Kitchenware Company Managing and Leading Change

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Introduction

In the continuously changing business environment, companies have to constantly adapt to emerging trends and resolve arising issues to survive and remain competitive. All the modifications of organizational processes directed toward the adaptation to new circumstances are known as change management (Shaikh, 2020). Change management is not a one-time intervention; instead, it is an unceasing process resulting from the company’s ongoing monitoring of the business environment (Shaikh, 2020). However, managing change is a challenging task, particularly because it relies on the support of employees, each of whom has their own ideas and interests. Many firms fail to deal with this process appropriately; as a result, only 10% of the businesses survive 80 years after the establishment (Kunert and Staar, 2018).

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Therefore, for change management to be effective, an organization should devise and implement a plan that will align the top management aspirations with different stakeholders’ interests, address the company’s goals, and create appropriate organizational culture. This paper aims to explore how organizations approach change management, taking the Kitchenware Company as an example. It will discuss the firm’s approach to change and its strengths and weaknesses and provide practical recommendations.

The Organization’s Approach to Change and Its Relation to Change Models

The process of managing change consists of several consecutive steps that have been reflected in various change management models. The general change management process comprises the following phases: identifying the need for change, determining the details, developing the approach, implementing, and monitoring (Galli, 2018). Various change models focus on different aspects of organizational change and, thus, add details to the general process.

For example, Lewin’s model focuses on overcoming resistance within the organization and posits that there are three stages of change management: unfreezing, change process, and refreezing (Galli, 2019; Hussain et al., 2018). Kotter’s model expands Lewin’s theory and comprises eight steps of change management, focusing on the shared organizational vision and the role of leadership in change management (Galli, 2018). Further, the Kitchenware Company’s approach to change will be compared with the main principles of the mentioned models.

The Kitchenware company’s change management process started with realizing the problems that hindered the business’s performance and growth. The company’s new owners, Nick and Dennis, found that the organization had a slow-moving inventory, poor-quality products, a focus on wholesale outlets instead of major retailers, and an incompetent managing director. Furthermore, the company lost four main clients within the first year of operation, and the customers were extremely unsatisfied with fulfillment. According to Lewin’s model, understanding the need for change is necessary for the change to occur; otherwise, any subsequent stages of change models are not applicable (Galli, 2018). Thus, the Kitchenware Company had a prerequisite for initiating the change management process.

The first step that Nick and Dennis took to begin the organizational change was developing several strategies for improving marketing, increasing sales, and attracting new customers. They created the company’s vision and served as the role models, encouraging other staff members to adopt the change. During this stage, the company faced employee resistance: the sales personnel was suspicious about implementing new selling practices, and the employees in the headquarters were indifferent to warehouse workers. The company coped with resistance by issuing updated sales aids and relocating the headquarters to the warehouse, thus dismissing many employees disapproving of the change.

These actions correspond to the unfreezing stage of Lewin’s model and the first steps of Kotter’s model. During Lewin’s unfreezing phase, organizations identify the driving and resisting forces and develop strategies for addressing resistance (Galli, 2019).

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The first steps of Kotter’s model are creating a sense of urgency, forming a core coalition, and developing a vision (Galli, 2018). The Kitchenware Company developed urgency by moving the headquarters, thus signaling that important changes were about to happen. As for the core coalition, the main change agents in the company were Nick and Dennis, who served as the role models for other staff members. The development of the vision was also present in the company’s change management process, and Nick and Dennis encouraged employees to act upon this vision.

The company’s actions led to employees’ engagement and commitment to change and greater customer satisfaction. However, due to the firm’s focus on meeting clients’ needs, it failed to predict its warehouse capacity. This problem was solved by forcing the sales personnel to pick orders and hiring a stock manager from outside. Employees’ readiness to act according to the new company’s vision corresponds to the second phase of Lewin’s model – change process or transition. During this stage, workers participate in change when they understand its benefits for themselves (Tang, 2019).

In the Kitchenware Company, employees realized that they could create value for the organization and demonstrate their capabilities, which was why they were interested in implementing change. According to Kotter’s model, an increase in the number of orders corresponds to the stage of generating short-term wins, which proves to stakeholders that the change is beneficial (Rajan and Ganesan, 2017). The company’s adaptation to an increased number of orders aligns with the seventh stage of Kotter’s model since it shows that change proceeds after gains are obtained.

