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The modern business landscape is fluid and unpredictable, with continuous innovation driving most industries forward. Those that are not able to reform and compete for customer favor get lost on the sidelines. Therefore, understanding the issues surrounding innovation and change is critical for lasting success. Managers are the primary driving force behind change processes in an organization, as it falls upon them to conceive the concept of change and see its implementation through.
The responsibilities of the manager include not only the identification of needs and processes of change but also require getting the rest of the employees on board with the idea. In this paper, I will evaluate the input I received from a line manager working with outsourced employees. The proposed broad interview question is as follows: What factors affect the effectiveness of change implementation in a medium-sized company?
The interviewee chose to remain anonymous, to protect the company’s identity. For the sake of convenience, he will be referred to as Mr. Smith. He worked in the Matrix company for five years, occupying the position of a line manager for 3 years.
His company is an online-based entity, with its employees being outsourced to many countries across the world. The business works with numerous artists to produce a wide range of artistic products for customers. His job is to receive these orders, check the customer specifications for any potential errors, assign the orders to specific artists, and check their work when it is completed. In larger works that require the collaboration of several artists, Mr. Smith is usually placed as a head of a project group, coordinating the efforts of individual employees and making sure that everything is done on time. In addition, the manager provides a medium for connection between the artist and the customer, should there be any issues concerning instructions.
During the interview, Mr. Smith was asked about his experiences in managing change within his organization, about employees. He seemed very excited by the question and told me that he had had experience with a large-scale change project that was conducted one year ago. He described the situation first: His company grew from a relatively small enterprise working with less than a dozen artists to a massive online service with more than 200 full-time outsourced employees and more than 400 part-time employees and freelancers. However, despite rapid growth, the company kept operating using the systems and standards it had since the start.
Due to limited resources and a lack of experience in running an online business, the Matrix did not develop a comprehensive list of requirements for individual artworks. The line manager was the primary decision-maker regarding quality. While this system worked reasonably well when there was only a handful of employees organized by a single manager, the issues regarding the quality of art exacerbated once the company started growing.
As it stands, there are eight line managers in the company, with each manager overseeing the efforts of 25 full-time employees and 50 part-timers. While all managers have a general understanding of what is expected by the customers, there are significant differences between individual standards and criteria among each of them.
Mr. Smith said that it constantly created problems with the customers, since some groups outperformed others in terms of quality, while others pushed out more orders per week and made an emphasis on quantity. Another issue involved transferring artists from one manager to another, creating a discrepancy between personal standards and long adjustment times. The proposed change was meant to introduce a quality framework for all artists and managers to follow, making grading and approving orders easier.
Mr. Smith was part of the managerial team tasked with developing and introducing the new set of standards. According to him, the first issues appeared during the conception stage. All managers in the team were equals among each other, with no clearly defined change leader. As a result, there was much arguing in terms of standards to be implemented, with no clear majority on each of the proposed solutions.
This delayed the development of unified standards for 3 months while sowing discord and mutual dislike among managers, who were used to working with their cluster rather than in a team. Nevertheless, they managed to develop a system they all agreed upon. It involved paying attention to minor details to ensure the accuracy of imagery about the photos the customer had sent. Skin color, eye color, hair color, eyebrow height, nose height and width, clarity of outlines, choice of colors, choice of composition, and background cleanness were some of the many standards to be used in grading.
The second issue came with the implementation of change. The majority of employees were comfortable with whatever personal standards their current managers had. The new system was completely different from whatever requirements they used to work with. As a result, there were protests among the artists, when the new system of standards was introduced and implemented. Many argued that the system focused on the specifics rather than the “whole.” While Mr. Smith agreed with the general sentiment, he stated that these were the only standards that were not as subjective as everything else.
Another problem issue was the creation of an incentive system based on the quality of work. Employees with good scores for the quality received bonuses, while those with high error rates – deductions to their payments. The old bonus system, which was based on experience and time working with the company, was abolished. According to Mr. Smith, this caused the company to lose about 40 of their prime artists, who did not accept the removal of bonuses they used to have. The overall quality of work dropped significantly.
Comparisons with Course Materials and Analysis
According to Williams, there are certain steps to the change management process, which are supposed to be followed to ensure the success of its implementation. If one or several of these steps are ignored, the chances of failure are increased. These steps are as follows:
- Locate a need for change. The company Mr. Smith worked in successfully identified the issues with its existing quality control mechanisms.
- Building a team. Although the company did create a task force to develop a new system, that task force was ineffective due to a lack of a central figure to make the final decisions. It was the reason why it took 3 months to develop standards.
- Creating a vision. The company’s overall vision was to improve customer experience and ensure a stable quality of work.
- Communicating the vision. Mr. Smith and other managers failed dramatically in communicating the company’s new vision to the employees. As a result, many of them saw no need for change to take place.
- Removing the obstacles. Mr. Smith went about this step in the wrong way. Instead of acknowledging that the proposed change had inherent flaws in it, the company chose to dispense with many workers that did not support the proposed solution, which hurt morale instead of uplifting it.
- I- Going for quick victories. This step was absent, as due to the negative perception of the quality control process, the overall motivation and productivity of the remaining employees dropped significantly.
- Change maturation and integration. The process of change in this instance was long and hard, as the company had to mitigate turnover rates and fix the issues discovered upon implementation of the new standards. As Mr. Smith told in the latter part of the interview, many of the proposed quality parameters were either removed or reduced insignificance.
As it is possible to see, the change Mr. Smith and his team envisioned and implemented proved to be a complete disaster, which hurt the company in the long-term perspective, as many valuable and experienced cadres were lost.
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Conclusions and Recommendations
Williams emphasizes the importance of employees in stimulating change processes. The employees possess critical knowledge about day-to-day operations and have the final word in whether the change is successful or not – if the majority of the workforce is resistant to change, it is doomed to failure. Mr. Smith and the other managers did not involve their employees in the decision-making process.
Their input was not sought after during the conception of change, nor was it heard after the change had been implemented. The employees were simply forced to either accept the new system without being explained how or why it was needed or leave the company. These were the reasons why the proposed solution to the quality problem was largely rejected by the employees and resulted in such losses. If I were a business consultant, I would have proposed the following course of action:
- Form a change development team with an individual in charge of the overall strategy and direction of the project. It would help save time and establish responsibility for the process. According to Williams, a lack of a process owner significantly lowers the efficiency of any endeavor.
- Include experienced artists as part of the change development team. As employees with a very specific set of skills, they would have provided the managers with important insights on how pictures are drawn, to understand which parts of the process are valid for standardization.
- Communicate the purposes and intents of change to other employees. Without understanding the reasons for it, there is no possible way to get them on board with the planned action.
- Remove fines as a motivational tool and keep employee bonuses for years of service. According to Williams’ chapter 13 on motivation, negative reinforcement affects the morale of the employees and increases turnover, stress, and absenteeism. Positive reinforcement should be kept to improve quality and inspire loyalty to the company.
Had Mr. Smith followed these suggestions, his change management project would have been a success. Conducting this interview helped me to learn more about change management and apply the theory and knowledge learned from the course to a real-life situation.
Appendix A: Questions
- Could you tell me about the last change management project you worked on?
- What was the reason for the change?
- How did you go about implementing said change?
- How did the employees react to the proposed alterations?
- Is there anything you would have done differently?