Embracing change the key to resilience

Written on the 12 May 2009

 

A positive approach to organisational culture can be the difference between a flourishing and a floundering business. The ability to be a chameleon and adapt to varying surroundings is the key to successful organisational resilience. Ken Parry, the director at the Bond University Centre of Leadership, gives insight on the importance of resilient workplace culture and those that embrace change rather than fear it.
Can you explain personal and organisational resilience and how these inter-relate?
 
Resilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity. A resilient organisation is full of resilient people. To be a resilient organisation, managers need to remove the impediments to people doing their job and being innovative. If there are too many rules administration, meetings, policies and systems, then good people are hamstrung and unable to let their creativity flourish.  The organisation will suffer. The organisation will not be able to bounce back from the adversity that inevitably will befall it. Other impediments that resilient organisations can remove are precedent, internal competition, hierarchy and procedures. These things are necessary, but too much of them will hinder resilience.
 
How can managers encourage their organisations to flourish in times of constant complex change?
 
Keep a positive vibe about the organisational culture. Don’t fall into the vicious downward cycle of low resilience. Tell good stories. Managers can examine scenarios of what might happen. They must look at these scenarios before change occurs as well as planning how they might respond to damaging change. Managers must always look to a better future - for the organisation and for the people in that organisation. Do not participate in hallway gossip and whinging. Managers can show their people how to bounce back. There is another concept that has been around for a while — work-life balance. If managers are aware of how this operates in real-life situations, and can let their organizations systems foster this sense of balance, then organisations will be full of more resilient people.
 
How does the way in which an organisation responds to change affect morale?
 
All change results in low morale. We know that intuitively, and the research confirms this. Let’s come out and acknowledge that. Therefore, the leadership that is displayed by managers can compensate for this very necessary and inevitable damage to morale. Managers must always concentrate on identifying how the change will benefit the organisation and the individual.
 
Can you explain Schein’s mechanisms by which leaders can change culture and how these can be implemented in SME?
 
Some things you cannot change. Some people do not have the formal authority to change organisational structure and design or the physical design of buildings. Some systems and procedures are prescribed by law and therefore cannot change. But managers can change the ways that they respond to key events. They must always ask about the story that people will tell of the way in which they responded to change incidents. If the story is one of impotence and emasculation, metaphorically, then the organisation will be doomed to low resilience. If the story is one of transcendence and empowerment, then the organisation will be more resilient. The stories that managers tell are also important. The criteria by which managers give rewards and allocate punishments determine whether people will be resilient or will succumb.
 
What positive influences can embracing change have on an organisation, and how can you advise people on implementing strategies to deal with it?
 
Embracing change will change the attitude of the organisation. When we continue to see change as a problem, we will always have a negative attitude toward it. If we love change and welcome it and see it as inevitable, then our attitude will become positive. Look forward to the new surprises that are in store. If we also remove the organisational systems that restrict our ability to bounce back, we will continue to be hidebound by negative attitudes to change.

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