Drastic and Incremental Change
Based on Human Resource Management (4th Edition) by Alan Price -
published by Cengage
As we observed earlier, focusing on core activities and disposing of others has become particularly
fashionable. In some cases, businesses have decided that management control and
shareholder value are best served by a demerger. More commonly, shrinkage involves reducing
the number of employees or downsizing - a term coined by journalists according to
Baumol et al. (2003) - although this has largely been confined to the manufacturing sector.
In either case, HR managers are involved with communicating the change, conducting union
negotiations and arranging redundancies or redeployment. For example, faced with a
dramatic change in the nature of the music industry, EMI was forced to slim its workforce,
but attempt to retain key employees and its quality employer brand. (More on page 291 of Human
Resource Management (Price, 2011)
In the 1960's and 1970's, change often came under the label of organizational development (OD), relying on a methodology described as
. This was an undramatic - but effective - long-term change process based on incremental improvements, effectively
on a continuous flow of emergent strategies. With the advent of modern change programmes such as business processing
re-engineering (BPR), this low-risk and long-term approach has gone out of fashion. (...) (More on page 294 of Human
Resource Management (Price, 2011)
Competitive pressures often demand a faster, more dramatic process than action research. Many modern managers would question whether their organization
had the time required. More pertinently, we can ask if ambitious executives on short-term contracts have enough time
to make their mark with such a slow methodology. It is likely that a glossier and more public method will be better appreciated.
This is provided by packaged, or 'off-the-shelf', approaches, which begin with top management and are cascaded
down the organization. They are normally dramatized, with considerable emphasis on communication and a spotlight placed on the lead personality. (...)
Business process re-engineering (BPR)
Re-engineering is a methodology of the late 20th century that has inspired many change strategies. The Technique was
first publicized by Hammer (1990) in a Harvard Business Review article entitled 'Re-engineering work: do't automate, obliterate'. In typical guru fashion he outlined amazing
benefits in a range of companies, proclaiming the existence of seven fundamental principles of re-engineering:
- Organize around outcomes, not tasks.
- Those who use the output should perform the process.
- Information processing work should be subsumed into the real work that produces the information.
- Geographically dispersed resources should be used as though they were centralized.
- Link parallel activities instead of integrating tasks.
- Decisions should be taken where work is performed and control built into the process.
- Information should only be captured once - at source.
Generally, BPR is simultaneously presented as an empowering programme, with fine rhetoric
about teamworking, multi-skilling and flattened hierarchies, and as a top-down exercise
demanding (as ever) commitment from senior executives! In a study of post-BPR work in
the Singapore Internal Revenue Service it was found that processes had been so tightly prescribed
that there was there was no room for employees to exercise the empowerment they
had been granted (Sia and Neo, 2008).
Strategic Alliances and Behavioural Transformation