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Organizational Development

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Autor:  anton  21 May 2011
Tags:  Organizational,  Development
Words: 2108   |   Pages: 9
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“Understanding the Impact of Organizational Change on Human Resources: The Roles, Processes and Challenges.”


Given the accelerating rate of global-scale change, organizational change and development have become more critical to organization success and ultimate survival. This report includes comprehensive discussion on the impact of organizational change on human resources. The discussion involves the roles of human resources when formulating and implementing the various approaches during change processes as well as the challenges faced by organizations for continual change. The changes proposed in this report are mainly focus on enhancing people’s commitment, motivation and inspiration due to the fact that the success of change more than ever depends on the people in organizations.

(98 words)


In a dynamic business environment, change is inevitable. Changing consumer lifestyles, technological breakthroughs, economic fluctuations, and high level of competition all act on the organizations to cause it to change. In order to survive in today’s corporate world, organizations must have the capacity to adapt to changing condition. Thus, organizational change has become widespread in current global business environment. The purpose of this report is to illustrate the impact of organizational change on human resources. The discussion involves the HR function, various approaches to change and the challenges for effective change.

Organizational Change and Development

According to Brown and Harvey (2006, 3), organizational development comprises the long-range effort to improve an organization’s ability to cope with change and its problem-solving and renewal processes through effective and collaborative management of organization culture. Organizational change develops the potential of individual members and achieves corporate excellence by integrating the desires of individuals with organizational goals.

Furthermore, organizational change stresses learning as a characteristic of an adaptive organization – the ability to sense changes in signals from both internal and external environment and adapt accordingly. Organizations incorporate continuous learning into its renewal process to keep pace with changing industry conditions. Albert (2006, 17) and Karp (2004, 350) state that organizations can create a key source of competitive advantage by developing its capability to learn and change faster than its competitors. The scarcest resource in many organizations today is not financial capital but innovation from human talent. Thus, the ability to compete and excel in the global economy goes beyond commercial trading and flows of capital and investment. Given the accelerating rate of global-scale change, learning and adaptation have become increasingly critical to organization success and ultimate survival.

The Roles of Human Resources

Organizational change attempts to increase productivity and effectiveness through invigorated employees who are able to develop creativity, imagination, and, above all, innovation. Managing change effectively can be a tough and complex challenge. Organizational change management requires leadership to function properly. Kotter (1995, 98) has acknowledged the formation of a guiding coalition as an important learning point from unsuccessful change initiatives. A recommended approach by Brown and Harvey (2006, 99) is a team consists of an external practitioner working directly with an internal practitioner to initiate and facilitate organizational change. The collaborative relationship between both practitioners provides an integration of abilities, skills, and resources. The external practitioners from outside the organization bring expertise, objectivity, and new insights to organization problems. In contrast, the internal practitioners often operate out of the human resources area. Lawler and Mohrman (2003) stress the significant role of human resources in the formulation and implementation of change strategies. They strongly suggest HR function as a strategic partner in helping the organizations to initiate change management by contributing comprehensive knowledge on organization issues and norms, a long-time acquaintance with employees, and an attentiveness of system strengths and weaknesses (Lawler and Mohrman, 2003; Brown and Harvey 2006, 100). Besides external-internal practitioner team, Karp (2004, 349) also acknowledged that the responsibility for change must be assigned to a broader range of internal and external stakeholders. In order to effectively manage change initiatives, a successful guiding team should involve the chairman, senior managers, board members, representatives from key customers, and even a union leader (Kotter 1995, 98). From the perspective of Kotter (1995, 98), it is necessary to include external stakeholder due to the fact that if the existing internal system is working well, there would be no need for organizational change. However, since the current system is inefficient, the change management thus demands activity outside of formal boundaries, prospects, and practices.

The Change Processes

There are many approaches available to facilitate leaders and managers to implement change. This report discusses the integration of people-oriented approach and sociotechnical systems approach to organizational change. It is important to note that the success of change more than ever depends on the people in organizations (Karp 2004; Lawler and Mohrman 2003; Brown and Harvey 2006, 3). Therefore, the change approaches discussed in this report will accentuate human behavioral factor follow by cultural, structural and technological factors.

1. Human Resource Approach

People-oriented approach emphasizes human behavior and the use of human resources. Successful organizational change must take account of the “people issues” as motivation and inspiration (Karp 2004, 351). Participation of members in the change program is crucial in motivating employees. Today, organizations are moving towards change programs that allow “everybody” to innovate and change based on the concept “everyone improves whole system” (Karp 2004, 350; Brown and Harvey 2006, 3). One of the change processes recommended by Karp (2004, 351) is appreciative inquiry (AI) which includes identification of our best times during the best situations in the past in an organization, thinking about what worked best then, visioning what we want in the future, and building from what worked best in order to work toward our vision. AI focuses on flourishing and positive strengths which are essential to create energy for forward movement in organizations.

According to Albert (2006, 20) and Karp (2004, 351), AI is best conducted through an organization-wide dialogue. Dialogue process focuses on achieving collective understanding by building a shared language to develop effective communication within organization. People feel free and not threatened to talk from their hearts and connect with one another through dialogue process. Besides, dialogue process helps to gather information and share data throughout the organizations. Sharing relevant data helps establish a sense of urgency (Kotter 1995, 97; Albert 2006, 20; Brown and Harvey 2006, 167). Employees are more likely to support changes when they are aware of the crises faced by organization, and understand the wider implications of their actions in the organization’s development towards the future (Kotter 1995, 97; Karp 2004, 351). As a result, HR approach involving AI and dialogue process boosts people’s joint commitment and individual motivation to change.

