Change happens in every system. However, according to Cummings and Worley (2005), a planned change is directed by the leader in collaboration with the members of the organization to improve organizational performance or to positively change the culture and structure and thus the way the organization operates (p.22). This task takes a sequence of planned activities from top leadership with full support of the employees to accomplish. Thus, interventions are designed for organization development and effectiveness.alt

In the current knowledge-driven and highly competitive global economy, every organization is thriving to innovate so as to get a big chunk of the global market. However, the outcome of a planned change can sometimes be disappointing after much energy has been dissipated to ensure its effectiveness. This paper will explain what interventions are from the point of view of organization development and discuss the four major types of interventions and some of the conditions to consider before adopting a particular intervention. A successful organization involves more than just a good leader; atmosphere, design, culture, structure, location of the organization and how the stake-holders are treated matter, as well. The success of any intervention for organization development therefore depends on the capability (skills and knowledge) of the leadership and support of the employees participating in the process. Motivating and making the stakeholders truly happy does the job.

Thus, this paper also focuses on the role and impact of leadership on change initiatives. The success and failure of any organizational change depends on the capability of the leadership and support of the stakeholders participating in the process. This paper will also discuss change theories by two different authorities and recommend some possible approaches to successful implementation of change initiatives.

Research Questions and Methodology

By reviewing extensively the existing literature for description and critical analysis of organization development, change initiatives leadership and change agents, problems and prospects of successful change in organizations at this era of unwavering globalization, this paper attempts to find answers to the following pertinent questions: What is the role and impact of leadership in the success and failure of change initiatives in organizations? Can an organization successfully implement its change initiatives without full support of the stakeholders? What is the place of organization culture and structure in the success and failure of change interventions?

Based on the studies and the author’s critical analysis of the recent development in organizations, this paper brings out that the leadership of organizations cannot successfully carry out any change initiatives without the full support of the stakeholders who are more often than not the receptors of the outcome of any change intervention. Without the leadership working collaboratively with and motivating the rank and file workers (or those in the trenches) and encourage them to participate in the decision making process during any change process, and without communicating to them clearly the main reasons for the change initiative and how they will be affected, and without changing their thinking models that drive their resistant to change, no organization change interventions will be successful.

It has therefore been noted that communication with the stakeholders is a critical first step for successful transformation or change in any organization (Cummings and Worley, 2005). Without changing their thinking, values and beliefs, it is impossible to change their impression of the leadership and their reasons for any change initiatives. As it were, poor thinking and poor communication leads to poor outcomes.

Interventions and Organization Development

Planned interventions for organization development have been a hot issue discussed widely in the literature (Cummings and Worley, 2005, Cummings, 2008, Conger, 1992, Kotter, 2007). An intervention is a set of sequence of planned actions or events intended to assist an organization increase its effectiveness (Cummings & Worley, 2005). The purpose of an intervention is to upset ‘the quo status quo’ or to change the usual state of things in an organization. In other words, interventions are aimed at improving organizational performance and employees’ well-being (Cummings & Worley, 2005).

Organization development interventions are often initiated by the top leadership; they should be broad in scope to incorporate the whole organization and to be supported by employees at every levels of the organization. Put differently, the effectiveness of any planned organization development interventions hinges precariously on the support of the stockholders and on shared values. Thus, employees’ trust and support (team development, group processes, individual and interpersonal processes) and leadership effectiveness, are essential for effective implementation of planned interventions for organization development (Cummings & Worley, 2005).

There are different types of interventions for organization development and each of the interventions is designed for particular situation or environment (Nicholas, 1982; Lewicki & Sheppard, 1985). Some of the conditions to be considered before adopting or deciding on an intervention strategy include contingencies related to the change situation change situation; readiness for change; capability to change; cultural context; and capabilities of the change agent (McNamara, 2009; Cummings & Worley, 2005).

The four interventions to discuss in this paper include human process interventions, techno-structural interventions, human resource management interventions, and strategic interventions (McNamara, 2009, Cummings & Worley, 2005). This paper will briefly discuss each of them as they relate to organization development and effectiveness.

1. Human Process Interventions: According to McNamara (2009), human process interventions are aimed at assisting the members of the organization to enhance their productivity as well as improve the way they work together at individual and group levels. This helps to change or realign conflicting cultures within the organization that needs to change the way it operates. For McNamara (2009), “human process intervention” is required in training and development, team building et cetera.

2. Techno-structural Interventions: This change program focuses on technology and structure of organizations. In other word, the aims of techno-structural interventions are to improve the overall performance of the organization by changing the procedures, technology, operations, structures and roles (McNamara, 2009; Appelbaum, 1997). Specifically techno-structural interventions focus on improving the organizational effectiveness and human development through technological innovation and structural change (Cummings & Worley, 2005). Other types of structures include the divisional structure, matrix structure, process structure and network structure, and “downsizing” (reducing the size of an organization. These interventions are designed towards organizational effectiveness and development (Cummings & Worley, 2005; p. 287).