Finally, the Kitchenware Company embedded change into its organizational culture, which is reflected in both Lewin’s and Kotter’s models. The refreezing stage of Lewin’s model suggests that organizations should take measures to prevent backsliding by establishing appropriate policies and providing the necessary resources for maintaining change (Hussain et al., 2018). Likewise, the last stage in Kotter’s model is embedding new practices in organizational culture (Rajan and Ganesan, 2017). The Kitchenware Company anchored the change by involving employees in developing sales plans, enabling them to contact managers at any time, and informing them early of any policy changes and organizational issues. As a result, corporate culture was established, in which employees felt valued and prioritized the company’s interests over their own ones.

Strengths and Weaknesses of the Company

Strengths

The first strength of the Kitchenware Company is its ability to overcome resistance and, thus, create change readiness. People resist change for three main reasons: they may have previous negative experiences related to change; the change in the status quo evokes the feeling of loss; the organizational change creates uncertainty (Ash, 2017). Managers should address employees’ perceived threats and fears related to change by involving employees in the organization management as change agents and providing them with the necessary support and transparency (Bennett and Soylu, 2021; Fusch, 2020).

Palmer, Dunford, and Buchanan (2017) argue that, in order to overcome resistance, managers should listen to employees’ voices, encourage the dialogue between the management and the staff, and clarify the purpose of the change. The Kitchenware Company managed to cope with the resistance of the sales force and warehouse workers by applying the mentioned principles. Nick supported the sales personnel by providing them with quality marketing materials and serving as the role model demonstrating a new, customer-oriented approach. Further, by relocating the headquarters, the company dismissed unsatisfied workers and facilitated the establishment of new organizational culture.

Another strength is the ability to manage emergent change and respond to arising issues and opportunities. Researchers argue that practitioners should shift their focus from planned to emergent change because, even if the change is operational, it constantly needs improvements to remain relevant in the dynamic business environment (Burnes, 2017; Dumas and Beinecke, 2018). In the Kitchenware Company, the only planned thing was the organizational vision. Being new to the business, Nick and Dennis could not know what exactly they had to plan. Therefore, they monitored the environment and communicated with their customers to find the direction for their organizational change. Listening to the customers’ needs helped them identify the current issues in the company’s operations and develop solutions to the discovered problems.

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The third strength is the company’s responsiveness to customers’ needs and communication with stakeholders. The Kitchenware Company applied a dialogue strategy for communicating with its stakeholders – customers, suppliers, and employees. According to Rankala (2018), this is the most balanced approach because it is carried out both ways, from the firm to stakeholders and vice versa. The Kitchenware Company not only informed employees, suppliers, and customers of the changes made at the management level but also received feedback from them. For example, employees were allowed to talk to managers at any time. As for the suppliers and customers, the company listened to their needs and adjusted its product lines and processes to meet their expectations.

The fourth advantage is the strong company’s leadership and leaders’ engagement in the change process. Leadership plays a crucial role in change management since leaders should provide followers with a clear vision, serve as role models, and give motivation and empowerment (Errida and Lotfi, 2021; Schell, 2019). A lack of commitment to change from the company’s management is one of the mistakes leading to a business failure (Kunert and Staar, 2018). In the Kitchenware Company, the change was successful partly because Nick and Dennis were enthusiastic about taking the company to the next level and acted as strong role models for their employees.

Finally, the company’s strength is the ability to create a positive customer-focused organizational culture. According to Lauer (2021), corporate culture is one of the three key points, along with the company structures and the affected individuals, which should be addressed in the change management process. Culture includes behavioral patterns, group norms, policies, values, cognitive biases, written and unwritten rules, the styles of decision-making, and competencies and skills that are appreciated (Gupta and Cannon, 2020).

The Kitchenware Company established a culture in which customers’ needs were seen as opportunities rather than problems. Employees were encouraged to share their views openly and participate in organizational planning, particularly in developing sales plans. Finally, the company’s staff accepted the absence of distinct borders between various positions because their ultimate goal was to satisfy customers’ needs rather than fulfill the responsibilities of a salesperson or an administrator.

