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Change is Changing
Human Resources » Change Management

Chrm Message From: dipankar Total Posts: 45 Join Date: 27/11/2008
Rank: Executive Post Date: 05/07/2009 05:37:51 Points: 225 Location: India

Dear Friends,

Good evening,

Here's an intriguing excerpt from an HBR article.

Hope u find it interesting.


Change is changing !

Buffeted over the past decade by rapid and disruptive changes in technology and markets, companies have repeatedly been told they must reinvent themselves or ie. This thinking has been articulated most comprehensively in Gary Hamel's Leading the Revolution (HBS Press, 2000) and related articles, including his "Waking Up IBM: How a Gang of Unlikely Rebels Transformed Big Blue" (HBR, July-August 2000). The author and consultant dismisses incremental change initiatives like downsizing and continuous improvement as exhausted programs of the past. Instead, he says, companies must embrace radical innovation. "Industry revolutionaries don't tinker at the margins," Hamel writes. "They blow up old business models and create new ones."

While this view has increasingly come to represent the vanguard of management thinking for many executives, few have the guts to act upon it. After all, who wants to undergo the pain and uncertainty of a wholesale transformation of one's business?

But the thinking about change is changing. A number of management experts have recently begun to assert that executives need the guts to say no to revolution. Radical change can impose more stress on an organization than it can bear and end up destroying what makes a company viable, if not wildly successful. By all means, they say, change continually, but do it incrementally, even in these turbulent times.

This revisionist view was most forcefully put forth in the past year by Eric Abrahamson of Columbia Business School in his article "Change Without Pain" (HBR, July-August 2000). His appeal to appreciate our human resistance to change captured the imagination of change-weary executives everywhere. Abrahamson emphatically rejects the "change or perish" philosophy--which often translates into a "change and perish" reality when an organization gets ripped apart by change--and argues instead the merits of "dynamic stability." This is a process of continual, but usually small, reconfigurations of existing practices and business models, rather than the creation of new ones. (Unlike Hamel, Abrahamson uses "tinker" as a term of approbation, not derision.) When greater change is required, less ambitious initiatives should follow so that an organization has time to recover and reshape itself.

This new strain of thinking about change clearly reflects the mind-set of many executives. In "The Business Case Against Revolution" (HBR, February 2001), an nterview with Nestlé's Peter Brabeck, the chief executive points to the robust, f unspectacular, performance of the Swiss company as evidence that businesses can succeed through evolution rather than revolution. Certainly, he says, all companies must change if they are to compete in today's turbulent marketplace--but they mustn't change everything, all the time. While big, dramatic change may be necessary if a company is on the ropes, it otherwise provokes paralyzing fear in employees and distracts managers from running the business. Nestlé will continue to benefit from stability and evolutionary change, Brabeck says. "Why should we manufacture dramatic change?" he asks.  "Just for change's sake? To follow some sort of fad without logical thinking behind it?"

Others provide an implicit critique of the radical change imperative by digging more deeply into incremental change. Michael Beer and Nitin Nohria, both of Harvard Business School, argue that the problem doesn't lie with conventional change initiatives themselves but the way in which companies typically seesaw from one practice to another. In "Cracking the Code of Change" (HBR, May-June 2000), the authors distinguish between economic change (for example, improving  returns through downsizing and restructuring) and organizational change (for example, strengthening corporate culture by improving employee attitudes and capabilities). Seventy percent of change initiatives fail because companies use only one of these approaches or use both, but haphazardly. Successful change, Beer and Nohria say, requires companies to carefully balance both approaches, a far cry from tear-down-the-barricades revolution. Even Clayton Christensen, one of the heralds of the era of disruptive change, cautions executives to assess how much innovation their organizations can handle before rushing to launch major change initiatives. "In trying to transform an enterprise"--especially a big one, with well-established processes and culture--"managers can destroy the very capabilities that sustain it." In "Meeting the Challenge of Disruptive Change" (HBR, March-April 2000), Christensen and coauthor Michael Overdorf, both of Harvard Business School, offer a method for managers to assess their organization's capacity for change and some ways to neutralize its limitations. They freely acknowledge that their advice "runs counter to much that's assumed in our can-do business culture." The counterrevolution, it seems, has begun. This excerpt comes from the collection, "Change is Changing."

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