– Thoughts on Strategy and Management

On the efficiency of frequent change initiatives

There is no doubt that change and change initiatives play an essential role for every organization in our days. An organisation that refuses to change in order to adapt to new situations will most probably fail sooner or later. However, my theory is that organisations can successfully cope with only a limited number and frequency of change initiatives. If there is too much change, it will eventually do more harm than good. Here are my reasons:

  • Too many changes in the management team do not allow management and the whole organisation to adjust to each other and to develop efficient ways to work together.
  • Larger change initiatives tie up significant personal and financial resources and thus have very high priorities. This leads to the risk that the organisation is more concerned with itself and with its change than with the market and to customers.
  • Often it is not possible to totally change major systems such as IT or controlling. Hence, these systems are only adjusted and modified. These modified systems are only second best compared to a new system that was tailor-made for the new situation. Such systems tend to become overly complex, inefficient and very difficult to handle after several change processes.
  • Too many and too frequent change initiatives can cause resistance among the employees. This eventually leads to dissatisfaction, lack of commitment and in the worst case to the loss of key employees who seek a more reliable work environment elsewhere.
  • In the course of frequent changes, the organisation may lose its identity. The old corporate culture did not fit any more and was abandoned quickly. It takes time, however, to build a new culture. Until than, people in the organisation lack orientation. Moreover, frequent restructurings can destroy the positive aspects of informal networks. If managers and specialists on all levels are put into new positions frequently, it becomes more and more difficult for them to understand the scope of their new jobs and to identify important contact persons. This can seriously damage internal communication and knowledge sharing.
  • Organisations can virtually get used to frequent change. For some of them, this adaptability becomes a core competence and a source of competitive advantage. However, as long as the successful change is only a reaction to something in the environment, the organisation may easily lose its focus on targeted actions that might change the environment and may lead to much larger advantages.

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