Weaknesses

One weakness of the Kitchenware Company’s approach to change management is a high reliance on emergent change and insufficient planning. While the ability to respond to arising issues and opportunities is important for the business’s success, emergent change is not universal. It applies to contexts where small and medium-sized changes occur continuously through a bottom-up approach (Burnes, 2017). When there is a need to conduct a rapid change using a top-down approach, planned change is a preferred option (Burnes, 2017). The Kitchenware Company carried out a top-down change, but the only thing planned was the company’s vision.

The organization did not establish a stock management system in advance and did not prepare for an increase in the number of orders. As a result, the company had to address these issues in a hurry when its warehouse could not cope with the workload.

Another weakness is that the company’s management and personnel lack the skills and capabilities necessary for a large business expansion. When Nick and Dennis took over the control over the organization, it turned out that the managing director of the company was incompetent, and there was no accounts manager. The office staff in the headquarters was uncaring of the warehouse personnel; the sales force was selling only to wholesale outlets and using outdated techniques; warehouse workers were demotivated. Although the Kitchenware Company managed to resolve these issues over time, now it is faced with new problems related to its goal of business expansion. It will require a different set of skills, and the company’s management and staff will need formal training to succeed in attaining this aim.

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Need for Change

Currently, the Kitchenware Company needs change due to its intentions of business expansion, either through organic growth or through acquisitions. Scholars distinguish two types of drivers for change: internal and external (Asikhia et al., 2021). External pressures include economic conditions, government policies, changes in customers’ needs, competitors’ activities, and the emergence of new technologies (Palmer, Dunford and Buchanan, 2017). Internal triggers include low performance, inadequate skills, head office relocation, innovations in products or processes, and new ideas in delivering customer service (Palmer, Dunford and Buchanan, 2017). For the Kitchenware Company, the main external drivers of change are the declining UK market and difficulty differentiating from competitors. The internal trigger is the company’s goal of doubling its turnover and innovations in product lines. Thus, the organization needs to change to be able to enter new markets and expand its business.

The Company’s Change Readiness

Before initiating change, the organization has to ensure that it has created change readiness. When the organization is ready for a change, its employees have positive attitudes toward the planned modifications and clearly understand why change is necessary (Riddell and Røisland, 2017). The organization’s readiness is created by adequate communication about change, employees’ perceived participation in the process of change, and organizational support (Deng et al., 2021). Currently, due to its previous change efforts, the Kitchenware Company has prepared for future organizational modifications. The firm possesses such change-related corporate resources as an appropriate organizational culture, employees’ change involvement, enthusiasm, clear communication, and managers’ support and motivation (Albrecht et al., 2020). Yet, the company still needs to conduct ongoing change training and skill development.

Recommendations

Recommended Change Model

The change framework that may be suitable for the Kitchenware Company is Kotter’s change management model. It consists of eight steps designed to prepare the organization for the change, perform the transition to the desired state, and sustain the obtained benefits. The first stage is the creation of urgency, which is necessary to motivate people to change and eliminate the sources of complacency (Rajan and Ganesan, 2017). The second step is the establishment of a guiding coalition consisting of people possessing position power, expertise, leadership, and credibility (Rajan and Ganesan, 2017).

The next two phases are creating and communicating a vision in a manner understandable for all stakeholders. The fifth step is empowering employees to act upon the vision. The stage of generating short-term wins follows, during which employees and managers can notice the benefits of the change and gain motivation for further actions (Rajan and Ganesan, 2017). At the next step, improvements are consolidated, and more wins are produced. During the final stage, new practices are embedded into the corporate culture by establishing connections between the change and the company’s success.

Justification of the Proposed Model

Kotter’s change model is a suitable option for the Kitchenware Company because it provides a detailed framework for creating readiness, transforming the organization, and sustaining change. Furthermore, Galli (2019) argues that Kotter’s model focuses on implementing change from the senior leaders’ perspective. Since the Kitchenware Company prefers the top-down approach to change management, this model seems to fit the organizational context. In addition, research shows that Kotter’s model is considered appropriate for emergent organizational change (Schell, 2019). As mentioned earlier, conducting emergent change is one of the Kitchenware Company’s strengths, making this model the right choice for the firm.

