Relationship Between Crisis and Change

A crisis can precede change and can also act as a motivation for a change process to take place. It can concurrently take place alongside a given change effort. As a result, it may potentially derail or shift an organization in a different direction. When an ineffective change is carried out, it may lead to a crisis. Besides, when a change effort fails to work, it can occasion the closure of an organization. It has come a time when contemporary organizational leaders are supposed to be willing and able to handle situations that arise randomly. In other words, uncertainty is a major cause of concern for business entities.

This explains why business organizations are usually insured. In any case, uncertainty is becoming normative. Cycles of existence usually experience natural occurrences and unplanned events bearing in mind that they are largely considered to be normal. This implies that human experience in life cannot elude the reality posed by contingencies. Hence, all the anticipations and planning are part and parcel of the human effort to minimize the negative impacts of crises. Besides, a crisis can hardly be managed if change management is not brought into play.

The success stories on how organizations manage crises can indeed be invigorating. In most instances, it appears that change in organizations is significantly motivated in the presence of a crisis. However, why should a crisis motivate change whereas it is largely perceived as a negative aspect? Changes that are implemented in organizations during a crisis might have a number of both desired and undesired implications. It is usually necessary to consider both the short and long-term effects of changes that are executed during crises.

Strategic perspective might be easily lost during a crisis compared to when a change process is implemented in the absence of a difficult moment. An organization might go through a difficult time and eventually be overwhelmed by a crisis especially if necessary changes are not implemented (Pauchant & Mitroff, 1988). Whereas the latter assumption is true to some extent, there are myriads of instances when crises points yield the best results. Perhaps, it is necessary to critically explore the relationship between crisis and change from a broad and objective point of view.

To begin with, organizational dysfunction can be exacerbated by a crisis. The same crisis might work against the unity of employees (both the top management and subordinates). An organization can also be disintegrated from the immediate community due to a crisis. Nonetheless, it is interesting to mention that a crisis can be used to inject positive changes into an organization that is not working well. In other terms, significant organizational changes can be implemented when a crisis is used as a fulcrum point or launch pad for the same changes. A set of circumstances in organizations that appear to be intractable can be managed well during a crisis phase (Tsoukas & Chia, 2002).

Although crises might cripple organizations or lead to their eventual closures, there are a number of case scenarios that are completely different. It is not correct to assert that all forms of crises can claim the lifeline of a business entity. Needles to say, there are innumerable organizations that have come out stronger or successful after going through a gross crisis period. To a large extent, it all depends on how a given crisis is managed using appropriate changes. Management teams are supposed to examine and identify the cause of the crisis faced by their organizations. Thereafter, the identified hurdles should be addressed accordingly through a viable change process. It is necessary for organizational managers to tackle the identified problems straight away. Any delay might occasion yet another vicious cycle of a crisis (Wilkinson & Mellahi, 2005).

Organizations that often come out successful after crises are often well endowed with skills and competencies to manage tricky situations. For example, a financial crisis that hampers the growth of a company can be addressed by seeking alternative ways of generating revenues in order to boost profitability. The latter line of action purely entails change management.

There are organizations that may be described as well-functioning and extremely successful. However, it does not imply that such organizations are void of crises at any given time in the course of operations.

Change management in successful organizations is an ongoing process or part and parcel of business operations (Wilkinson & Mellahi, 2005). When change is managed effectively throughout the lifetime of an organization, a notable and destructive crisis point can hardly be reached. Organizational leaders ought to agree on a common strategic framework that can viably tackle an impending crisis. This calls for teamwork. Crisis management in the corporate sector cannot be done by a single individual. Unless a collective effort is put in place, even minor crises can overwhelm an organization and its employees.

Sustainable change is a broad concept that may either trigger or prevent a crisis from taking place. Any change process should focus on the well-being of both employees and an organization at large. As much as profit maximization is the main goal of any business entity, the desire should be limited at some point since it can create a crisis. For instance, if an organization opts to reduce the wages and salaries of employees in order to optimize its revenue base, it may lead to a crisis especially if the same employees decide to take industrial action or abandon their jobs altogether (Kilduff & Dougherty, 2000). In either case, such an organization is bound to damage its reputation and long-term growth. Therefore, a delicate balance exists between a crisis and change.

From the above discussion, it is vivid that whenever there is a crisis, specific changes must be put in place in order to rectify the prevailing situation. One of the most outstanding differences between a crisis and a change is that the former often materialize unexpectedly while the latter is gradually planned before being executed. In addition, a crisis calls for an urgent decision owing to a lack of adequate time factor. It might also be cumbersome to manage communication effectively during a crisis. As a result, a business entity or an organization might easily lose its reputation. The worst scenario that can happen during a crisis is a blame game on who has caused the situation (Armenakis & Bedeian, 1999). Emotions might also run very high during leading to poor management of the issue at hand.

In a nutshell, planning for a crisis should be tantamount to an ongoing change management process in an organization. The risks should be assessed properly even before they take place. Thereafter, the roles and responsibilities of each employee should be defined prior to incepting desired changes.

Additional changes that should be executed before a crisis occurs include developing an organizational chart, creating a communication plan, and appointing a special team that can manage the entire crisis (Turner, 1976). From these deliberations, a crisis can occur before or after a change s has been implemented.


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Pauchant, T.C. & Mitroff, I.I. (1988). Crisis prone versus crisis avoiding organizations: Is your company’s culture its own worst enemy in creating crisis? Organization & Environment, 2 (1), 53–63.

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