Throughout the history of organizational literature, many scholars have suggested that change initiatives need to originate at the leadership level in order to be successful (Bennis, 1999). However history has shown that the majority of change initiatives fail, especially when mandated by top management (King & Peterson, 2007). This paper will examine why this dichotomy exists, what the role of top management should be in a change program, and how top managers can utilize key leverage points to increase their chances of a successful change implementation.
The Evolution of Organizations and its Impact on Change
The invention of modern management by theorists, such as Frederick Taylor, was founded at a time when many manufacturing organizations existed in the United States. These firms sought semi-skilled employees such as production line workers, who could perform systematized tasks that required little brain power and training (Denning, 2010). The prevalence of manufacturing organizations rendered theories that focused on efficiency where operations and changes within the organizations could be more easily planned and controlled (Shafritz, Ott, & Jang, 2011). These theories have suggested that it is the role of top management to create, identify, and implement the changes that need to occur within an organization (Robbins & Judge, 2010).
In the twentieth century, Taylor’s management approach has been less effective for service-based organizations that require skilled employees (Denning, 2010). The management and change approaches used during the manufacturing boom are less successful in an era where the global environment and workforce is changing (Denning, 2010). Steven Denning (2010), author of The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management, argues that organizations have to shift their mindset from focusing on producing goods and services efficiently to maximizing the full talents of its workforce through inspiration and empowerment. This belief does not support the notion that change must originate at the top. Instead, top management should help create an organizational culture where employees are empowered and inspired to initiate and sustain the changes necessary to make the organization successful.
Role of Top Management in a Change Program
The role of top management in any change program is dynamic and complex. Each organization has unique characteristics that can make it difficult for even the most attuned managers to successfully implement a change initiative. However, research has shown that a number of factors can increase an organization’s chances of a successful change implementation.
A management team’s leadership approach is one major component that can affect the success of a change program. Top management should strive to serve as transformational leaders who inspire employees to “transcend their own self-interests for the good of the organization and are capable of having a profound and extraordinary effect on their...