Cushy Armchair, based in Hong Kong, a leader in the global armchair business has been successfully using its model of centralization for over 50 years. It operates fully autonomous business facilities in 17 countries. Cabletronica has recently acquired the company and has sent one of their own senior personnel to restructure operations and integrate the company with another of their furniture divisions outside of the country.
Acting as a consultant, the founder of Cushy Armchairs Frances Wong is consulted regarding a communication on a change in policy, but the new head of the company Alison Sampson decides to use the parent company’s standard method of announcing changes email, and soon realizes that the method she used to announce the changes was not effective, and the restructuring may not go as smooth as she originally anticipated. In her first two weeks of her new posting she has attempted to make some drastic changes. So far her directions have been ignored and she has failed to make an impression as a change leader. In this analysis I will explore the concerns, root causes and constraints, and propose methods and strategies to use in the situations. I will apply the class work and text reading from the MBA program to offer practical solutions to address the issues.
Communication Concerns The key concern is the fact that Cushy Armchair purchasing, Marketing and design managers ignored the proposed policy changes that Alison Sampson proposed through her email communications. The first question arises that the email communication channel was not effective to convey important messages and directives. Email communication is an impersonal way of sending a message it can be perceived in different way that the sender intended, especially in a multicultural situation.
There are no non-verbal cues transmitted to the receiver and feedback is not always given back to the sender. Problems with email: (Mchane, Von Glinow). Pg. 316) “One problem is that email is an ineffective method of communicating emotions, a second problem is that email seems to reduce our politeness and respect for others. Third, is that email s an inefficient medium for in ambiguous, complex and novel situations”. There is no doubt that the situation was both ambiguous and novel, due to the fact that people from 15 different countries and many different cultures were the recipients of the message.
Root Cause There are other factors that are cause for concern aside from the medium that the message was delivered. Alison clearly rushed the decision to centralize the operations of Cushy Armchair; the fact that the changes were expected to take place during the busiest time of the year will increase the potential for failure. Alison has had some success in finance and the communications industry in the US but should begin to understand the armchair industry and the employees that work in it before instituting her recommendations for change. There was very little research on the value of the change and the experience and knowledge of the upper management of Cushy was not considered as a resource to implement the restructure
Constraints Because of the hasty decision to implement the change there is a very high risk of employee resistance to change. The upper management had no investment in the decision and will feel a resentment and lack of control that could trickle down through the organization. The dangers her are that original companies will become infected with a negative attitude toward the new parent company causing potential conflict and lack of support. In the model Analysis Lewins’ Force Field Analysis (Mchane, et al Pg.490) we can understand the levels of change to reach a desired outcome by determining the Driving Forces and defining the Restraining Forces.
The driving forces in this case are the centralization needed to keep up with the rest of the armchair industry, the restraining forces could be identified as employee resistance to change and desire to maintain the status quo. Lewin’s model suggests that effective change occurs by ‘Unfreezing” the current situation so that it becomes open to change, increasing the driving forces and unbalancing the equilibrium so that the driving forces eventually overcome the restraining forces. Once the desired outcome of the restructuring and has been achieved the “Refreezing” or completion of the structure can take place.
The desired outcome will have to be reinforced periodically to encourage compliance, and to make sure that the undesired old processes do not begin to creep back in to the organization. The likelihood of Cushy Armchairs employees reverting back to the previous processes is heightened because it is a very established company. The current decentralized structure has been in place for over 50 years, so some old habits are going to appear from time to time. Careful monitoring and reviewing will help in training employees to keep up to speed with the new plan.
Solutions To be effective agent of change I would employ a more tactful approach to the process of change implementation. Alison should have initiated the support of the 17 plant managers from the various locations to help in the restructuring of Cushy Armchair and set up “Coordination through Formal Hierarchy “( Mcshane, et al pg. 432). In this process Alison would allot the selected representatives from the 17 plants and set the groundwork for launching the change. The managers tasked with the coordinating would be informed of the new standardized processes that Alison was proposing, and charged with communicating the new procedures through the chain of command across the board in their respective locations.
The managers in turn could set up a process team within their plants to communicate the new structures and gather input from employees. Alison should attempt to gain the full support of the business managers to be successful in the centralization. A solid persuasion campaign to influence them to back her plans will be place to start. Persuasion Campaigns (Garvin and Roberto), should be developed in order for a change to stick. Leaders must design and run an effective persuasion campaign.
The campaign has four phases: Phase One: Convince the managers that the centralization is imperative to survive in the current marketplace. • Phase Two: Frame the plan, back the decision up with the market research the gather feedback from the managers. • Phase Three: Manage the mood of the persons involved by empathizing with their concerns, but support them in adopting the new changes with constant communication throughout the process. • Phase Four: Reinforcing the process on a regular basis with post- change meeting to measure the outcomes. In any merger or buy out I would recommend the intentions of the controlling company be made transparent to its new employees. In this transition it would be beneficial to develop a strategy involving the use of the “Fair Process” of Engagement, Explanation, and Expectation Clarity (Kim, Maubourne) Fair Process will minimize resistance to change and stress to employees and will help reach a positive outcome.
• Engage: Cabletronica should have set up a series of town hall meetings with employees to give them a chance to express their concerns about the buyout. The local representatives that I indicated earlier could conduct question and answer sessions in which both on the spot questions; and questions gathered anonymously through comment boxes could be answered. The suggestions and Ideas should be recognized as valid input and considered at a later date. The most important factor at this stage is empowerment. The representatives need to persuade the employees that Cabletronica is a benevolent partner that is willing to hear their voice.
• Explanation: The new parent company’s intentions should be expressed in a positive manner. Representatives could persuade the employees that the new structure is in place to keep abreast with the current industry trends and analysis and is in the best interests of the company. The representative would take the opportunity to build trust with the employees and help them understand that their success hinges on everybody cooperating on the new processes. • Expectation Clarity: Cabletronica’s expectations of Cushy Armchair employees must be clearly stated and documented so that there is no room for misinterpretation. There must be a timetable of events and an outline of the goals to be reached within a predetermined timeframe.