3. Human Resource Management Interventions: These interventions are change programs that relates to individual, interpersonal relations, and group dynamics. They attempt to improve individual or group performance as well as people’s working relationships with one another in organizational settings (Cummings & Worley, 2005, p.216; also see Cummings, 2008). In other words, the aims of human resource management interventions are to improve the organizational performance by improving the performance of individuals and groups within the organization. The purpose is to set objectives or goals, monitor them for feedback to ensure effective implementation (McNamara, 2009).

4. Strategic Interventions: These types of interventions are designed to change various characteristics of organization settings such as employees, technologies, products among others by focusing on the organization’s interaction with the external environment. According to (McNamara, 2009), these types of interventions are applied mostly in cultural change and strategic planning et cetera.

Leadership and Change

A review of literature shows that authorities in leadership and change are always competing for attention (Fullan, 2008, Kotter, 2007). This has exposed us to more perspectives on theories and dimensions of leadership and change and “why transformational efforts fail” (Kotter, 2007, p.97). Thus, according to Kotter (2007) change requires creating a new system that is driven by top leadership. However, the way people in power (leaders) think, behave and make others (the rank and files worker – those in the trenches) to believe in the supremacy of their values contribute to the outcome (positive or negative) of any change initiatives. They have always “struggled for predominance over…, the worker[s]” (The Economist, September, 1st-7th, 2012, p.80). But some of them fail to realize that their beliefs and values only cannot dictate the policy in any modern organization. In other words, without the support of the workers no change initiative will be successful (Cummings and Worley, 2005). Additionally, Eisenbach, Watson, & Pillai (1999) have underlined the fact that change requires creating a new system after which the new approaches are institutionalized.

Change or transformation will happen in any organization. Transformational leadership, however, deals with change, and sometimes a radical change and how to improve organizational performance. Burns (1978) introduced the theory of Transforming Leadership, which is defined as a process where “one or more persons engage with others in such a way that leaders and followers raise one another to higher levels of motivation and morality” (p.20) and productivity. And Bass (1985) has defined the concept of Transformative Leadership as a process by which followers trust, admire, and respect their leaders, and are consequently motivated to do more than they were originally expected to do.

An organization is made up of people with varied values and aspirations; they are sometimes at variance with those of the organization. Also, every organization has its vision and mission. And an effective transformational leadership can accomplish the goals only if he or she focuses on getting the stakeholders to share the vision and mission of the organization by inspiring them to execute the core strategies for organizational change. This will finally enhance workers’ productivity and the general well-being of the organization.

Change process occurs in phases and “transformation efforts fail”, according to Kotter (2007) when the leadership makes “critical mistakes in any phases” (p.97). Kotter (2007) listed eight critical errors change leaders often make, as follows: 1) Not establishing a great enough sense of urgency; 2) Not creating a powerful enough guiding coalition; 3) Lack a Vision; 4) Under-communicating the vision by a factor of ten; 5) Not removing obstacles to new vision; 6) Not systematically planning for, and creating, short-term wins; 7) Declaring victory too soon; and 8) Not anchoring changes in the corporation’s culture (p.97-103).

Thus, a leader’s ability to effectively change or transform an organization and achieve its set goals takes the “mastery of a specific set of skills” include establishing a compelling “vision and strategy”, persuading and influencing others who may not agree with the leader; motivating those who are wary of change; building an effective team to change and institutionalize the change; and espousing “innovative thinking” for the welfare of the entire organization (Collins, 2008, p. 103). Others have echoed the fact that the most successful transformational leaders are those who can motivate people, manage organizational change and align disparate groups for a common objective (Beer & Nohria, 2001; Bennis, 2007).

Change Theories

Change entails loss of some kinds and when organizations change the employees lose the comfort of the known and the familiar, sense of competency, the financial security, and the status they enjoy in the old order (Pietersen, 2002). As noted earlier, managing change - large or small scale - calls for the change agents (leaders, et cetera) to possess certain skills to minimize the loss (Pietersen, 2002). And quite often the pace of change or resistance to change depends on how the leader handles power tussles or relationships with workers. The smart ones (leaders) will forge a balance and take the subservient place to gain the trust of the key stakeholders who are hanging on the fence ready to resist any change initiative.

There are numerous theories that explain change processes initiated by leaders. A theory of change is fundamentally a description of how a group of individuals or stakeholders expect to reach a common long-term objective (Bennis, 1983, 2007). There are two dominant approaches to organizational change trumpeted by scholars today. Some scholars believe that change is always initiated by the leaders from the top down, and thus branded “Top-Down” change, while others are of the view that change is driven by the people and thus branded “Bottom-Up” or “Participative” (Beer & Nohria, 2001).

