Organizational Development and Change in Multinationals

Introduction

The current report provides a review of a recent organizational development and change practice carried out in a multinational company. The initial purpose of this research is to examine the change implementation and the challenges that accompanied it. The report likewise attempts to provide some valuable recommendations for organizations that strive to perform successful organizational development and change.

The examined organizational development and change practice has been implemented in a UAE-based company that operates in the finance sector. The company has 800 offices throughout the world with a total workforce of more than 9,000 employees.

The examined organizational change is a customer service training implemented as a part of the company’s development strategy. As such, the studied organization has made an attempt to raise the service quality through introducing such elements of continual improvement as customer-focused training. Despite the fact that the implementation outcomes are evaluated as generally positive, it is evident that the change flow was inconsistent and impeded by a series of challenges.

It is assumed that the discussed implementation was impeded by the poor communication strategy that did not ensure a common vision of the finite goal and by the lack of the consistent evaluation criteria. As a result, employee resistance was not properly managed, and the change outcomes were not assessed accurately.

Theoretical Framework

To date, there is a large scope of scientific literature devoted to organizational change and the drivers of its success. Most experts agree on the point that such factors as shared vision, effective leadership, communication, and accurate outcome evaluation are critical for a successful organizational change (Cummings & Worley, 2014).

As such, it seems to be imperative that all the change makers have a common understanding of the planned process as well as of the outcomes they expect to receive. Otherwise, there is a risk that employees will act independently of their managers, assuming they strive to reach a common goal while, in fact, they will be doing the contrary. From this perspective, De Van and Sun (2011) note that the lack of a shared vision is one of the key causes of the breakdowns that appear in the course of organizational development and change.

Another important aspect that is commonly discussed is employee resistance that features one of the key barriers to a successful change implementation. Choi (2011) believes that the effectiveness of any change initiative depends, first and foremost, on employees’ support and their inclusion in the change process. As such, employees’ support is associated with a wide range of positive change triggers, such as motivation, commitment, and openness, whereas their resistance, on the contrary, implies cynicism, passiveness, and a lack of effort. For this reason, Carter, Ulrich, and Goldsmith (2012) point out that an effective manager should essentially address the problem of employees’ resistance beforehand. Otherwise, the change progress will be impeded significantly.

According to Carter, Armenakis, Field, and Mossholder (2013), the problems described above can be resolved with the help of effective leadership. Thus, a leader plays a critical role in organizational development and change as the person responsible for its flow from the beginning to the end.

Methodology

Participants

While selecting participants for the research, two inclusion criteria were considered. First, the participants were supposed to participate in the examined organizational development and change practice. As such, those employees that were not directly involved in customer service training or its management were not invited for the interview. Second, it was considered important that the sample was comprised of people from different positions. Stated another way, it was critical to collect the feedback both from those who organized the change (i.e., training managers and team-building leaders) and those who were personally affected by it (i.e., client relations specialists).

On the whole, the research sample was comprised of eight participants. It was initially expected that it would be comprised of 20-30 people to ensure a higher data accuracy; however, only eight people provided their consent to be interviewed. Most importantly, the sample was comprised of two training managers, two team-building managers, and four client relations specialists. Consequently, the interviews for training and team building had a slightly different design than those for client relations specialists.

It is also essential to note that the research sample had a proper gender balance: There were five males and three females aged 25-38. The respondents’ age was not set as the inclusion or exclusion criteria since it was not the pivot point of this study. Meanwhile, it might be proposed that the study is further extended to analyze how the age of the participants influenced their resistance to the organizational development and change. From the standpoint of experience, seven participants have worked for the company for two-five years, and one participant has had a ten-year experience.

Procedure

First and foremost, two scripts were developed for different positions. Second, a standard consent form was designed that defined the main details of the interview procedure, including the confidential terms. Third, an invitation letter was sent to 30 employees in the selected organization. This letter offered them an opportunity to participate in an anonymous study by giving an interview either in person or via Skype. Seventeen employees responded to this letter (eight positively, nine negatively).

Those eight employees that responded positively were asked to sign a consent form. The potential participants were also asked to complete a brief questionnaire that contained questions regarding their age, work experience, etc. Since all the participants chose the Skype option, they only had to indicate the appropriate time in the letters with the attached consent form and the completed questionnaire. The interview would take seven–fifteen minutes depending on how detailed the answers were. When the interview was finished, a thank you note was sent to the respondent via e-mail. All the answers were transcripted and reorganized in a convenient manner for further analysis (see App.).

Data Analysis Strategy

The collected data was analyzed with the use of the grounded theory method. The analysis scenario was adopted from the study described by DeCuir-Gunby, Marshall, and McCulloch (2011). As such, the transcript text was first examined to define the most critical topics. These topics were coded, and the linkages between the categories were further examined to understand the studied subject.

The main categories that were distinguished in the course of the analysis were “evaluation criteria,” “employee resistance,” “the vision of change,” and “change value.” Further on, it was examined how each category is related to the organizational development and change, determining either its success or value. The relevant insights will be further described in the discussion section.

Results

The research results will be discussed in two stages. First, it is proposed to review the results of the interview provided by the managers. The analysis of the data collected has revealed that three managers out of four had a shared vision of the change implementation. Most managers reported that their preparation activity was limited to discussing the change among managers and employees. Two managers pointed out poor motivation as the main barrier to change.

In this frame, one manager pointed out the lack of consistent evaluation criteria, and the other believed there were no challenges that would impede the implementation process. According to the respondents, resistance was mainly addressed through communication.

The major criterion for evaluating change was customer feedback. One manager could not define the criterion, while the other referred to employee feedback. All the respondents evaluated the change positively, although they admitted that some aspects could have been improved, such as the evaluation system and employee inclusion. Among valuable recommendations for successful organizational development and change, the managers pointed out a shared vision, commitment, leadership, and effective communication strategies.

