Role of Case Studies in Employee Training and Development

One way to help trainees learn analytical and problem solving skills is by presenting a story (called a case) about people in an organization who are facing a problem or decision. Cases may be faced on actual events involving real people in an organization, or they can be fictional. Business case studies are included in college text books and courses in management, public administration, law, sociology, and similar subjects. They are increasingly available using video and other media. While cases vary in complexity and detail, trainees should be given enough information to analyze the situation and recommend their own solutions. In solving the problem, the trainees are generally required to use a rational problem-solving process that includes the following steps:

  1. Restating important facts.
  2. Drawing inferences from the facts.
  3. Stating the problem or problems.
  4. Developing alternative solutions and then stating consequences of each.
  5. Determining and supporting a course of action.

Proponents of the case study method argue that this form of problem solving within a management setting offers illustrations of the concepts employees are respected to learn and use, improves communications skills, and facilities the linking between theory and practice. Proponents also claim that cases allow participants discuss, share, and debate the merits of different inferences, problems, and alternative courses of action. Such insight can help employees to develop better analytical skills and improve their ability to integrate new information.

A business case study can present a real-life situation, which lets trainees to consider what they would do. It can present a wide variety of skills in which applying knowledge is important.… Read the rest

Forces for Organizational Change

Change is inevitable in the life of an individual or organisation. In today’s business world, most of the organisations are facing a dynamic and changing business environment. They should either change or die, there is no third alternative. Organisations that learn and cope with change will thrive and flourish and others who fail to do so will be wiped out. The major forces which make the changes not only desirable but inevitable are technological, economic, political, social, legal, international and labor market environments. Recent surveys of some major organisations around the world have shown that all successful organisations are continuously interacting with the environment and making changes in their structural design or philosophy or policies or strategies as the need be.

There are a number of factors both internal and external which affect organisational functioning. Any change in these factors necessitates changes in an organisation. The more important factors are as follows:

1. External Forces for Organizational Change

External environment affects the organisations both directly and indirectly. The organisations do not have any control over the variables in such an environment. Accordingly, the organisation cannot change the environment but must change themselves to align with the environment. A few of these factors are:

  1. Technology: Technology is the major external force which calls for change. The adoption of new technology such as computers, telecommunication systems and flexible manufacturing operations have profound impact on the organisations that adopt them. The substitution of computer control for direct supervision, is resulting in wider spans of control for managers and flatter organisations.
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Levels of Organizational Change Programs

The various levels of organizational change programs may be classified into individual level changes, group level changes and organisational level changes.

Individual Level Change Programs

Individual level changes may take place due to changes in job assignment, transfer of an employee to a different location or the changes in the maturity level of a person which occurs over a passage of time. The general opinion is that change at the individual level will not have significant implications for the organisation. But this is not correct because individual level changes will have impact on the group which in turn will influence the whole organisation. Therefore, a manager should never treat the employees in isolation but he must understand that the individual level change will have repercussions beyond the individual.

Group Level Change Programs

Management must consider group factors while implementing any change, because most of the organisational changes have their major effects at the group level. The groups in the organisation can be formal groups or informal groups. Formal groups can always resist change for example, the trade unions can very strongly resist the changes proposed by the management. Informal groups can pose a major barrier to change because of the inherent strength they contain. Changes at the group level can affect the work flows, job design, social organisation, influence and status systems and communication patterns.

The groups, particularly the informal groups have a lot of influence on the individual members on the group. As such by effectively implementing change at the group level, resistance at the individual level can be frequently overcome.… Read the rest

Minimizing Resistance to Change through Discussions

When as many as possible of those people involved in a change understand as much as possible about it and its consequences, resistance is likely to be reduced. It is management’s job to develop this understanding. Resistance will be prevented to the degree that the change agent help the change affected people to develop their own understanding of the need for change, and an explicit awareness of how they feel about it and what can be done about their feelings. Such an understanding will occur only when the information provided is sufficient, factual and accurate.

Management can transmit information about a proposed change and its probable consequences to those affected or concerned in a variety of ways. Fundamentally, there are only three practical media for communication; written material, audio-visual and oral. No single means, however, should be relied on exclusively. The more complex the change, the greater will be the possibility. That everyone involved is being reached with maximum of information. Several conditions must be met for understanding to be developed in a changing situation.

  • Information must be readily accessible, factual and accurate.
  • Information must be communicated in such language or in such a form that is readily understandable.
  • Information must answer the questions that are being asked not only what is to happen, but also how, why, when, where and to whom.
  • There must be a way to test and conform that real understanding has in fact been achieved.

A lack of understanding can result in heightened anxiety about the possible consequences of change.… Read the rest

Overcoming Resistance to Change

In the previous post, we deal with the various sources of resistance to change.  In this post we discusses strategies and tactics to overcome resistance to organizational change.

Kotter and Schelsinger (1979) has identified six general strategies for overcoming resistance to change.

  1. Education and Communication : Resistance can be reduced through communicating with employees to help them see the logic of a change. This tactic basically assumes that the source of resistance lies in misinformation or poor communication. If employees receive the full facts and get any misunderstanding cleared up, resistance will subside. Communication can be achieved through one-to-one discussions, memos, group presentations, or reports. Does it work? It does, provided the source of resistance is inadequate communication and that management-employee relations are characterized by mutual trust and credibility. If these conditions don’t exist, the change is unlikely to succeed.
  2. Participation and Involvement : It is difficult for individuals to resist a change decision in which they would have participated. Prior to making a change, those opposed can be brought into the decision process. People can be encouraged to help design and implement the change in order to draw out their ideas and to foster commitment. Participation increases understanding, enhance feelings of control, reduces uncertainty and promotes a feeling of ownership when change directly affects people.
  3. Facilitation and Support : If employees are provided with encouragement, support, training, counseling and resources adapt to new requirements easily. By accepting people’s anxiety as legitimate and helping them cope with change, managers have a better change of gaining respect and the commitment to make it work.
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Sources of Resistance to Change

The goal of planned organizational change is to find new or improved ways of using resources and capabilities in order to increase an organization’s ability to create value and improve returns to its stakeholders. An organization in decline may need to restructure its resources to improve its fit with the environment. At the same time even a thriving organization may need to change the way it uses its resources so that it can develop new products or find new markets for its existing products. In the last decade, over half of all Fortune 500 companies have undergone major organizational changes to allow them to increase their ability to create value. One of the most well-documented findings from studies have revealed that organizations and their members often resist change. In a sense, this is positive. It provides a degree of stability and predictability to behavior. If there weren’t some resistance, organizational behavior would take on characteristics of chaotic randomness.

Resistance to change can also be a source of functional conflict. For example, resistance to a reorganization plan or a change in a product line can stimulate a healthy debate over the merits of the idea and result in a better decision. But there is a definite downside to resistance to change. It hinders adaptation and progress. Resistance to change doesn’t necessarily surface in standardized ways. Resistance can be overt, implicit, immediate or deferred. It is easiest for management to deal with resistance when it is overt and immediate : For instance a change is proposed and employees quickly respond by voicing complaints, engaging in a work slowdown, threatening to go on strike, or the like.… Read the rest