1. Read the end-of-chapter case in Chapter 12 of your text and do Internet research on NASA during both disasters, with particular emphasis on the disasters’ effects on the culture. Why do you feel it is so difficult to “sustain” cultural change in a large organization AFTER the immediate effects of a major event like Challenger or Columbia? What role should leadership play in working to “institutionalize” such cultural changes?
It is difficult to sustain cultural change in an organization as large as NASA because aside from its various units being geographically disparate, which makes communication and coordination difficult, each operating unit also has its own culture that it adheres to. Moreover, each unit has its own leaders whose values and objectives differ from those of other leaders.
Leadership should implement ways that would allow for the change to be sustained. In particular, leadership should work towards redesigning the roles, redesigning the reward system, linking the selection decisions to change objectives, acting consistently with advocated actions, encouraging voluntary acts of initiative, and escalating commitment.
When implementing the change, NASA should redesign the roles of its staff, particularly those in management positions. They should also fire the people who were responsible for the wrong decisions that were made with regards to the Challenger and Columbia disasters. In the same regard, they should carefully select the leaders who would lead the change. By doing so, they can ensure that a leadership with a single set of objectives and a single set of values will lead the organization through the change. This will ensure solidity and unity within the entire organization and will prevent confusion on the part of the employees with regards to the direction that they should follow. As well, this will prevent unofficial leaders and decision makers from making critical decisions when they were not in a position to do so.
Leadership should also redesign the reward system in that they should reward staff and managers who prioritize quality and safety over cost efficiency and fast delivery. In addition, leadership should act consistently with its advocated actions. For example, while the culture change was supposed to be about safety and quality, leadership was pushing its staff and engineers to launch as many rockets as originally planned without making any changes to the schedules. This compelled the staff and engineers to comply with the deadlines even at the expense of quality and safety. Moreover, leadership even disregarded the advices of engineers with regards to the Columbia’s safety and function just so the shuttle’s launch wouldn’t be delayed.
In line with this, leadership should encourage voluntary acts of initiative, that is, they should encourage the engineers to voice their opinions and leadership should actually listen to them. As well, the escalation of commitment in this case would be good, that is, NASA’s leadership should negotiate for more funding and schedule adjustments with the government. These would enable them to stand by their objectives of promoting quality and safety instead of succumbing to pressures from the government, which eventually led to the disasters.
2. As you look at what it takes to sustain a change project, select what you feel are a couple of the best options and explain.
I think that two of the best options are redesigning the reward system and encouraging voluntary acts of initiative. By redesigning the reward system to reward those who comply with the objectives of the organizational change, resistance to the change will be reduced and organizational members will be encouraged to further adopt their behavior to conform to the change objectives. This will motivate them to cooperate with the change initiatives, as there would be something in it for them. Although they may initially do it for their own benefit, they will eventually realize the good that the change does for the company, and this will serve as further motivation for them. It’s part of human nature to want to work towards something for the benefits that will be reaped, so a redesigned reward system will be a good first step for obtaining buy-in to the change, which, in the long run will also help to sustain it.
Encouraging voluntary acts of initiative is also a good option, as it will make the employees feel that their efforts and input are valued and that their contributions are important. These in turn will motivate them to act more out of their own initiative and will reduce their resistance to the change. The employees won’t feel that the change is being forced on them. Rather, they will feel that they are the ones initiating the change, and eventually, such behavior and initiative will come naturally to them and not just because it’s instigated by the cultural change. In the same manner, by encouraging employees to take initiative, leadership is able to show that they are acting consistently with their advocated actions.
3. Locate and read the HBR article, “Cracking the Code of Change,” in the Online Library. It can be found through a general search in EBSCOhost, in the Harvard Business Review collection, May-June 2000 issue.
The article identifies two primary types of change that are most prevalent in today’s organizational world. Which type (E Change or O Change) do you think is most prevalent and what factors in our society influence that predominance? How can a leader best work toward a synthesis of both types to maximize the effectiveness of each for a successful change initiative?
I think that the E change is more predominant in our society as people want fast and tangible results and such tangible results are often seen in stock prices, financial reports, and total revenues. We see news information about stock prices on the news everyday and so this has become the common basis for gauging a company’s success. Moreover, the perspective where the employees are considered assets that a company should care for is quite new and considered revolutionary. For example, very few companies offer competitive compensations and benefits packages, as most companies would consider these as expenses rather than as investments. As well, most companies don’t offer training and career development programs for their employees as they don’t accord as much value in their employees’ contributions. In addition, it will take a longer time for a company to realize the returns from implementing the O change rather than the E change, and with the economic downturns experienced globally, the priorities of companies would be to regain financial health as quickly as possible.
Both types can be synthesized by leadership being firm about the company’s goals and objectives and by not being too soft-hearted when it comes to doing what needs to be done (e.g. eliminating redundant positions, freezing wage increases, and others). This is the E change. At the same time, though, leadership should still implement the O change by trying to get the employees as involved in the change initiative as possible. This can be accomplished by keeping the communication lines open, by emotionally connecting to the employees and gaining their trust, by duly rewarding them for good behavior and performance, and by encouraging them to innovate. By having an open communication with them and by making them feel valued, the employees will be more likely to trust leadership’s decisions –including the tough ones – and will be less likely to resist the change. At the same time, though, the organization is kept financially healthy and the shareholders are kept happy.