An impossibility of objectivity in the world of humans is one of the primary assumptions of social constructivism theories. Taking into account the fact that all studies are conducted by humans and all books are written by humans, it can be stated that all of them undergo the influence of the subjective perspectives of individuals working on them.
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A human cannot step aside from his/her personal perspective and view the world in its complexity from no position at all. However, underestimating the impact of subjectivity and potential bias, people may repeat certain assumptions several times, transferring them into universal truths and making them as taken-for-granteds in the eyes of others.
Due to the fact that abstract notions which exist only in people’s consciousness are constructed only through the language, the impact of various perspectives and discourses is especially strong in this domain. At the same time, social constructivism focusing on the variety of possible discourses and perspectives is rather intuitive and has its limitations as well.
Potter and Wetherell (2011, p. 275) stated that the method of discourse analysis cannot be compared to the accustomed methods of experiment or content analysis and is highly dependent upon the scholar’s intuitive perception of discourse and implied taken-for-granteds.
This paper will analyze a chapter Change Management written by Moulton-Reger, indicate the key assumptions made by the author, the taken-for-granteds included into the text and variety of discourses to evaluate the two-way relations between text and discourses.
The key issues raised by Moulton-Reger
The chapter on change management written by Sarah Moulton-Reger, a senior manager of IBM, can be regarded as a conventional text on change management providing recommendations based on successful experience of change management at IBM.
The key issues raised by Moulton-Reger include the main reasons for the failure of the vast majority of the companies’ projects and the measures which need to be imposed for reducing the risks of failure and enhancing the effectiveness of projects.
The principles of successful change management process as outlined by Moulton-Reger include setting the priorities in case if a company launches a number of competing projects simultaneously, ensuring the clarity of vision, adequate motivation and sponsorship and evaluating the degree of disruption to determine the potential degree of resistance to the project.
The author provides prescriptions for managers facing certain challenges in launching their change management projects. According to Randall (2004, p. 251), prescriptive approaches have more reserve that their n-steps predecessors.
Discussing the methods of adequate motivation and clarification of the vision to the employees, Moulton-Reger identified the measures which can be taken by managers for making the project smoother. Moulton-Reger (2005, p. 446) stated that motivation of people should start from making them feel uncomfortable with the current state of affairs and showing them what can be gained through the implementation of the project.
After motivating people, executives should provide them with a clear vision of what they should do in their daily practices. For this reason, it is important to critically evaluate the degree of disruption that is changes in the working processes to make appropriate conclusions concerning the potential degree of resistance to the project.
According to Moulton-Reger (2005, p. 448), people rather tend to resist the disruption resulting from change than to resist the change itself. Resistance can be regarded as not only an inevitable attribute of change management projects, but also an indicator of effective communication between managers and employees.
To effectively confront the resistance and non-performance, executives should create environment in which the resistance can be openly displayed.
In general, it can be stated that recommendations provided by Moulton-Reger are compatible with most common prescriptions which can be found in other conventional change management texts, namely improving the employee’s motivation, allocating time and resources to programs and addressing the concerns of employees (Heracleous, 2006, p.55; Abrahamson, 2004, p. 8; Herold and Fedor, 2008, p. 126).
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The taken-for-granteds making the change management text sensible
Analyzing this excerpt from conventional change management text, it can be stated that Sarah Moulton-Reger as a senior management of IBM made certain generalizations on the basis of successful implementation of change management projects at IBM and made certain assumptions concerning her target audience.
It resulted in a number of taken-for-granteds incorporated into the chapter under analysis which have to be accepted to make the text sensible.
One of the most significant taken-for-granteds which are critical for understanding this text is the assumption that change management is initiated and driven by managerial staff, whereas the subordinate employees lack understanding and motivation for implementing changes. Therefore, the second assumption is that the employees lack involvement into the processes and attachment to their company.
Additionally, the changes are viewed as beneficial for the company but causing only inconveniences for the employees. Thus, the interests of the company are separated from the interests of the human resources.
To understand the measures offered by Moulton-Reger for enhancing the effectiveness of change management process, readers need to consider the taken-for-granted assumption that the human resources is only one of the assets or tools of the company which due to its specifics can complicate the smooth operation of projects.
The improvement of motivation and clear vision of the mission as the measures offered by Moulton-Reger imply manipulation. The same taken-for-granted can be found in other conventional change management texts (Hayes, 2010; Daft, 2008).
One more assumption implied in this conventional change management text is that only because of possible resistance which can decrease the effectiveness of the project, executives should pay special attention to the perceptions and motivation of the employees.
One more taken-for-granted is that using their formal power, managers can influence the employees’ feelings and ways of thinking. Moulton-Reger (2005, p. 446) stated that executives should make employees to feel uncomfortable under the current circumstances to show them the need for changes.
The assumption concerning the target audience of this text made by Moulton-Reger is that this chapter may be interesting mainly for managers who share the views of the author on the conventional attitudes and behaviors of employees and strategies which should be used for treating them and improving their performance.
Therefore, the taken-for-granted is that certain operations can and should be undertaken by executives to change the thoughts and behaviors of subordinates and improve their performance. Subordinate employees are viewed as a relatively homogeneous mass with identical and predictable reactions and responses dependent upon the impulses received from their leaders.
These taken-for-granteds implied by Moulton-Reger are necessary for making this change management text sensible. As it was stated by Burr (2003, p. 66), the meaning of words and sentences depends upon the discursive context into which they are included.