Recommendations for Improvement

In alignment with Kotter’s change model and based on the action plan (see Appendix), the first recommendation for the Kitchenware Company is to update performance appraisals. According to Rajan and Ganesan (2017), wrong performance indexes and low performance standards are the sources of complacency, which should be eliminated to create a sense of urgency. Longenecker and Fink (2017) argue that, for performance appraisals to be effective, they should be continuously reviewed and corrected to remain suitable for organizational purposes. The company may raise its performance standards and develop performance appraisals accordingly, thus urging employees to support change that will help them meet new expectations.

The second recommendation is to create a guiding coalition to lead change. Scholars argue that the HR staff is well-positioned to serve as change agents because they are fit for a top-down change approach and can identify employees’ learning needs and organize the necessary formal training (Sivaraman, Saikia and Rana, 2019). Another role of HR in change management is to educate leaders about the most appropriate ways of communicating information about transformation to employees and address workers’ concerns about change (Andia, 2019). Hence, including the HR staff in a guiding coalition will help the company overcome resistance and facilitate the transition.

Further, the Kitchenware Company should develop a communication plan for educating stakeholders about the change. One key principle is to inform employees in the first place because, otherwise, they will feel undervalued and uninvolved (Toronto Police Service, 2017). In addition, Hassan (2018) argues that companies should practice over-communication using multiple channels, but the information should be delivered timely and consistently. Finally, any successes should be communicated immediately at the beginning of the change process and later (Lauer, 2021). This is because celebrating wins serves as an intangible reward and increases employee motivation and change readiness (Have et al., 2018). Thus, the company should communicate the information about change and successes at the right time, consistently, and via multiple channels.

Another recommendation is to conduct formal training for employees and managers. Several studies show that organizational learning is associated with increased corporate performance (Mustapa and Malak, 2019). It is suggested that the Kitchenware Company should train its employees in digital marketing and brand building. The rationale for this is that digital marketing in the kitchenware industry increases sales and brand awareness, and training in this field improves the organization’s marketing function (Kulova, 2021; Porwal and Borgaon, 2019). Regarding brand building, it brings the most benefit when it is combined with the strategic positioning of new products (Wang, 2019).

Additionally, managers should receive formal training to develop soft management skills necessary for aligning organizational change and culture (Kucharska, 2020). Training programs should be accessible, matching the identified learning needs, and delivered by competent business trainers (One Washington, 2018). The company should develop its human resources to create organizational capacity for intended business expansion.

Finally, to sustain change-related organizational culture, the company may consider adopting a values-based recruitment system. Change always leads to employee resistance, and some of them refuse to accept transformations and adapt to a new culture (Gladden, 2019). This leads to turnover, forcing the organization to find new staff members. Selecting the wrong candidates may reverse the change process if their values disagree with those of the organization (Palmer, Dunford and Buchanan, 2017). Therefore, it is essential for the HR department to change the selection procedure to prevent the return to the pre-change state.

Conclusion

For organizational change to be effective and long-lasting, companies should overcome employee resistance through extensive communication and embed new practices in the corporate culture. Conveying timely and consistent messages about change is crucial at all stages of managing transformation because it helps create a sense of urgency and motivates employees to engage in the change process. Finally, training and development are necessary to build organizational capacity and ensure that managers and employees are well-equipped to implement the planned modifications.

Reference List

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Appendix: Action Plan

Table 1. Action plan for the Kitchenware Company.

Stage of Change Management Actions Timeframe
Creating a sense of urgency Update performance appraisals January-February 2022
Hold meetings to provide background for change and reasons for urgency February-April 2022
Forming a guiding coalition Create a team of change agents March 2022
Creating a vision Update the company’s vision April 2022
Communicating the vision Conduct training sessions, send e-mail newsletters, hold meetings to communicate the vision to various stakeholders May-July 2022
Empowering employees to act upon the vision Provide appropriate training for employees and managers July-November 2022
Creating short-term wins Break up change initiatives into smaller manageable tasks 2022-2023
Send newsletters and notices, hold meetings to communicate successes 2022-2023
Reward leaders and employees for achieving success 2022-2023
Develop digital marketing strategy 2022
Develop new product lines 2022-2023
Consolidating improvements and producing more wins Maintain urgency levels by holding meetings and communicating about change 2023
Develop advanced metrics for measuring performance 2023
Anchoring new approaches in culture Adopt a values-based recruitment system 2024-2025
Measure progress and make the necessary modifications to the change plan 2023-2025

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