Challenges in implementing new approaches to business management and operations
The need for growth and expansion of a business has always been the motive for pursuing new approaches to business management and operations. However, new approaches are not without inherent difficulties. Such difficulties account for the failures associated with the change process. This essay shall consider some of the difficulties which have been encountered by businesses in the quest for change management. Consequently, this essay will sample some of the new approaches to business management that have exhibited high failure rates in the past and the reasons for such failure. The final section of this essay will give a critical analysis of the impact of these failures that can have on the objective of companies to become lean.
The business environment has been changing rapidly and substantially and as a result, both demands and opportunities as well have been changing. This change has been a product of various factors. These include; technological innovations, shift towards a global economy, organizational culture and the ever growing competition among other factors. Because of these, businesses have always sought to effect important changes in their management and operation processes in order to remain relevant while satisfying the dynamic expectations of their clientele (Achanga et al., 2006). It is important to realize that implementing change is not easy. First, the uncertainty with which businesses operate in a fast changing economy presents a serious challenge to total quality management that necessitate business process re-engineering in management operations. Second and more important to consider is fact that change process is always confronted by resistance by workers at all levels of the organization.
It therefore implies that in as much as change is inevitable, implementing it against vested interests poses a serious challenge for any given company. The need for companies to become lean for instance is aimed at reducing waste and enhancing productivity while reducing cost (Lewis, 2000). Obviously, this will face resistance in cases where implementing the new approach will necessitate a reduction in number of workers. On the one hand, the workers in an organization may hold varying ideological inclinations depending on individual background and personality. These may be quite complex. On the other hand, business process re-engineering must consider the organizational culture alongside the role played by both the internal factors and external factors. Both systematic re-designing and clean sheet aspects of the business process re-engineering are important. Systematic re-designing requires elimination of the things that add little or no value, simplifying the process, integrating various ideas and ideologies, and process automation in the business operations. Clean sheet requires a comprehensive insight of the purpose of the new approach, when to be done, parameters, and variables involved including the people and time.
It is because of these considerations that two different views have existed to explain the success or failure of an organization. One of these views has been that responsibility of success or failure of a business lies with the managers. The other view has been that external factors are usually responsible for responsible for organizational performance leading to either success or failure and are beyond control of managers. The former is known as the omnipotent view while the later is known as the symbolic view. Many scholars have also argued that business process re-engineering is influenced by organization’s culture, the nature of leadership and what the leadership does to motivate the workers (Dawson, 2003). These are also known as the soft factors. However, some scholars give much weight to the aspects of the amount of man power needed, the average expected time for process completion and the expected output at the end of the change process. These are referred to as the hard factors.
In organizations where business process re-engineering is based on the soft factors above, it has always been difficult to implement change. This is because these factors alone cannot have a direct bearing on most operations undertaken for change. Although employee motivation through good communication is necessary, relationships and individual attitudes are difficult to change. Again, it is an uphill task to gather sufficient and accurate data associated with culture and levels of employee motivation. This makes it difficult to rely on soft factors to direct the process of change management. To avoid failure, it is important that the process of change be shaped by both the soft and the hard factors. The next section of this essay will discuss examples of common approaches which have been applied in the past and the reasons why they have had high failure rates in the past.
Total Quality Management
This approach to management operations involves continuous improvements to the business process and therefore emphasizes step by step improvement programs to the production process over time. In the past, total quality management (TQM) initiatives have failed for various reasons. One of the reasons for failure of TQM initiatives has been the tendency to under-estimate change which then meant lack of adequate planning and contingency measures. Secondly, TQM has failed in the past due to lack of consultancy and poor communication within organizational management ranks. Failure to stick to organizational goals has also occasioned resistance to change hence lead to TQM failure (Peleska and Zahlten, 2011). Finally, poor leadership that lacks inclusiveness has in some instances failed to manage expectations hence led to failure of TQM because the process may not be given enough time to mature and start giving expected results.