2. Sociotechnical Systems Approach

Nevertheless, people-oriented approach may not be sufficient for effective organizational change. According to Albert (2006, 20), leaders and managers recognize that several factors related to people, culture, structure, and technology began to emerge as important factors during change processes. Sociotechnical systems approach illustrates the interconnection between structural, technological, and behavioral change approaches which facilitates HR approach for successful change (Brown and Harvey 2006, 215). Changes in any one of the organization’s processes can have effects throughout the organization. In order to maximize the impact of organizational change on human resources, it is vital to take account of cultural, technological, and structural factors when planning change (Karp 2004, 354).

2.1 Psychosocial System

From the perspective of siciotechnical systems approach, culture can be referred as psychosocial system which includes the network of social relationships and behavioral patterns of members, such as norms, roles, and communication (Brown and Harvey 2006, 43). Generally, HR approach is aimed at the psychosocial system functioning of the organization. In other words, culture can have a powerful impact on the implementation of change practices. Change in organizations involves the inner shift in people’s values, aspirations, and behaviors with “outer” shifts in process, strategy, practices, and systems (Karp 2004, 351). Albert (2006, 19) suggests that culture audit should be organized by companies to determine the extent to which their current culture assists such values as collaboration, empowerment, and action taking. The potential of human resources can be improved through employee empowerment that attempts to end the traditional “I just work here. I don’t make the rules” type of culture to one of a shared vision and goals. The communities of collaboration that emerged through communication network provide opportunities for participatory action taking. Change processes supported by such values create an atmosphere of excitement, trust, openness, and honesty that increased the commitment of the workforce to changing cultural norms (Albert 2006, 19).

2.2 Technical System

Despite culture, sociotechnical systems approach also incorporates technical functions to enhance HR approach. Nowadays, organizations are increasingly implementing sophisticated computerized management-information system. Lawler and Mohrman (2003, 21) suggest that advanced IT-based systems can off-load transactional tasks, freeing up HR professionals for greater value-adding functions. These systems facilitate leaders to collect and analyze data concerning the achievability and effectiveness of various HR approaches given the human resources of the firm. As a result, technological change relating to IT has a significant impact on human resources in improving the capacity of HR to change.

2.3 Structural System

In addition, managers are concerned with the structure of the organization when implementing change. According to Kotter (1995, 101), organizational structure can sometimes be the obstacles for change process. Management is responsible in removing barriers. It is necessary to restructure the workplace and eliminate layers of bureaucracy to enable employees to adapt more readily to changing economy (Brown and Harvey 2006, 218). Sometimes, reward systems may impede change processes when compensation or performance-appraisal systems are inflexible, making people choose between the new vision and self-interest (Kotter 1995, 101). Consequently, structural issues must be confronted and removed to maintain the credibility of the change efforts. Structural changes that involve decentralization or monetary rewards encourage participative decision making and boost up motivation of employees.

The Challenges

Organizations at present face a major challenge in managing change effectively. Although many great academics such as Kotter (1995) and Senge et al. (1999) have produced a flow of theories to improve the ways organizations change, many companies still struggle with the practicalities of change management (Karp 2004, 350). The most critical challenge to implement effective change is employees’ resistance to change. The greatest difficulty is not for people to accept new ideas, but to make them forgot their old ideas about “the way we do things around here” (Karp 2004, 351). It can be hard to drive people out of the comfort zones. Organizational change confronting resistance from employees requires cultural and communication barriers to be overcome (Brown and Harvey 2006, 156). During the change programs, HR manager must provide leadership support to role-model specific behaviors congruent with the emergence of new organizational cultural (Albert 2004, 18). Managers that communicate well facilitate change processes. Managers who “walk the talk” become a living symbol of the new culture. Nothing undermines change more than behavior by leaders that is inconsistent with the new vision and culture (Kotter 1995, 100). The employees can more readily understand and accept the impact of organizational change when cultural and communication obstacles are removed.


Continual change is a way of life. Companies seeking to be successful and survive need to strengthen change capabilities and improve change management. HR function could be organized to aid organizational change. Human resource is the key to success organizational change. The change initiatives discussed in this report accentuate better organizational learning and boosting people’s commitment. Any major change effort must deal with the total organization system, which includes structure, technology, and human behavior. Most change programs don’t work because they only focus on one key organizational factor rather than on the interdependencies among several key factors. The integration of HR approach and sociotechnical approach is believed to be a practical way of structuring and facilitating organizational change. To manage change effectively, organizations must deal with resistance to change and focus on motivation. Unless people are emotionally prepared for change, the sheer speed with which change occurs can be overwhelming.

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Albert, Michael. 2006. Managing Change at HP Lab: Perspectives for Innovation, Knowledge Management and Becoming a Learning Organization. The Business Review 5 (2): 17-22.

Brown, Donald R., and Don Harvey. 2006. An Experiential Approach to Organization Development. 7th ed. United States of America: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Karp, Tom. 2004. Learning the steps of the dance of change: improving change capabilities by integrating futures studies and positive organizational scholarship. Foresight: the Journal of Future Studies, Strategic Thinking and Policy. 6 (6): 349-355.

Kotter, John P. 1995. Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail. Harvard Business Review. 96-103.

Lawler, Edward E. III, and Susan A. Mohrman. 2003. HR as a Strategic Partner: What Does It Take To Make It Happen? Human Resource Planning. 26 (3): 15-29.

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