Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

Words and Deeds of Organizational Change

Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

Words and Deeds of Organizational Change

Article excerpt

In addition to bricks and mortar, organization charts and company manuals, an organization is also composed of cognitive frameworks. When change is needed in an organization it is likely the culture or identity of the organization will be targeted for change. Be it refraining (Reger et al., 1994a), cognitive reorientation (Gioia and Chittepeddi, 1991), or paradigm shift (Bartunek, 1984), organization transformation has been clothed in many guises. Whatever it is called there is an implication that the existing cognitive structures are in jeopardy. The transformed organization, whether it be minor (first-order change) or major (second-order change), will not be the same as its predecessor. Within the change process many forces are at work. The articulation of the intended change by top management occurs in many activities such as conversations and symbolic actions (cf. Ford and Ford, 1995; Gioia et al., 1994). Actions typically associated with an organization transformation tend to include changes to organization strategy, personnel changes (particularly at the top levels of the organization) and revised organization strategies. In addition to these observable changes there is frequently the intent of a new CEO to establish a new organization mandate, mission or vision. Imbedded in the culture or identity of an organization are guidelines that are used by members of the organization as formulas for interpretation and behavior. When the intent of top management is to transform the organization they must consider this existing set of organization guidelines or knowledge structures.

These guidelines have evolved over time and are used by organization members to interpret organization activities and to guide behavior. Effective managers become culturally aware, understand their organization culture and convey consistent messages to the membership. They know and understand the organization culture and are able to influence the culture (Trice and Beyer, 1993). However, when radical shifts are proposed by top management it implies a mental shift for the organization membership. During the organization change process the procedures, customs and myths that over time have become the cumulative knowledge about action-outcome relations in the organization will be subject to change (Duncan and Weiss, 1979). Individuals in the transforming organization exchange knowledge about the changes in order to interpret and to make sense of the changes they are experiencing. However, changes to the existing organization identity can be experienced by organization members in two major forms: (1) the statements made by top management - their words, and (2) the actions taken by top management their deeds.

Organization leaders have long endeavored to establish personal credibility. By practicing what they preach managers are able to enhance organization effectiveness, communication, and satisfaction. According to Kouzes and Posner (1993), consistency or congruency of words and deeds is a major contributor to manager credibility. Basically, managers need to do what they say. However, during an organization transformation many of the schema-based words may indeed change and the guidelines of the past may be in doubt. It is an inconsistency of words and deeds during the change process that can cause the change effort to fail. What follows will relate the notions of organization identity, organization schemas and organization change. The purpose of this article is to explore the organization change process by examining the relationship between schema changes espoused by management with the management actions associated with those schemas during the transformation. This exploration will consider how managerial word-deed consistency affects the success of the transformation process. Essentially, this article addresses the question of does management "Walk the Talk" to successful change. To explore the phenomenon of organization change the article will present a typology that combines the change espousals of top management with the interpretation of top management actions by the organization membership. …

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