Business Process Re-engineering
Unlike TQM which focuses on continuous improvement, Business process re-engineering (BPR) involves those prudent strategy initiatives deliberately undertaken to bring about an improved process that has been radically re-designed within a defined time period. It is also known as process innovation. BPR helps the organization to minimize both time and costs while delivering quality results in the production process. (Bashein et al., 1994). However, consistent with its definition, BPR entails radical organizational realignments and therefore is a complex process to undertake.
In the past, BPR has experienced high failure rates for several reasons. One of the failures has been due to resistance to change occasioned by issues such as fear of job loss among others. Poor or inadequate communication for the need to change which also imply absence of readiness to change has led to BPR failure too (Mumford, 1995). In the past, due to poor leadership, management has failed to train and educate the teams to adequately handle change. BPR failure has also been occasioned by deviation from company goals, objectives, and culture coupled with poor project planning and execution. Other causes of BPR failure include; difficulties with technology, poor or lack of proper consultancy and unrealistic expectations, (Zairi and Sinclair, 1995).
Scientific Management Approach
Scientific management approach has also been applied in the past to manage change. This approach whose pioneer is Frederick Taylor is based on the argument that there can always be ‘one best way’ to do a job and this is determined through a scientific process (Mertins and Jochem, 2001). This approach comprised of three basic elements including; recruiting highly qualified staff, the use of time and motion studies and output based incentive schemes. The success or failure of this approach depends largely on the business environment and the organizations culture.
Another approach to change management is the systems approach in which physical sciences are used to analyze the organization as a unified whole comprising of various interdependent parts that are interrelated such that any decision or action made in one part is likely to affect other parts of the organization too. Put differently, the external environment plays a key role in determining management decisions of the organization. It is important to note however that there exist both open and closed organization systems. The open system is one that interacts with the surrounding, while the closed one does not relate with the surrounding. The systems approach has largely been subject to complexity and uncertainty issues hence bound to fail as a change management model (Mertins, and Jochem, 2001).
As mentioned in the foregone section, most new approaches to business management fail due to poor leadership transformation mechanisms. For instance, in the ‘one best way’ approach, successful leadership is presumed to be achieved from tapping specific leadership traits and skills including ability to motivate others, personal integrity, and emotional intelligence among others (Dawson, 2003). Proponents of this approach maintain that leadership can either be employee focused or production centered. In real business environment, however, it is a general fact that a number of factors both internal and external influence which approach to take in order to move an organization forward. It may not be possible to have only one best way for every single situation as argued in this model. Some situations are handled best using both team management and individual managerial effort styles.
Most approaches to change have failed in the past due to a general lack of inclusiveness. If the management process does not consider the people as one of the main point of focus, the change process is bound to fail. This is more so given that people tend to resist change especially if they perceive that they are likely to lose what they already have (Dawson, 2003). Failing to involve them therefore jeopardizes the process. Whereas new technology for instance would help improve the production process by reducing time wastage and improving quality, it may not be well received if workers feel it may lead to job cuts. For a new approach to succeed, managers need to manage people’s expectations and help them adapt to the new management operations in a mutual manner.
Overlooking organization’s culture aspects is another major cause of failure while companies attempt to implement change in operations. Cultural issues normally distinguish a given group from the others. Within organizational framework, the general performance of the organization may be influenced by cultural aspects such as the people’s shared values and perceptions, the organization’s established mode of practice and the relationship with the environment. Any new approach that ignores cultural issues may not be able to deliver the desired results because adaptability of any strategy can be largely determined by the existing organization culture (Dawson, 2003). Cultural issues help management to study the past trends and therefore be in a position to make decision as to whether the new approach so desired need be redesigned to be compatible with the culture or vice versa. It is therefore important that any management change approach that aims to succeed should ensure adequate motivation for the people and look into the organization’s cultural aspects so as to minimize chances for resistance to change.
