The Human Cost of a Management Failure: Organizational Downsizing at General Hospital

By Seth Allcorn; Howell S.Baum et al. | Go to book overview
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Foreword
Roderick W.Gilkey and Gary R.LiebermanSoren Kierkegaard once observed that the problem with life is that we live it forwards but understand it backwards. Nowhere is this truth more evident than when dealing with the realities of managing large-scale organizational change. This book provides all of us who are involved with such daunting challenges the kind of retrospective wisdom that can help us “live forward” with greater sensitivity and effectiveness. The story that Allcorn and his colleagues tell is not merely a cautionary tale warning us of the perils and pitfalls of leading organizational change, it also contains affirmative and positive lessons about what we need to do to provide constructive leadership and facilitate generative change. Among the lessons learned are these:
Organizations cannot downsize their way to excellence. In theory, reengineering and downsizing eliminate unnecessary work; in practice these responses eliminate people, implicitly defining them as unwarranted costs and underperforming expenditures. Downsizing is not a strategy, it is a tactic necessitated by a lack of a strategy. It is also a belated attempt to correct errors based on lack of insight and anticipation on the part of top leaders. Similarly, downsizing is not a positive vision; it is the expression of a lack of one. Such failures are based on an inability to anticipate the need for change, which always diminishes options and erodes opportunities; in this case the opportunity to redeploy people in new roles and promote organizational growth. In failing to anticipate the future, leaders are frequently overcome by it. Their belated and ineffective responses to change are painfully well documented in this book. If the present provides us with an unfolding context in which to view the future, we must ask why it is that we have such difficulty using it to envision the future and antici-

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