their operations. This has been the reason why they have ended going back to Mr. Ang for instructions on what to do. Empowering them has resulted to the culture of teamwork within the organization going down.
Because of being used to instructions from their superiors, staffs have not been able to organize them selves in the company affecting operations. Employees in Malaysia are entrenched to the culture of depending on their superiors to an extent that it is hard for them to embrace self management (Beer & Nohria 2000, pp. 133-14). This was reflected by their tendency to enquire for advice from Mr. Ang whenever faced with a problem no matter how minor it was.
In his capacity as a senior supervisor, Ang has been used to giving instructions and advice to his subordinates. In this capacity, he used to record a high level of appraisal and improved the company’s performance. Giving the staffs an opportunity to present their problems direct to the manager has led to Mr. Ang feeling a sense of demeanor. This has resulted to him not willing to participate in helping staffs solve problems affecting their areas of operations despite him assuring the manager that he fully support his initiative. There have been instances where Mr. Ang when consulted for advice would request the staffs to form groups and brainstorm on the way forward (De Geus 1997, p. 45).
He has decided to take a silent resentment by objecting to participate in matters affecting the organization due to his perception that the new changes have confiscated most of his powers. His continued insubordination led to him being sacked with the hope that staffs will be able to adapt to the new changes now that Mr. Ang was gone who have been perceived to be the main obstacle to changes. However, things did not workout as per Davison’s expectation. Operations within the organization deteriorated with time despite Ang leaving the company.
Introduction of new technology within an organization requires an organization to conduct employee training (Dumaine, 1994, pp. 86-92). This is to equip them with the necessary skills required in utilizing the technology. In his introduction of new technology in Alpha Mill, division ended up reducing the number of workers in the company. He claimed that most of the staffs were not fully utilizing their capacity due to the organization being overstaffed. He aimed at unleashing the potential of the staffs by reducing the number of staffs within the company. It is this move that led to staffs not willingly accommodating the changes.
Most of the staffs started fearing losing their jobs due to lack of the necessary expertise. A sense of insecurity developed among the staffs as they were not assured of their future in the company. This led to their performance being poor. Their fear was reassured by the firing of their senior manger. On Mr. Ang leaving the company, staffs believed that they were in a transition within the company and just as Ang; they could be fired any time. This led to the performance within the organization deteriorating even after Mr. Ang; who was considered to be the main reason for poor performance leaving the company.
Theories on change implementation in companies
Despite changes being inevitable in organizations to enhance their performance and profitability, it has been identified that most of the changes introduced in organizations do not realize their intended purpose. According to Kotter (1996, p. 123), these changes fail to meet their goals due to them being resisted by staffs. Employee resistance may take different forms where some may directly show their resistances to changes while others may decide to embark on go slow in the implementation of the changes. It may be possible for organization’s management to address resistance to changes if staffs directly express their opposition to changes.
However, if the resistance is silent, it may cost the organization as it may be difficult for the management to identify and deal with it on time (Ford & Ford 1995, pp. 541-570). Staffs may decide to respond slowly to activities within the organization affecting its efficiency. Just like the case of Alpha Mill, staffs may pledge their support to the introduced changes only for the management to realize later that they were actually opposed to the changes. This may be late after the organization has already suffered a lot of loss.
Overcoming resistance to changes
Moran and Brightman (2000, pp. 66-74), posits that changes introduced with an organization affects three areas that are vital to employee conduct. Theses are mastery, purpose and identity. On instances where changes are found to compromise the purpose of the staffs within the organization, they will definitely oppose the changes. If staffs realize that the changes reinforce their purpose within the organization, they will be willing to embrace and participate in their implementation (Fritz 1999, p. 432). Introduction of new technology in Alpha Mill resulted to the company cutting down on the number of staffs.
This compromised the purpose of the staffs within the company. They developed a sense of insecurity in the company as they were not sure whether they will also be fired in the next move. With the company taking no initiative to train them on how to use the technology as well as not assuring them of their job security, they were not willing to freely embrace the changes. Their motivation to activities within the organization went low resulting to the company performing poorly.
Employee empowerment within an organization is aimed at enhancing organization’s efficiency. This sees managers changing their roles and acting as advisers or facilitators in activities within the organization (Hofstede 1991, p. 98). It gives employees the power to solve minor problems affecting their operations. It not well introduced, employee empowerment may be faced with strong opposition from managers.
This is because they would fear that their identity within the organization will be lost. Rather than being taken as superiors by employees, they would be seen as coaches aimed at helping them effectively carryout their activities. Some of their powers are conferred to employees (Jaeger & Kanaungo 1990, pp. 32-53). It becomes hard for managers to freely assume their new responsibilities as they feel to have been demoted while staffs are promoted.
Introduction of employee empowerment in the company compromised Mr. Ang’s identity. Staffs had been used to recognizing him as their superior. Allowing staffs to freely manage themselves as well as forward their complaints direct to the manager without going through Ang as it was the culture led to him fearing that staffs will stop considering him as their superior. This led to him resisting the changes and declining to participate in responsibilities assigned to him. Introduction of technology in the company compromised their mastery of processes within the company. This is because the new technology altered some of the processes they were used to. Staffs feared that they may be fired due to lack of the necessary expertise. This demotivated them making it difficult for them to continue with their activities as there before.