Need For Companies to Become Leaner and the Inherent Challenges
Following from discussions in the foregone sections, it emerges that the key questions to be addressed while introducing a new approach to management operations in business include; whether the variables to be measured have been rightly identified, whether there is enough manpower to carry out the change process successfully and whether the process has been designed adequately to be able to deliver the desired outcomes in the end (Schaffer and Thompson, 1992). This leads us to the critical discussion of the need for companies to become leaner and the inherent challenges following from difficulties which have been seen to cause failure of most change initiatives. The starting point is for managers to know that leaner approaches actually necessitate a review of the traditional approaches to TQM and BPR. But first, just what it means to have a leaner model of management is what unravels the conflict of interest.
The underlying objective for going lean is the need to minimize both costs and possible wastages of time taken in the production process, materials, and labor. Achieving this helps the organization to make substantive improvements in both the process efficiency and production quality. Since it has been mentioned that change management approaches need be efficiently structured in order to succeed, lean principles if incorporated in change management would help reduce possibility for waste hence avoid the setbacks that might otherwise follow (Schaffer and Thompson, 1992). However, just as it is not easy to implement a new management operations approach, so it is to when it comes to the implementation of lean approach. This is because most of the success factors needed in those approaches for change management is also the success factors for lean implementation.
For lean implementation to succeed, a company must invest in strong leadership capable and ready to steer management transformation. This requires team leadership as well as strong communication skills. The management teams need the understanding of the general system in order to carry out a comprehensive transformation as opposed to fragmented processes. Leadership goes hand in hand with the requirement for intellectual expertise that is necessary for competitive innovation to be sustained (Bob et al., 2001). The other factor is to do with organization’s culture. Implementing lean approach will involve either changing the company’s working norms to be compatible with the need to streamlined way of working. This would mean a significant change of the attitudes of the individual workers. In order to avoid resistance, the management needs to deal with the peoples’ mindsets and allow for wider participation thus eliminating possibility for bureaucracy that would otherwise emerge from strong controls.
Another factor which determines success of lean implementation is to do with the company’s financial resources available for the process. A lot of money is required in order to purchase materials and equipment needed for lean implementation. There is need to finance new training programs so that the employees acquire necessary technical skills (Bob et al., 2001). It has to be remembered that the main purpose to implement lean is to reduce unnecessary waste while improving output quality. It implies that if managers perceive that the process may not yield substantial results, they will be the first to resist its implementation because they won’t risk shouldering the blame for having invested the company’s financial resources in a change program that would not deliver results. Implementing lean thus puts a company’s management a dilemma, but they need to think strategically to deliver in the dynamic and competitive business environment (Bob et al., 2001). In doing so, the management has to ensure that workers in all the departments and levels of the company clearly understand the vision of the new strategy. If this is done and the culture issues are well aligned with the process, there will be little resistance toward adapting the new order of practice.
It is also important that both managers and the other workers exercise sufficient patience to allow time for the new principles to deliver expected results. This is actually a hard fact that need be considered right from the start of the process. People often want quick results and this has led to failure of many change processes since they are not allowed enough time to outgrow the initial heavy costs incurred and produce the benefits (Skilling, 1996). This need be anticipated and carefully planned for so that the lean program can be sustained to maturity. There has to be a general willingness to learn and learn continuously in the process of lean implementation. This helps reduce possibility of resistance to change.
In a nutshell, this essay has considered some of the difficulties encountered by organizations in their attempts at introducing new management operations strategies. Examples of some approaches that have had high rates of failure in the past have been discussed giving reasons which led to the failures. A critical analysis has been made regarding the impact of such high rates of failure on the company’s need to become lean. Whereas change is inevitable, the general lack of strategic planning for the change process marks the beginning of failure for the change approach so pursued. There is need for contingency planning, clear vision communication, and inclusive approach at all levels of the organization. More important, the organization’s culture issues must be carefully handled putting into consideration both internal and external environment factors. Finally, alongside these factors, any change approach, including going lean, must also be modeled along variables that can be measured, specify what would be considered adequate human capital to be involved, allow enough time for the process, and the expected results at the end of the process.
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