The table below provides a brief summary of the interview results.

Category R1 R2 R3 R4
OD purpose improve service quality improve service quality facilitate employees’ work improve customer experience
Preparation communication program design communication communication
Barriers poor motivation lack of evaluation criteria poor motivation no
Employee resistance low low low low
Measures taken to address the resistance communication communication communication no
Evaluation criteria failed to define customers’ feedback teams’ feedback service quality assessed through monitoring
Personal evaluation of the implemented change positive positive positive positive
Identified weaknesses time management no poor motivation evaluation criteria
Recommendat-ions for successful OD shared vision organizational commitment effective communication effective leadership

Table 1 “Interview Summary 1”.

Second, it is proposed to review the results retrieved from the interview with the client relations specialists. The interview showed that the respondents did not have a shared vision of the change. Most importantly, the majority of the respondents would experience resistance to it at the early stages.

The respondents thought the evaluation was performed through testing, and their own evaluation of the change was mixed. Some of them found it useful, while others did not think they could apply the received knowledge to work. On the whole, they believed it to be a valuable experience that helped the company to improve its image and strengthen its competitive advantage.

The table below provides a brief summary of the interview results.

Category R1 R2 R3 R4
OD purpose improve service quality formal obligation eliminate existing flaws formal obligation
Resistance high high low high
Progress evaluation tests and interviews tests no answer tests and surveys
Practical change insignificant yes yes no
Personal evaluation of the implemented change positive positive positive positive
Expected benefits for the company positive image competitive advantage positive image positive image

Table 2 “Interview Summary 2”.

Discussion

There is a series of insights that needs to be discussed in this section. First, the interview analysis has revealed that managers and employees have a different vision of the process of organizational development, its aims, and its targets. It might be explained by the fact that the managers use ineffective communication practices when trying to translate the purpose of the change to their subordinates.

Second, since there is no unity between the managers and the employees, the former tend to assess the response of the latter inadequately. As such, all the managers believed there was no resistance to change, while almost all the employees admitted that their resistance was initially high. The managerial inability to identify this problem led to the fact that employees did not participate in the change intensively, and some of them are now poorly aware of how to apply the acquired knowledge to work.

Third, both managers and employees evaluate the change positively even though they experience difficulty when defining the evaluation criteria. More than that, many of them point out the fact that there was no consistent criterion developed. It might signify a negative tendency. Otherwise stated, it seems that the company employees are used to giving a positive assessment to any change implemented without analyzing its practical value.

Recommendations

First, the analysis of the interview answers has revealed that responsible managers do not have a shared vision of the main purpose of the organizational development and change. As such, some of them seem to prioritize customer experience, while others believe that it is aimed at allowing employees to acquire a better idea of what they are expected to do. The lack of unity in envisioning the finite target is a critical problem since these managers translate different aims to their subordinates.

In order to eliminate this problem, it is proposed that managers, first and foremost, agree upon the desired outcomes and define the finite goal as precisely as possible. Consistent targeting will further help them to develop effective evaluation tools for progress measuring.

Second, organizational development and change imply continual improvements. Therefore, it is necessary to have clear criteria to measure these improvements. The interview has revealed that the team did not develop a consistent criteria set. The lack of a reliable evaluation system made it problematic to monitor the change progress. As has been already mentioned, this problem could have been eliminated if the team had a common vision of the target.

Third, employee responses show that the resistance to change was fairly high. However, it appears that the managers do not have a clear understanding of the employee resistance phenomenon. As such, some respondents would say that the employee inclusion and motivation were low. Meanwhile, they would claim there was no resistance to change. As a result, it is clear why the problem of employee resistance was not properly addressed. To avoid similar problems, it is essential to have a clear idea of the employee resistance concept and the associated aspects. The profound understanding of this phenomenon will help to develop effective communication strategies aimed at eliminating employees’ fears and encouraging their active inclusion in the process.

Conclusion

The present study aimed to examine a particular example of organizational change practice in order to evaluate its success and define the main pitfalls. The study had a qualitative design. The main data collection tool was an interview performed via Skype. The respondents’ answers were transcribed and further analyzed with the help of the grounded theory method.

The research results have revealed that there were some flaws in the change implementation that impeded its progress. First, the managers did not communicate the value of the change to the employees. As a result, the latter did not have a clear idea of the expected outcomes. Second, the managers failed to develop a concise evaluation strategy that would allow for assessing the change outcomes accurately.

It is assumed that this flaw was determined by the fact that the manager did not agree on a common target of the implemented change. It is suggested that the problems described above are associated with ineffective leadership strategies. Therefore, it might be recommended that companies, first and foremost, strengthen their leadership systems to ensure successful organizational development.

Bibliography

Carter, L., Ulrich, D., & Goldsmith, M. (2012). Best practices in leadership development and organization change: How the best companies ensure meaningful change and sustainable leadership. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.

Carter, M. Z., Armenakis, A. A., Field, H. S., & Mossholder, K. W. (2013). Transformational leadership, relationship quality, and employee performance during continuous incremental organizational change. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 34(7), 942-958.

Choi, M. (2011). Employees’ attitudes toward organizational change: A literature review. Human Resource Management, 50(4), 479-500.

Cummings, T. G., & Worley, C. G. (2014). Organization development and change. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.

DeCuir-Gunby, J. T., Marshall, P. L., & McCulloch, A. W. (2011). Developing and using a codebook for the analysis of interview data: An example from a professional development research project. Field Methods, 23(2), 136-155.

De Van, V. A. H., & Sun, K. (2011). Breakdowns in implementing models of organization change. Academy of Management Perspectives, 25(3), 58-74.