Overcoming cultural barriers when implementing changes in an organization
Different countries have varied cultural practices within their organizations. It is imperative to have a clear understanding of these cultures so as to come up with mechanisms of addressing them when making changes in an organization (Dent & Goldberg 2000, pp. 25-41). For instance, in Asia, employees are used to depending on their supervisors. They are not used to the culture of employee empowerment and self management. Empowering such staffs may led to them not being able to make informed decisions affecting their operations as they are used to getting advice from their superiors.
According to Saaty and Vargas (1987, pp. 108-118), Kurt came up with a feasible model that can be used when implementing changes within an organization. The model posits that for changes to be readily accepted within an organization, they have to ensure that they have addressed three key issues. First, the management team has to ensure that it has completely gotten rid of the old cultural practices and beliefs. These are such as those where staffs have to depend on their superiors to make decisions affecting their operations. The management has to make sure that staffs have learnt on how to depend on themselves and done away with the trend of depending on supervisors (Salas, Edens & Nowers 2000, pp. 61-72).
Once the organization has managed to get rid of the past culture, the next initiative is to embark on facilitating their staffs change their initial ideologies and beliefs. Some staffs may perceive the intended changes as threatening their future in the company (Piderit 2000, pp. 783-794). This is du to the required skills or experience. It is the role of the management to make sure that they have helped staffs do away with these perceptions. The management needs to help staffs draw a framework on how they will be making decisions within their areas of specialization as well as the order in which communication will be carried within the organization (Robbins 1998, p. 287).
Finally, after effectively getting rid of the past ideologies, facilitating in perception change and implementing the new changes in the organization, the management team need to ensure that they consistently monitor the changes to identify the barriers challenging their implementation. Basically, it becomes hard for staffs to immediately abandon their tradition culture and adapt new practices (Sinha 1980, p. 12). As a result, the management needs to establish mechanisms help in encouraging staffs to adapt to the introduced changes. This is to help in the change being entrenched in their mind thus leaving their past practices.
Management implication to the problem facing Alpha Mill
The changes being implemented in the company were viable and could have helped the company improve its profitability. However, the management made little preparation before implementing the changes. The management lacked to emphasize on the need to ensure that they have followed the necessary stages in their change implementation. They did not consider the past behavior and perception of the employees. This resulted to them introducing changes without ensuring that employees have left their traditional way of doing and seeing things in the organization. It is this reason that staffs opposed the changes.
Mr. Ang had for many years considered himself as a most significant figure in the company. This is because he had the experience and knowledge in most of the matters affecting the company. Encouraging employee empowerment meant his powers within the organization as well as his identity would be compromised. The management did not take the responsibility of helping Ang do away with such mentality. This resulted to him being opposed to the changes as he feared his power would not be felt in the company.
For many years, the Mill had embraced a culture that ensured that staffs observed obedience and recognized their superiors. They depended on their supervisors for all matters in the company. This was in harmony with work principles for people of Malaysia.
This made it hard to encourage employees become self managed. It required the management to put a lot of effort in realizing this change. A lot of time could be required before staffs freely accept to take matters into their hands and make independent decisions regarding their operations. However, the management did not consider this. The new manager knew little about the country’s culture and made assumptions that staffs would freely agree to be self dependent. Eventually, the self managed groups established in the company ended up not being productive. The management did not train staffs on how to depend on themselves which led to them going back to their old way of doing things.
Introduction of new technology in the company and subsequent reduction of manpower led to staffs fearing of their job security. The management did not train its staffs on how to implement the new technology. Davison argued that staffs had to be allowed to make mistakes and learn from them. This resulted to their motivation going down (Watson 1971, pp. 745-766). Confrontation between Davison and Mr. Ang in front of other staffs and subsequently dismissal of Mr. Ang led to staffs not being cooperative. It would have been advisable for division to call Ang to his office and solve the matters from there rather than showing the entire company that there were problems within its management system.
To effectively address the problems facing Alpha Mill, the management deserved to come up with a strategy to implement the changes. They ought to have considered the cultural practices of the employees within the organization as well as the country (Sinha 1990, pp. 167-175). This would have helped them look for ways to ensure that they overcome the tendency of staffs depending on their superiors before embarking on employee empowerment.
The management deserved to have organized for training to educate the staffs on how to be self dependent. Staffs could be in a position to make decisions thus not going to their traditional system of operations when faced with challenges (Stanley, Meyer & Topolnytsky 2005, pp. 429-459). Ensuring that they have helped staffs get rid of their traditional beliefs, facilitated in perception changes and reinforced the new introduced changes would have limited employee resistance.
The introduced changes meant that supervisors in the company would lose their powers. This resulted to Ang having no confidence in the changes thus opposing them. The changes would have been successful had the manager ensured that he has won confidence from Mr. Ang. He ought to have incorporated Ang in the team responsible for guiding introduction of changes within the organization. This would have given him the responsibility of ensuring that changes are realized thus not objecting to the changes.
Changes within the organization are subject to staff resistance. This is especially if they are perceived by employees to threaten their job security or compromise their purpose and identity within the organization. For instance, introduction of new technology in Alpha Mill led to some of the staffs being sacked. This send a signal to other staffs that the new technology did not require to have a lot of staffs thus making them perceive that their value to the company was limited. This made them object the changes. The changes affected the consistency of operations within the company. Staffs were used to depending on their superiors for all decisions.
Empowering them led to most of them not being able to cope with the changes hence opting for their old way of doing things. The management deserves to put numerous considerations into place before introducing changes within the organization. These include training staffs on new changes and how to cope with them as well as helping them adapt to new culture and abandon their traditional culture.
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