Final Assignment - Change and Crisis Management
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The purpose of this report is to provide a narrative of the progress on the problem I identified at the outset and on the process of dealing with the problem. This includes issues encountered with the problem managing process, the steps that were taken to address it, the ways in which the literature guided the process, results and conclusions, and a plan for further action.
The problem I identified concerns the difficulty that our managers faced when planning for the strategy of coming up with innovative products that would increase our market share. This is because our organization was affected by high inflation rates and the European debt crisis, and thus we did not have enough funds for developing and advertising new products that we may offer to the market. Furthermore, our management had already released funds for our growth strategy, and thus it was difficult to allocate more funds for the research in development of the new investment products that would help us increase our market share. This case has serious implications to our organization. This is because it showed how our management failed to set plans that would be effective, even if our organization were faced with a particular crisis. All plans are supposed to be flexible and functional despite any challenge that may face the organization. Pedler (1996) argued that the best starting place for action and learning was a sincere question beginning with “How can I…. Due to this, I began my critical action learning by asking myself that question. I framed my first question as: How can I influence the financial planning process of our organization so that we are not affected by external factors, such as market changes?”
The Action Learning Set
I was given the opportunity of presenting all the elements of my problem to an action-learning meeting that was supposed to take place at the beginning of June. We came to an agreement with my fellow team members that it was mandatory for us to define the problem appropriately and ensure that we would have solved it before it affected the running and management of our organization. At first, I reflected my position in the real picture. Although it was hard for me to draw the real picture during my learning process, the fellow set members helped me and I identified my position as the regional portfolio director. This meant that I played a big role in the strategic planning of all the financial activities in our company. Since rich pictures are formulated after considering different scenarios and reactions in places of work, it was a convenient starting point for the action learning set to solve my problem. In addition, the rich picture showed the role that different people played in ensuring that our organization ran effectively (Bryson 2011). This encouraged me to consider the efforts and contribution of every employee in our organization in addition to how they would assist me in solving this problem.
The set meeting in June gave me the chance of interacting with my set members and consider if the problem I identified was affected our organization and how we would reduce the negative effects from this problem. During this meeting, we discussed an important concept of problematization known as reflexivity. During reflexivity, a researcher carefully studies the cause and effect of a particular option or decision that he undertakes. In addition to this, it aims at revealing any assumption that a particular researcher made and what may have caused such assumption (Griffin and Moorehead 2011). This concept was important in our discussion due to several reasons, since my perception of the problem that affected our organization might be different from the perception of other employees in our organization. Some employees may feel that our management has not formulated financial plans appropriately due to strict organizational policies that are defined in our organization constitution. Other employees may feel that the management formulates sound financial plans, considering the capacity of our organizational resources. Due to this, it is important to consider reflexivity during the problematization process.
I explored two streams of relevant literature while dealing with the problem of coming with up with innovative products in order to increase our market share. One stream of literature went about why to involve employees in strategic financial planning and the second stream of literature was on change and crisis management.
According to Cameron and Quinn (2006), it is important to involve employees during strategic financial planning, since most employees resist change if they are not involved in the planning of the change. This is because the employees fear the change may reveal their incompetence, since some changes introduce new production methods that the workers may not be aware of. In addition, some employees may fear that the change may make them lose their initial control and power, as in some instances, the change may eliminate a particular management position. Napier Siddle and Sanaghan (1997) supported this claim by stating that most employees would not resist change if they were involved in the process of planning for change and thus they learn the training and skills that would be required from them during a particular change. Moreover, employees feel more valued and motivated when they are involved in planning for a particular change, since they feel that the management appreciates their roles and efforts. In addition, Griffin and Moorehead (2011) supported this claim by stating that employees would not resist the implementation of a particular change if their contributions were taken into account while formulating that change. This is because they would suggest their strengths and weaknesses, and thus the strategy for a particular change will include all of them.
According to Woodward and Hendry (2004), it is imperative for the management of every organization to involve the employees while planning for a particular change, since the employees are the most important people who facilitate the transition from the old organizational policies to new. This is because they are the people who deal with clients directly, and thus they will influence whether the clients will support the change or oppose it. Bryson (2011) conducted research and discovered that most clients ask for advice from a particular employee before making any investment decision in an organization. It would thus be important for the management to involve the employees while planning for any important organization change, since the latter influence a number of clients who seek particular service from the organization. Schweirger and Denisi (1991) supported this argument by giving an example that if an organization proposes to move to a new location, the employees have an important role of informing the clients of the new location, where the organization will move a few months before the organization makes the actual change. Furthermore, they added that employees form an important part of the test team since they are the people who are affected by a certain change.