It is proper to note that the traditional paradigm, which the “Leader-Centric” model of change, focuses on organizational change through the leaders at the top hierarchy. In addition, the traditional view of change and leadership sees followers (those at the bottom) only as subordinates. Jay Conger is among those holding the “Leader-Centric” or “Top-Down” paradigm on change and leadership (Conger, 1992, 1990; Kotter, 2007, p.96). In other words, this group thinks that organizational change is driven from the top down (Top-Down) with far-reaching assistance “from consultants and financial incentives” (Kotter, 2007, p.96).

Another model is the “Participative” or “Bottom-Up” paradigm that sees change as collaborative efforts between leadership and followership in organizational decision making process. Warren Bennis is among those who hold the “participative” or “bottom-up” approaches to change (Bennis, 2007, 1983; Kotter, 2007).

The main purpose of participative or bottom-up approach to organizational change is the development of human capacity. Additionally, its means consist of high involvement of the people at the bottom, not leaders at the top. It is a change driven by the people from the bottom-up; and it is “less planned and programmatic” (Kotter, 2007, p.96). It is imperative to note that it is not enough to adopt any of the approaches described herein because there is the tendency for any of the change efforts may fail if critical mistakes are made during the phases of the change process or if the leader -the change agent(s)-lacks the required skills.

Building the Template for Modern Leadership

Having discussed the types of interventions, where and how they are utilized, it is pertinent to analyze the issues in discourse. As noted earlier, the success of any intervention for organization development depends on the know-how (skills and knowledge) of the leadership and support of the employees participating in the process. It is also proper to note that the structure of an organization determines how it functions. Organization structures are designed to serve a particular purpose, including promoting among other things, specialization of skills and resources by grouping employees into specialized work areas. This, in the final analysis, can enhance career development (Cummings & Worley, 2005).

Employees’ involvement in intervention process seeks to increase individual member’s input into decision making process. It works on changing the mental models or mindsets of the general population, which inspires actions and sustains commitment (Senge, 2006). Thus, since the purpose of any intervention is to improve organization performance employees are key variables because they are, for instance, in control of technological innovation through creative destructions (Schumpeter, 1942).

Leadership is a shared, interactive capacity of an organization. The leader and the followers do not static roles. They should work collaboratively as people to influence one another in organizational decision making process in order to achieve its purpose. Thus, change in an organization is not accomplished only by the leadership at the top; it occurs with collaborative effort of the leader at the top and the rank and files of the organization.

This writer is of the view that without developing a mutual leader-follower relationship, an organization may not accomplish its goal. This writer therefore recommends that leadership should be a shared activity or a team work, and not a one-person affair. Everyone should contribute his or her quota in a decision making process to achieve the set goal. The traditional leader-centric framework may not work effectively in contemporary organizations because without the full support of those in the trenches the leadership may not accomplish anything.

Conger & Pearce (2002) appear to have started to reconstruct their views on the role of leadership on change when they noted that change is a result of dynamic, interactive influence process among individuals in a team setting with the objective is to lead or influence one another to achieve the group’s goal.

The traditional view of organizational change is that change comes from the top-down or that it is leadership driven, but it in reality it requires full support of the stakeholders for any change initiative to be successful. There is need, therefore, for any person in leadership position to combine the best part of the two dominant change paradigms to produce a-middle-of-the road framework. The leader should also consider the dark side of leadership (Conger, 1990) and critically examine and understand the common purpose of leadership, which is to satisfy the general needs of stakeholders, rather than allow the concept of leadership to service the exclusive needs of a particular group (Conger, 1990; also see Conger, 1992).

Concluding Remarks

Organizational development interventions are said to be initiated at the top level of leadership, but require full employee commitment to be successful. And employees are said to communicate with each other as they participate in the intervention process and thus “generate organizing themes about uncertainty or a lack of information about specific changes” (Salem, 2008, p.338). It requires visionary leadership that work as change agents (Fullan, 2008) to mitigate confusion and uncertainty that comes with interventions-leadership that can develop a shared vision, provide continuous and sustained support, motivate employees, and communicate the reasons for the interventions.

This is a complex task because the “mere mention of change can create feelings of uneasiness and tension” thereby increasing the likelihood for some members “to miss the change message” (Bernerth, 2004, p.37). In spite of this, there is serious need for effective communication, planning, monitoring, and evaluating of any intervention process to increase employees’ satisfaction, their productivity, and the overall performance of organizations.

There is no doubt that change in organizations requires visionary leadership as change agents (Fullan, 2008), but the leader must work in tandem with those at the bottom to mitigate the negative effects, confusion, and uncertainty that comes with change. Thus, it is recommended that the change leader must develop a shared vision, provide continuous and sustained support, motivate employees to embrace the vision, and clearly communicate to the stakeholders the reasons for change. Since the main purpose of a leader is to solve problems this writer recommends that each phase of the change process need to evaluated and necessary adjustment made to avoid critical mistakes. This will, in addition, help to increase the employees’ support for change, satisfaction and the overall performance of the organization.


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