Therefore, the subjective perspective of Moulton-Reger and her assumptions concerning her potential readers resulted in a number of taken-for-granteds which are not expressed directly but are implied and are expected to be accepted by the audience.
Discourses in the conventional change management text under analysis
Regardless of certain limitations of the author’s subjective perspective, the discourse analysis does not deny the value of different approaches to investigation but rather emphasizes the importance of considering the impact of contextual discourse when interpreting their findings (Graham, 2010, p. 664).
To interpret the conventional change management text under analysis, it should be included into certain contextual discourses. The discourses used by the author include representation of change management as a forced response to the rapid changes taking place in business environment and the implementation of change management projects as confrontation between executives and subordinates.
Change management is an object of people’s consciousness and can be constructed only through language and certain concepts. As it was cited in Burr (2003, p. 93), Parker (1992) admitted that discourses allow people to understand abstract notions and see things which are not actually there.
According to the discourse of the text under consideration, change management is business processes of adaptation to the changing environment for preserving the company’s position in the market sector. In the frames of this discourse, change management projects are viewed as something inevitable and forced by external factors, initiated by top management and confronted by subordinate employees.
The benefits of change management projects are not questioned by the author but are not discussed in details at the same time. Cameron (2009) provided a more detailed discussion of the potential benefits of change management projects.
However, in Moulton-Reger (2005), the implementation of change management process is represented as a series of research efforts, staff meetings and trainings aimed at improving the employees’ attitudes, motivation and performance. The same text could be written differently in case if the same issues are viewed by a subordinate employee.
Then, change management can be viewed as a company’s attempt to cut the costs and increase the revenues by making employees to perform more complex operations without raising their salaries. In the frames of the second discourse, the reasons for the resistance to the projects would be explained differently.
The confrontation between executives and employees is viewed as an inevitable phenomenon and even a positive indicator of effective communication between the managerial and subordinate staff in the course of the implementation of change management projects. This discourse can be seen in the presence of language associated with war in the part discussing the employees’ reaction to the changes in processes.
Moulton-Reger used the term ‘disruption’ to refer to the changes caused by the projects. Taking into account the negative connotation of this word, it can be stated that the author implies that the launch of the project has negative consequences for the employees.
The terms ‘resistance’ and ‘opposition to nonperformance’ clearly demonstrate the discourse of confrontation between the executives and subordinates which can be compared to military actions. According to Moulton-Reger (2005), the main reasons for the employees’ resistance are their unwillingness to learn something new and adapt to unfamiliar circumstances.
The author offered to measure disruption to evaluate the following resistance, assuming that these variables are measurable and there is a direct relationship between them. According to Locke (2004, p. 8), the main dimensions of discourse analysis include the linguistic representation of the text and it implementation in social practice.
Burr (2003) also pointed out at the importance of analyzing the social instantiation of discourse and the powerful political parties that might have affected this process. However, taking into account the relativity of human perception, it is almost impossible to define the most influential agents in every specific context more or less precisely.
The discourses which can be found in the change management text under analysis include representation of change management projects as forced measures necessary for adapting to the changing environment and projects neglecting the interests of the staff, causing disruption in the company’s processes and resulting on confrontation between managers and subordinates.
Two-way relations between discourses and the text
Taking into account the claim of social constructionism according to which objectivity is viewed as an impossibility and Moulton-Reger’s personal experience of successful implementation of change management projects in IBM, it can be stated that the author’s subjective perspective had a significant impact upon the views expressed in the text under analysis.
Additionally, there are two-way relationships between discourses and the words and sentences of this text.
Burr (2003, p. 66) admitted that words and sentences do not belong to any particular discourse and their meaning is highly dependent upon discursive context.
On the other hand, the choice of words can have impact upon understanding of discourse. As it can be seen from the text discussed in this paper, the choice of words associated with war for describing the character of interaction between the managerial staff and their subordinates adds shades of negative meaning to this discussion.
Though the words ‘disruption’, ‘confrontation’ and ‘resistance’ would lose their meaning if separated from the text, this linguistic representation of business processes is an important dimension of the discourse analysis which should be taken into account for understanding the variety of meanings which can be found in the excerpt from conventional change management text.
Using the term ‘resistance’ to refer to the employees’ reaction to the change management projects, Moulton-Reger (2005) expressed her subjective negative attitude to this phenomenon complicating the smooth implementation of the projects.
Even though the author stated that managers should not be afraid of potential resistance that should be viewed as a positive indicator of effective communication between managers and employees, this category is included into the risks which can cause the project failure.
To lead the potential readers to certain conclusions, Moulton-Reger (2005) used a number of taken-for-granteds and generalizations of her personal experience and research conducted by scholars.
Presenting her personal assumptions and conclusion as objective truths which can be used by modern companies for improving the effectiveness of their projects and improving the outcomes, Moulton-Reger (2005) underestimated the impact of her subjective perspective affecting her views.
As it can be seen from the analysis of the chapter written by Moulton-Reger, it can be stated that understanding of this conventional change management text requires consideration of the taken-for-granteds implied by the author.
The discourses of this text represent change management as forced measures initiated by senior management to adapt to the business environment and inevitably resulting in the employee’s resistance. These taken-for-granteds influence the tone of the text and the main conclusions drawn by Moulton-Reger.
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