I linked the importance of involving employees during the change process and the literature I learned in change and crisis management. Van De Ven & Poole (2011) developed the theory of teology, whose main aim was explaining the main reasons that forced an organization to undergo change. They claimed that organizations have a responsibility of considering their resource constraints before proposing a particular change. Due to this fact, it is imperative that the management involve the employees in planning on how to use the limited resources in developing the most effective plan that would help the process of change. Caldwell (2003) developed the concept of agency and showed the roles that different agents played while implementing a particular change. He claimed that team members were important agents of change since they helped in reducing the central hierarchy of organizational control. This is because it involved external consultants, employees, and senior executive teams; thus, employees had a role of providing critical information that helped in facilitating the process of change. According to Wilkinson and Mellahi (2005), organizations should learn from their failures so that they have the opportunity of dealing with all potential future crises. They argued that the management needed to learn the root cause of a particular crisis, if they wanted to learn from it. It is important for the management to seek the opinion of the employees on the factors that may have led to the rise of a certain problem.
Critical Action Learning
Most companies are considering critical action learning as a tool for offering training to their employees and solving organizational problems. Companies such as Marriott, Motorola, and British Airways have used critical action learning as a tool of providing training to their senior managers. Small groups of people solve real organizational problems in addition to considering how to solve these problems using critical action learning. This approach benefits each group member and the entire organization (Pedler 2011). There are six main components in critical action learning. These components include a problem, action-learning group, the process that mainly emphasizes reflective listening and insightful questioning, and taking action on the problem. The last two components are commitment to learning and action learning coach (Marquardt 2011). Critical action learning played several roles in the process of problematization. It helped in improving the creativity of my fellow set members. This is because creativity is important for the solving of any organizational problem, since there is no single method to solve a particular organizational problem. We encouraged creativity in our team, since every member was required to come up with unique ideas that would help our organization improve its planning process. In addition, critical action learning enhances learning since it provides different bases for critical dimension of reflection.
The set of critical action learning consists of between four to eight team members who have the responsibility of critically evaluating a problem affecting a particular organization. This method includes members holding different departments in an organization. These members provide different ideas for solving a problem considering their expertise. Our set members consist of members from different parts of our organization, and thus we will have diverse ideas on how to generate sound financial plans that will help in ensuring that we maintain our going concern. Beaty and McGill (2001) argued that critical action learning focused on forming the right questions rather than concentrating on the right answers. Therefore, a group dialogue is established, which increases the cohesiveness in the group. By using critical action learning in our set, we will have the opportunity of generating innovative ideas which improve the quality of our system thinking. According to Marquadat (2010), two major societal trends have facilitated the application of critical action learning in most organizations. The first trend is that some managements implement organizational policies that do not improve the quality of work in an organization, thus causing disillusionment to the other members of the organization. Another trend is that most organizations have seen the importance of continuous learning, since they should learn how to adapt by using several means of adaptation that are generated by critical action learning. If we apply critical action learning in our organization, we will generate several ideas that will help us deal with any problems in future that may result from poor financial planning.
Steps taken to address the problem and outcomes
We had a long discussion with my fellow set members on different steps that we would undertake in order to ensure that the financial planning process in our organization was effective and that it was not affected by external environmental processes. The first proposal we generated is to have a designated facilitator with experience in financial planning. According to research, if an organization has an effective facilitator during the process of planning, there are good chances that the process will yield a solid plan. This is because the facilitator challenges the team members to come up with innovative plans, draws out opinions from different organizational members, and controls the discussion during planning, so that it yields productive and positive results. Furthermore, our organization should consider establishing the expected outcomes that are to be generated from a particular plan. By establishing these outcomes, the employees and all participants in the process of planning will have ideas that revolve around the outcomes that were proposed by the management (Napier, Sidle and Sanaghan 1997). I consulted with the financial manager and he was impressed with my proposals. He claimed that they had sometimes ignored these factors since they thought that they were not that important. However, he promised to outsource a consultant who was experienced in financial planning and who would have the responsibility of facilitating the planning process. The financial manager also promised to form a team that will be given the task of formulating expected outcomes from planning process. Trust and teamwork have improved in our organization due to these efforts.
The team tasked with devising relevant financial plans should also set the participation goals that match the organizational objectives. Furthermore, the team should also consider the important people to be present during the process of planning, so that their contribution is included while developing the plan (Griffin and Moorehead 2011). Our organization should also consider reviewing the progress of plans that have been previously implemented. It will ensure that external forces do not affect productivity, since continuous assessment helps in exposing the flaws that are present in a particular plan. Furthermore, they help in raising suggestions on how to strengthen the implementation of this plan. The financial manager proposed that we form an audit team that will have the task of reviewing current plans to ensure that they function appropriately and are geared towards our strategic goals. The efforts from the finance department in formulating sound financial plans have improved the confidence of all the employees.
Although the problem I brought up to my fellow set members has not been fully resolved, I feel that I have learnt a lot in trying to tackle this problem with the action learning set. Therefore, my creativity has improved and I will use it to solve several problems that may arise in my activities of portfolio management. Furthermore, the action learning set helped me improve my socialization skills, and I feel confident that I will use these skills to encourage teamwork, especially during crisis that may affect our organization. Moreover, I developed analytical skills that I will use during problematization in order to solve several complex problems that may affect the productivity of our private equity investment firm.